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02.06.2004 General News

Legislative Instrument on NHIS for Parliament

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Accra, June 2, GNA - The Legislative Instrument (LI) covering the details of the implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) would be laid before Parliament on June 9, when the House reconvenes next week.

Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, the Deputy Minister of Finance, who announced this said a bank account had also been opened with the Bank of Ghana where proceeds from the levy of two and half per from the Value Added Tax (VAT) rates would be paid into the account.

Additionally, he said the two-and-half per cent of workers' Social Security and National Insurance Trust contributions, would be paid into the same account, adding that the Director-General of SSNIT had been written to, by Finance Ministry to that effect.

The Deputy Minister was speaking at the annual Health Summit of the health sector in Accra on Thursday.

With the coming into force of the LI, the VAT rates would go up from 12 and half per cent to 15 per cent, with two-and-half per cent of the rates going into the National Health Insurance Fund, as from August 1, this year.

Parliament last year passed the National Health Insurance Bill, which spells out the general principle of the scheme.

Dr. Akoto Osei, said government was ensuring that the tax payers monies were properly accounted for, saying the question now was to see to the proper implementation of the scheme.

The Summit, organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with its Development Partners of the sector seeks to disseminate findings of the mid-year report on the programme of work (POW) for the health sector covering the period 2002 to 2006.

The Summit, on the theme, "Partnership for Health-Bridging The Inequity Gap, would also agree on priorities and financing for the POW for 2005.

Mr. Patrick Nomo, the Financial Controller at the Ministry of Health, who gave a review report of 2003, said in relation to the aim of increasing geographical and financial access in basic services throughput the country, there was no consistent improvement.

He said the year 2003 saw a good coverage of immunisation programmes but it was not sustained, communication between the Ministry and the private sector was also poor, adding that resource to the districts had also fallen and often times did not reach these areas on time.

On some inequities, he said the various exemption schemes for the poor and vulnerable did not seem to target or reach the poor.

On priorities for 2005, Mr. Nomo named malaria, the management of budgetary allocation, increasing services to the poor and scaling up the prevention activities on HIV/AIDS would receive maximum attention. He said the NHIS would also receive attention, but added that there was the need for management expertise, both locally and internationally, to manage the scheme to make sure it works.

Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, the Health Minister, congratulated the frontline staff of the sector saying they had done extremely well given the fact that most of their colleagues had gone outside seeking greener pastures He said for the year, 2003, the doctor-population ratio improved as compared to 2002, but said the nurse-population ratio had gotten worse.

Other problem areas he mentioned was the fact that malaria and tuberculosis control were lagging behind, adding that the levels of use of insecticide treated nets stood at less than 4.1 per cent as against the "Abuja targets of 60 per cent by 2005," referring to the target set by African Heads of State a couple of years ago to raise the use of bed nets to a higher level.

The Health Minister touched on the increases in both child and infant mortality rates, increase in guinea worm cases and the challenges of the NHIS.

He said there was the threat of excluding the poor from the NHIS but added that government was committed to ensuring that the poor were not left out.

On the guinea worm situation, he expressed concern that Ghana was now an "exporter of guinea worm in the sub-region."

Mr. Moses Mukasa, the Country Representative of the UN agency on Population, who also represented the Ministry's Development Partners, said there was the need to collaborate with the district assemblies on various areas such as sanitation, gender and HIV/AIDS to help in improving health outcomes.

He said there was the need to do more on maternal morbidity since it was still a big problem, adding that the issue of population and reproductive health should also be given attention.