05.05.2005 General News

Review meeting on NHIS opens

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Accra, May 5, GNA - A review meeting on the level of implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) opened on Thursday to afford District, Metropolitan and Municipal Chief Executives the opportunity to come out with strategies that would ensure full implementation of the scheme.

Mr Samuel Owusu-Agyei, Deputy Minister of Health, said the scheme, which was expected to have a total of about 60 per cent coverage, had achieved only 13 per cent, indicating that there was the need to accelerate efforts to ensure total coverage by the end of June. He said currently only 19 district schemes were fully operational and expressed the hope that the figure would increase by the end of June.

He, therefore, called for the involvement and commitment of District, Metropolitan and Municipal Chief Executives, as well as effective coordination by the Regional Coordinating Councils (RCCs), to accelerate the implementation of the scheme in the regions.

District, Metropolitan and Municipal Chief Executives (DMMCE) from the Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Western and the Volta Regions, representing the Southern Sector, are attending the three-day meeting, which would also provide them with further briefing on the implementation on the NHIS.

Mr Owusu-Agyei indicated that though the Government had allocated a total amount of 1.3 trillion cedis in this year's budget to support the National Health Programme, Cabinet was still reviewing the disbursement formula, after which funds would be released to support the scheme at both the District and Municipal levels.

He, however, reiterated that funds from Government were intended to complement rather than replace the premium collected from the District and Municipal Health Insurance Scheme (DMHIS) and to encourage the generation of internal funding to complement that of Government. The Deputy Minister said it was expected that total coverage would be achieved by the deadline of June 30, agreed upon at an earlier meeting, to afford Ghanaians the opportunity to benefit from non-payment of user fees when they visited the health institutions.

"By June, we expect to shift the goal post from where we set up the National Health Insurance Scheme, to where we have registered 21 per cent of the target, ... and also that they do not pay user fees when they go to our health institutions."

Mr Owusu-Agyei reiterated the need for the establishment of regional coordinating mechanisms, including steering and technical committees, to oversee the implementation of the scheme and also identify bottlenecks and provide technical assistance to the established schemes.

He identified challenges to the effective implementation of the scheme, such as effective public education, lack of both human and logistical resources to run the scheme and readiness of health providers to accept the scheme.

Ms Lillian Bruce-Lyle, Director, Performance Management, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, called for the strict enforcement of environmental sanitation laws to prevent the outbreak of epidemics.

She said it was important to ensure that diseases including malaria, typhoid and cholera, which could be prevented, were given enough attention to prevent a drain on the limited funds of the Scheme. Ms Bruce-Lyle, therefore, advocated the reintroduction of environmental sanitation officers at the district, metropolitan and municipal levels to manage effective sanitation.

Ms Bruce-Lyle urged all stakeholders to collaborate with the RCC as well as the DMMCE, to ensure the smooth running of the Scheme.

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