The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), when efficiently and effectively implemented, will help diffuse the base of orthodox healthcare delivery and make it more accessible. The programme thus holds the key to quality health service at affordable cost.
The enthusiasm of Ghanaians to register under the scheme, particularly in the rural areas, has been encouraging. Unfortunately, this has not been matched by or complemented with commitment from the staff of the mutual health insurance schemes, the national secretariat of the scheme or the National Health Insurance Council (NHIC).
Mindful of the huge benefits of the scheme, we have been wary about criticisms and exercised restraint anytime we have been compelled to comment on the problems undermining the implementation of the exercise.
However, it appears that those entrusted with the responsibility, particularly the NHIC and the secretariat, do not appreciate the obligation they owe to themselves and to Ghanaians to ensure the success of the exercise.
More than a year ago, there were mass registration exercises in Accra and other metropolitan centres.
There are a number of institutions which also registered their staff more than a year ago. Since then, nothing meaningful has come out, although the registration fees were paid.
Recently, the information we had was that some registration forms were ready for Accra. However, they have been so messed up that residents have been roaming from one suburb to another in search of their forms.
Attempts to find out the state of affairs at both the national secretariat and the sub-metropolitan mutual health insurance offices have been misconstrued. The reception given to our reporters when they call at such offices has varied from open hostility to lukewarm.
Therefore, we have reached the point where, as Chinua Achebe says, we are no more ready to swallow our saliva after coughing, for fear of disturbing others.
Indeed, we believe, as Mahatma Gandhi does, that there is wisdom in taking serious steps with great caution and hesitation. But we also believe that caution and hesitation have their limits and we have now passed them.
We have come to the conclusion that the time has come for the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd), who may be as pained and agonised as we are over the unreasonable delay, to give an ultimatum for all those who have registered but have not been provided their forms to be served.
Apart from the fact that a percentage of the social security contributions of those in formal employment is being used without the affected people benefiting, some have paid premium, while all those who registered paid registration fees.
We detest this arrogance in public office.