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25.10.2007 Health

NHIS Marching On

By Daily Guide

Reports that at least 47 per cent of Ghanaians have registered with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is commendable.

In the face of all the problems, including political, financial and social which the scheme was facing, it has been able to register about 8 million of the 20 million Ghanaians.

This however does not mean all the problems of the scheme have been solved. There are many more people to be brought under the canopy of the scheme and issues still confronting the scheme, both within the medical profession and outside it, are still increasing.

For example, there are allegations that health professionals give preferential treatments to non-members of the scheme as against card-bearing members.

Furthermore, medical officers allegedly prescribed ordinary drugs to card-bearing members while non-members had more efficacious prescriptions whenever they attended hospital.

Whatever might be the reason behind the perceived discrimination, it is working against the success of the scheme. The scheme was introduced into the country primarily to enable every citizen access healthcare facilities without tears.

The scheme is far better than the obnoxious “Cash and Carry” system which existed in the country until the NHIS was introduced by the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration.

Contrary to expectation, it was the rural people who embraced the scheme and were full of praises for it. Anytime they returned from hospital they told the good news of the scheme to others and advised people who had not yet joined it to do so.

Unfortunately, it was the urban dwellers who were reluctant to join the scheme. An experience at the country's premier hospital, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra showed that just about 15 percent of patients who came to the hospital were members of the scheme.

It is therefore not surprising that from time to time some nursing mothers who deliver at other urban hospitals and various categories of patients who are treated in those hospitals are detained because of their inability to pay their bills.

If what we heard about health professionals' attitude towards the scheme are true, then we suggest that they should be re-oriented to appreciate the aims and objectives of the scheme.

The fact that the Ministry of Health is indebted to some pharmaceutical companies in the country is a normal occurrence; indeed, it is one of the teething problems of the scheme, but with time all those problems would be a thing of the past.

To us, registrars engaged to register people for the scheme are also not doing enough to encourage potential members to join the scheme. They started well with their house-to-house visits, but that has been stopped.

They now choose to sit at a popular spot in the community. But one would be lucky to meet any of them at a particular time.

DAILY GUIDE appeals to the health professionals and registrars to change their attitude towards the scheme to encourage more people to join it.