Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Thursday called on the Ministry of Health to fast-track the development of a national policy on Primary Health Care (PHC) to facilitate primary health care services in the country.
According to the CSOs the development of a national primary health care policy would provide a broader framework for the realisation of universal health coverage in Ghana.
Representatives of the organisations noted that due to the absence of a national policy, there was the lack of direction in the provision of primary health care and essential services, thereby, creating gaps in health financing and service delivery in the country.
The CSOs made the call at a Consultative meeting organisation by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR) in Accra.
The meeting also sought to solicit inputs of CSOs on a draft Statement to be presented at this Global Conference on Primary Health Care at Astana, Kazakhstan on October 25 to 26, this year.
Mr Isaac Nyampong, a Programmes Officer of ARHR said though there were notions of PHC in the CHPS concept, Ghana lacked a specified Essential Health Service (EHS) package.
“What we have, are defined multiple packages of health services in various government programmes including CHPS, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Newborn health, Maternal and Reproductive Health and Adolescent Sexual Health and all these need to be in one document”.
He explained that about 60 per cent of the EHS package was not covered by the NHIS and the current focus of the NHIS was on curative services, which did not serve the purposes of promoting key principles underlining Universal Health Coverage and PHC.
“The NHIS does not cover health promotion and education and other preventive services. Similarly, other essential services including family planning, outreach services as well as cost of monitoring are not reimbursable”, he added.
Mr Nyampong further observed that the NHIS was only curative and it did not provide key principles which underlie Universal Health Care and Primary health care.
According to Mr Nyampong, EHS constituted an important aspect of a good health system.
“The EHS package should be aligned with the NHIS benefit package to ensure that guaranteed access to primary health care in Ghana,” he added.
Nana Aisha Mohammed, a Consultant to ARHR stressed the need for the country to look for strategic funding of the NHIS.
According to Nana Aisha, it was also important that a flagship programme was set out in the health sector for politicians to take them up in order to improve the health being of people.
She also proposed the implementation of progressive taxes on some foods and beverages that were inimical to the health of the people.
Giving an overview of Primary Health Care Expenditure in Ghana, Nana Aisha noted that there were no clear directions or statements on how the government was addressing inequitable distribution of existing health workers across the country.
“The Budget statement is silent on the update of the Ghana Health Service Staffing norms outlined in the 2017 Budget and we need to do an assessment on that”.
She cited a 2017 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, which indicated that prices of medicines in Ghana were 31 per cent high than the price on the international market.
She, however, welcomed the removal of 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax on some drugs in the country.
Dr Koma Jehu-Appiah, a Civil Society Advocate who chaired, stressed the need for CSOs to be reawakened and ensured accountability in the health sector.
Ms Vicky T. Okine, Executive Director, ARHR, noted that the country’s health sector was bedevilled with challenges such as leakages, lack of accountability and fake medicines.
According to her, some people were unable to afford drugs and laboratory services.
“As a country, we are not making any investments in health promotion, rehabilitation and palliative care and we also constrained in getting information on health expenditure,” she stated.
She appealed to stakeholders to provide adequate and timely information so that CSO’s could hold government accountable.