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15.12.2004 General News

MOH meets partners on issues of the sector

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Accra, Dec. 15, GNA - Government is committed to reducing the inequalities in health care services between the poor and the rich by focusing on poverty reduction through improved productivity, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, Minister of Health (MOH), said on Wednesday. "In view of this, Cabinet has ensured adequate funding to the Health Sector for the implementation of pro-poor health programmes," he said.

He stated that the resource envelope for implementing the 2005 programme of work was increased from 13 dollars per capita to 17 dollars per capita.

"Though we are still negotiating for further increase, I think it is a step in the right direction."

Dr Afriyie, who was addressing the Ministry's partners at a summit, mentioned some of the programmes as the institution of a nation-wide maternal delivery exemption scheme; staff incentive packages and the National Health Insurance Scheme.

He said Government intended to sustain the pro-poor agenda in the Health Sector by giving priority to diseases and conditions such as malnutrition and maternal mortality that most exclusively affected the poor.

Agencies of the MOH, including the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Teaching Hospitals, Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine, Pharmaceutical Companies and Civil Society Organisations are attending the four-day summit.

They would review the half-year progress of the Health Sector, discuss and agree on its programme of work for 2005 and confirm the resource envelope and allocation for next year. It is on the theme: "Bridging the Inequality Gap: Addressing the Emerging Challenges of Child Survival."

Dr Afriyie said due to concerns raised by the partners at their previous summit over lack of improvement in child survival and development in the last five years, a technical staff, who was yet to submit its final report, was detailed to review the evidence accounting for the slow development.

The Minister stated that while the research continued, the Ministry had taken steps to implement a holistic and comprehensive approach, involving the use of a combination of biomedical, nutritional and environmental interventions to improve child survival and development. He, however, stated that there was the need to speed up the pace of implementation of Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) programmes.

Dr Afriyie said as part of the strategy for 2005, the Sector would forge closer and better relationship with the Ministries of Food and Agriculture; Women and Children's Affairs, Environment; and Local Government and Rural Development to ensure food security and better sanitation, he said.

He said, as a further intervention, the Ministry would strengthen its nutritional educational programmes; rehabilitate and reorient the health system to scale up the delivery of quality health services. He mentioned some of the challenges of the health sector as slow implementation programmes, budget structure, National Health Insurance Scheme, increasing funding to the Health Sector and ensuring equitable allocation and efficient use of the human resource base.

The Minister stated that the establishment of the GHS and Teaching Hospitals were some of the interventions to decentralise service delivery and the Ministry would now implement an effective management system that held agencies accountable and focused activities, efforts and resources on the Health Sector priorities and targets.

"We will also endeavour to reduce the time it takes for information to move from the District Level to the Headquarters and ensure sector-wide access to information by investing strategically in information system."

On the budget of the Sector, Dr Afriyie said it would be reviewed to provide an appropriate balance between flexibility and focus on national priorities instead of previous practices that allowed level Managers almost complete discretion over allocation of funds. He said the Government had, however, protected the Health Sector budget from cuts for the past one year and had experienced a remarkable improvement in the flow of funds from the Government.

Dr Afriyie said a number of strategies had been put in place to stem the brain drain and redistribution of staff to deprived areas. He appealed to all partners to work hard towards the achievement of better health care for all.

Prof. Ofosu Amaah, Chairman of the Board of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, said the number of doctors trained annually was too small to cater for the country's health needs.

He called for dynamic and strong measures to curb the issue of brain drain of doctors. 15 Dec. 04

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