Funding to the health sector still remains a challenge in the implementation of interventions and programmes on providing quality health care to Ghanaians.
The Ministry of Health has for the past three years experienced erratic releases of funds affecting the implementation of programmes, but health partners say shifting from the basket funding to budget support should not result in less total funding for the sector.
Ms Lidi Remmelzwaal, Netherlands Ambassador in Ghana on behalf of the health partners said efficiency gains could also contribute to a better performance and added that although some progress has been made in harmonization and alignment of donors' financial support for the health sector, the Abuja target of 15 percent of government's budget allocation to the health sector should be maintained.
Speaking at the opening of a four-day health summit meeting in Accra, Ms Remmelzwaal commended the health sector for the significant achievement amidst important initiatives launched in 2002-2006 though some indicators lagged behind and needed further advancement in the next five year programme of work.
The summit will review the report of an independent team of experts on the performance of the sector in 2006, review progress of work towards achieving the health related Millennium Development Goals, discuss and adopt the third five-year programme of work for the health sector which will begin in 2007-2011.
The summit attended by stakeholders from the agencies of the Ministry of Health, other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), donor community, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the private sector is under the theme; “Creating Wealth Through Health; Achieving the Health-Related MDGs”.
Ms Remmenlzwaal commended the health sector for the improvement made in the areas of nutrition where there has been a decline in the proportion of underweight children, which, she said, was “an encouraging signal for improving child survival”.
The health partners commended government for the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme and mentioned maintaining the pro-poor focus of the NHIS as a priority area that needed more attention for its sustainability.
She noted that a World Bank mission in consultation with the health partners were in the country discussing with the NHIS Secretariat, service providers and the Ministry of Health to know the kind of assistance they could offer for the success of the
Minister of Health Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd) expressed worry about the country's disease burden, saying it continued to be dominated by preventable and easily treatable disease.
“The persistent burden of childhood communicable disease for which preventive and simple curative measures are widely available, says a lot about the progress we have made over the years”.
He however noted that statistics tell a worrying story, adding that nearly half of cases reported to the hospitals were due to malaria and related diseases, which could be prevented.
He said the situation doubled the disease burden with a mix of persistent, new and re-emerging infectious disease, increasing chronic conditions and injuries which were already leading to fundamental changes in volume and composition of demand for health care in the country.
The irony of the situation he said, was that, factors leading to the level of health status were well documented, but poorly kept and unhygienic environment was implicated in most commonly occurring disease that afflict the nation adding that … “with the development of slums this would continue to be a challenge”.
He blamed the silent epidemic of non-communicable diseases on the changing lifestyles of the average Ghanaian which was characterized by poor eating habits, lack of exercise and recreation and called for the drive for lifestyles changes and the adoption of healthier habits by individuals, families and communities.
“We have a vibrant health care system that seems to work even under very difficult situations and with the mass migration of health workers, the health system has not collapsed but continues to maintain the gains we have so far”, he said.
Touching on some of the modest strides in the sector, he said, child survival and life expectancy were improving whilst HIV/AIDS had dropped from 3.4 percent in 2004 to 2.9 percent in 2006.
On Polio and measles, the minister noted that no cases of polio had been recorded in the past three years whilst measles had reduced from 23,000 in 2003 to less than 50 confirmed cases nationwide to date.
The country was currently implementing a high impact and rapid delivery intervention programme to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The coverage of key health intervention such as Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), Insecticide Treated Nets, Antenatal Care, and Family Planning had been improved steadily, he said, and added that the National Health Insurance and Ambulance Service were also functional.
Despite the modest strides made by the sector, he admitted that the strides had been minimal since post independence and said the ministry was therefore putting together data to enable them to define disease in more economic terms.
He called on stakeholders to come together to re-strategize and accelerate the coverage of health care in deprived areas.
Lepuwura Mohammed N.D. Jawula, Chief Director of the Ministry commended the health partners for their continuous support over the years and urged them to give their maximum support and commitment in achieving the objectives of the next programme of work.