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Opinions of Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Columnist: Aboagye Clinton Obed

Has Ghana achieved universal health coverage and access?

Universal health coverage and access is an important component of sustainable development and in the reduction of the rate of poverty in developing countries such as Ghana.

It closes up the social margin between the rich and the poor and reduces social inequalities. I am of the belief that Ghana has not attained a status of universal health coverage and access, even though grounds are being broken to achieve this effect.

Ghana can only boost of attaining a universal health coverage when she has put in place systems and policies, realistic enough to be sustained over a long period of time, over changing heads of states.

To begin with, for a country to be regarded as one that has attained universal healthcare coverage and access, that nation must have a strong, efficient, well-run health system that prioritizes healthcare as important as it is.

The system must regard all aspects of healthcare as vital to maintain the health of the citizenry. The aspects that must be delved into include education and prevention of illnesses, early diagnosis of diseases, ability to treat diseases, rehabilitation and rendering of palliative care when necessary. The in the position to deliver required services. Ghana, however, is still working tirelessly to be able to obtain such a system.

Secondly, a country has the status of attaining universal health coverage when the healthcare they are receiving is affordable.

This is to say that the patients and their caretakers should be able to access healthcare services and not end up impoverished because of the payments they make to foot their bills. Ghana has made efforts to make health provision affordable for all classes of citizens.

Famous amongst them include the cash and carry policy as well as well as the NHIS. Under the NPP’s government, in 2003, the government set up a scheme called the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which was aimed at providing quality and affordable healthcare for every citizen who had registered under the scheme. The scheme, nevertheless, excluded expensive procedures such as surgery, cancer treatments, and dialysis. This was sustained for some years and seems to be unpopular among the citizens of late.

In an article published recently in the Daily Graphic newspaper featured a young 24-year old graduate by name Ransford Asiamah who is currently on admission at the Cape Coast Hospital.

He has been diagnosed with kidneys failure and needs dialysis every week. His elder brother who is his caretaker has to empty his bank accounts, sell his car and plot of land to be able to keep his brother alive. Also, the family needs ten thousands of `US dollars, which they do not have, to help Ransford undergo kidneys transplant in India. This has caused the family to be impoverished; a clear example that Ghana is yet to attain universal health coverage and access.

For healthcare to be adequately rendered, there must a good amount of well-trained human resources in the form of doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, monographers and many others at our various hospitals and clinics who also have the needed equipments at their disposal.

These staff must not only be trained on how to deal with patients and their families medically. They should also know how to deal with patients socially to ensure their comfort and reassurance. The staff must also be motivated and appreciated when they work the extra mile to provide quality healthcare for their patients.

Ghana has a great quantity of medical staff, however, there is a question mark about the quality that comes out annually. We can tell of stories where medical personnels have been highly negligent and this has led to grievous circumstances. A couple of years ago, a young woman sent her 6 months old baby after he showed signs of not feeling well.

The nurses on night duty put a band on his arm to able to take blood samples. They forgot to remove the band. The illiterate mother saw it but thought it was part of the hospital procedures.The morning duty nurses and doctors came around and saw it.

However, the harm had already been done. The baby had that arm amputated. All because of the negligence of some nurses. This is just one of the many of similar situations. In addition, medical supplies and equipment must be available for dispensation and use by the trained staff.

Although very noble, the ideology of universal health coverage is yet to be realized by many citizens in Ghana as many are still being pushed into extreme poverty day in, day out. Ghana can move more towards this goal by putting in more money into the NHIS and make sure it is highly regulated and supervised.

The staff must be of great quality, having the best of technology and supplies available for their use. Any form of intentional negligence on the part of the medical staff must be treated as criminal to serve as a deterrent to others to treat human life as important as it is. Healthcare must be affordable by all and sundry.

I believe as we work towards these major steps, our walk toward achieving universal health coverage and access will be a dream come true.