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16.10.2008 Health

NHIS registers 8,230 pregnant women in Wa Municipality

By Clement Boteng, Wa - Ghanaian Chronicle

Following the recent announcement by the government to give free maternal care to pregnant women in the country, a total of 8,230 pregnant women in the Wa Municipality have been registered by the Wa Municipal Mutual Health Insurance Scheme.

3,015 pregnant women, out of the number whose cards would expire in December this year, would be automatically enrolled into the scheme, whilst 5,215 new pregnant women have been registered, and are currently benefiting freely from the scheme.

Disclosing this in an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, the Wa Municipal Mutual Health Insurance Scheme Manager, Mr. Abdul-Rahman Alhassan, said in consonance with the government's directive, the scheme started registering pregnant women at no cost, from the July 1, this year, adding that the pregnant women started benefiting immediately they were registered.

Three coupons are given to the pregnant women; one to be sent to the health provider to be attached to the billing form, the other two to be shown to the scheme's designated cameramen, for photo taking.

The coupons are thus kept by the pregnant women, to enable them access the facility in case of emergency, while the scheme carries on the necessary processing.

Mr. Alhassan said the scheme had also dispatched registration forms to the accredited health providers, to enable pregnant women to register with ease, however those who wish to register at the scheme's office, would be required to present antenatal forma, or the result of a pregnancy test requested by a medical officer.

The scheme, according to him, had embarked on a number of education programmes, such as radio talk shows, as well as the routine community visits, aimed at creating awareness of this new component of the scheme, and the procedures to follow.

The Scheme Manager revealed that as at the end of September this year, the scheme had registered 9,561 people, representing 81% of the total population of the Wa Municipality. This, to him, meant that the scheme had already surpassed its target of 80% set for the year. He was happy that most people had come to appreciate the importance of the scheme.

Mr. Alhassan noted that the increasing enrolment of members had resulted in the high mobilisation of funds, thus putting the scheme on a sound footing.

This notwithstanding, the scheme is bedevilled with challenges, ranging from staffing, logistics, to funds for continuous education.

The scheme, according to him, was relying greatly on national service personnel.

He admitted that due to the inadequate staff, especially at the Claims Department, vetting of claims delayed unduly, adding that though some bicycles and motorbikes had been provided to some hardworking collectors, and the educators to make their community visits very effective, they were inadequate.

One of the major threats to the scheme, according to the Scheme Manager, was the charges of the Upper West Regional Hospital, which were based on regional tariffs.

He explained that the regional hospital was supposed to be a referral point, but most of the clients make it their first point of call, leading to alarming bills from the hospital.

He was hopeful that the board would liaise with the National Council, to ensure that those challenges were addressed appropriately, to enable the scheme thrive.

To avoid delays by clients, regarding renewal of membership, Mr. Alhassan said the scheme makes announcements prior to the expiry dates, to remind its members.

Naa Danyagiri Walaman-i, Chairman of the Board of the Wa Municipal Health Insurance Scheme, who was coincidentally present at the manager's office, decried the abuse of the system by members, and advised them not to “kill the hen that lays the golden eggs.”

He observed that minor health cases, which could be treated by the clinics and other health facilities within clients' vicinities, were sent to the regional hospitals, where the charges were obviously higher.

Naa Walaman-I, therefore, entreated the clients to obey the 'gate keeper system,' by accessing healthcare at the nearest health facility, instead of making the regional hospitals their first point of call, since their charges, based on regional tariffs, were draining the Scheme's coffers.

He noted that the National Health Insurance Scheme was the most outstanding legacy the Kufour administration would bequeath the people of Ghana, “particularly those of us in this part of the country where poverty is very high.”

The Board Chairman commended President Kufour and his government, for implementing such a pro-poor policy.