Following the death of Ghana’s former vice president, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, a story emerged of the last few minutes of this illustrious son of Ghana. He was a former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, and later the Vice President (VP). To learn that at the time of this, the VP was put in the cabin of a pickup truck to be transported to 37 Military Hospital raises a number of disturbing questions.
The vice president is not alone. Pregnant women are carted to hospital in tractors. Those are the fortunate one. Others go on the back s of donkeys, and sometimes when they reach the hospital, they have to queue to give birth. However, that is not the sort of treatment we expect our VP to receive.
As we bemoan the lack of an effective universal health coverage, national health service, the United Kingdom is celebrating 70 years of a ‘brilliant’ National Health Service (NHS) which is free at the point of need and supports all citizens equally, whether poor or rich, old or young. Ghana was almost there.
The hasty move from a cash and carry health system based on means, to a National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) finally killed all hopes of a free health service.
The usual argument that Ghana can afford a free health service is unacceptable if we look at how much the gargantuan bureaucracy called NHIS is costing the tax payer. Yet, year in year out, the Government pours a lot of money into this unending pool. Recently, the Minister of Health is reported to have said that the NHIS is on the brink of collapse unless the government pours in more money.
Whatever, its supporters will say; there is a general consensus that the NHIS is not working as expected. It is expensive, prone to corruption, discriminatory and ineffective as a health service provider. Our hospitals are overstretched, poorly resourced, and are no longer places of rehabilitation. Our doctors complain of the lack of equipment, nurses are demotivated and yet we are proud to call ourselves a “middle income country”,
What Ghana needs for its youthful and ageing population is a FREE Universal Health Coverage; a service that caters for the needs of women, men, children, people with disability, the aged, people in the rural as well as in the urban population. One that is free from the cradle to the grave. A health service that is well equipped and well resourced.