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NPP flagbearer lays out health policy; read it here - PRIMARY HEALTHCARE

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PRIMARY HEALTHCARE

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As I have gone round this country, I have heard enough to know that when it comes to health, what people want is more investment in the primary and community health sector. We need preventive care and regular access to doctors. An improved primary healthcare system is a vital component of saving our health system and keeping our people healthy. The NPP will focus on primary healthcare infrastructure and personnel because improving the health of all people will reduce visits to hospitals.

The environment and the physical conditions we live in to a large extent influence the state of public health. It is therefore in these areas of sanitation, proper ventilation, personal hygiene, good nutrition, provision of safe water and immunization to which we will pay the greatest attention. An Akufo-Addo government will concentrate efforts on the provision of good water for the people as this will eliminate at least 75% of the communicable and infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid, guinea worm, billharzias and most diarrhoeas that plague our people. It is a great relief that we seem to be on the verge of eradicating guinea worm infestation from our country, (I hope nobody collects the 200 cedis on offer for the report of any new case) but we cannot say the same about the regular outbreaks of cholera that have been occurring in our cities. We must all see this as a disgrace to our nation and work on personal hygiene to eradicate such diseases from our society.

Our health education efforts will be increased to promote the total wellness of the body. Our diets are changing for the worse as our life styles become more sedentary and this is leading to new diseases and conditions that were unknown to us in the past.

As a people, we no longer exercise enough; we might know more about sports and support a wider variety of football teams than in the past, but sports participation and physical activity among the population have decreased. Our abysmal performance in recent Olympics games is a sad demonstration of this fact.

We shall seek to remedy this situation with a start in promoting school sports. The old saying of a sound mind in a sound body is as true today as it ever was.

Of course, this is the time and place for me to congratulate the great performance of the Black Maidens in the FIFA Under 17 competition, where they emerged as bronze medallists. They have brought joy to our hearts and they have set a good example to us all.

Better sanitation, personal hygiene, good nutrition, an active lifestyle and exercise will all help to keep us healthy, but being human, we shall fall ill and there will be accidents and we will need doctors and hospitals and nurses, and laboratory technicians and pharmacists and all the allied health workers that make health facilities work.

Trying to fashion the financing for a sustainable and effective healthcare system has proved challenging to virtually all countries and societies throughout the ages, but I think it is fair to say that there is universal agreement that a nation must have a healthcare system that ensures that the most vulnerable are assured of protection. The National Health Insurance Scheme introduced by the NPP in 2003 sought to do just that.

THE NHIS

The NHIS is one of the greatest legacies of the NPP and a precious asset for the nation. It has been acclaimed as the most pro-poor healthcare system on the entire African continent.

An insurance scheme only works when clients and the service providers are confident in the stability of the system. The NDC government has created so much instability in the system, no one has confidence in it. As is their usual practice, they think they can use propaganda to cover their failure in the health sector as well. Unfortunately for the NDC, the human body cannot be lied to.

The government would have us believe that there is a significant increase in usage of the NHIS, which they offer as proof of their commitment to widening access to healthcare. But, their own annual reports show up this claim to be false. There is a decline in membership in the NHIS and a corresponding increase in visits to the hospital by NHIS cardholders. The NHIA’s own annual reports indicate that active membership dropped from 9,914,256 at the end of December, 2008, to 8,204,116 by the end of 2011 and according to the NDC Manifesto, there have been 25 million visits to hospitals by NHIS cardholders in the past year. This means that we have a decline in membership and a corresponding rapid increase in visits to hospital by NHIS cardholders. There is something quite unnatural about this and the only explanation there can be is that we are getting sicker than before. Compare this to the constant growth in membership of the scheme under the NPP, with NHIS membership increasing from 6.6 million in 2007 to 9.9 million in 2008, for example.

The most worrying indicator of loss of confidence is the decline in renewal rates of membership in the scheme. I suspect that many people were holding out on their renewal as they waited for the NDC promise of a one-time premium payment to materialise. If the consequences of this farcical NDC promise were not so tragic, it would be a source of great joy. Four years down the road they have not been able to implement their one-time premium policy. We can only assume that it was made to deceive Ghanaians just to get their votes.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they dangled the one-time premium payment promise, they introduced a form of payment that has brought a lot of confusion and instability to the scheme.


Smileys

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