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28.10.2008 Politics

Nana Unveils Health Agenda

By Daily Guide
Nana Unveils Health Agenda

New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has dropped hints about his plans for enhanced healthcare delivery modules, which according to him are necessary to ensure a healthy Ghana.

He warned of a possible demise of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) if the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is allowed to take over the reins of government.

Speaking to health workers in the Eastern regional capital Koforidua, yesterday, as part of a campaign tour of his home region, he stated that for the goals of health as contained in the NPP manifesto, to be met, the NHIS must be reformed and strengthened.

Dropping hints about how an Akufo-Addo government would undertake this task, he said the paperwork to reduce the processing time for applications would receive attention.

Nana Addo said he would consider the training of NHIS staff to ensure professionalism and accountability.

There would also be acceleration in the construction of health facilities and provision of more equipment to take care of an increased population, he told the health workers.

Private institutions, he added, would be supported by government to establish training facilities including medical schools across the country.

Nana Addo expressed concern about the position of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the NHIS, pointing out that while the scheme must change, it must do so for the better.

The NDC's promise of a one-time premium, he pointed out, may endanger the scheme explaining, “Either the one-time premium will be so high that many cannot afford it and we will thus revert to the 'cash-and-carry system' or it will be so low that the scheme will collapse from cash flow difficulties as more and more Ghanaians sign up.”

While not wanting to accuse the NDC of any sinister motive for suggesting changes that may collapse the scheme, he said, “We question their judgment.”

He charged Ghanaians to improve sanitation and clean up the environment by investing in garbage disposal and providing more public toilets.

To this end, he said, “We must seriously commit ourselves to finding an alternative to the current system of just throwing our plastic bags anywhere.

“Either we ban the use of plastic bags, like the Chinese have done, or we put in place a system for recycling them by assisting educational and healthcare institutions to undertake waste processing that will transform their waste into energy.”

He subtly denied claims by the NDC that the health insurance agenda is their baby by tracing its origin to the Busia regime.

According to him, the health insurance agenda was mooted by the late Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia who engaged the famous Ghanaian physician, Dr. Konnotey Ahulu, to work on the module as far back as 1972.

The NPP presidential candidate explained that but for the coup d'etat which truncated the Progress Party (PP) government of the late Dr. K.A. Busia in 1972, the health insurance scheme would have long been outdoored in the country, a revelation which underscores the position of this subject in the history of the UP tradition.

He asserted that the NPP like its predecessor, the PP, holds dear the healthcare of the people, because “nothing is more critical to modernization than health and education.

“Our party's journey to our current position on healthcare did not start this year or with our 2000 manifesto.”

The quest to make healthcare available to all irrespective of the status of persons, he recalled, started in 1970 when “Kofi Abrefa Busia established a committee under the chairmanship of the renowned doctor, Konotey Ahulu, to collate information on health insurance systems and determine the feasibility of such a system in Ghana”.

He noted that the party at the time, as of today, was motivated by the desire to pursue social justice in health by ensuring that no one, regardless of ability to pay, would be denied necessary care for an illness.

Still on memory lane, the NPP presidential candidate observed that the late Dr. Busia, the originator of the healthcare insurance module, was inspired by the famous British Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, who made a remarkable statement while introducing in the British House of Commons, the British National Health Service Act in 1946.

He quoted the British Health Secretary's speech to buttress his position on healthcare delivery thus: “No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical care because of lack of means.

Society becomes more wholesome, serene and spiritually healthier, if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves but all their fellows have access when ill to the best that medical skill can provide.”

Today, he asserted, without the single support of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has become law “and with the help of hardworking health workers like you, 11.3 million Ghanaians have registered with the scheme and freed themselves from the clutches of the inhumane 'cash-and-carry' system”.

The stories about the advantages of the scheme are many and varied, he disclosed, recalling how a man who lived with hernia for many years was able to access surgery by obtaining a health insurance cover.

He presented the remarks of a doctor to the health workers whom he quoted as saying, “The patients are coming in sooner and therefore we have better outcomes.”

Recounting the achievements of the NPP government in the health sector, he said, “We embarked on the construction of many healthcare facilities. Among these are the 48 clinics that have been upgraded to the status of hospitals.”

By A.R. Gomda