Full text: NDC promises to initiate the first-ever free primary healthcare when elected


Thank you very much for responding to the invitation of our great party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC). If there was ever any doubt, I am sure that doubt has been cleared by now: the NDC is poised for victory in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections, come December 7.

To quote our flagbearer John Mahama when he launched our 2020 Campaign in Dwenase – Sefwi Wiawso yesterday, we need to win the elections too, “Deliver true change not for ourselves but for our dear country.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is obvious, the sovereign people of Ghana are yearning for change in this election – not just any change but quality change. And it is this quality change that the tested and trusted President John Dramani Mahama and his Running mate, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, NDC parliamentary candidates, and the rank and file of our party are offering.

We have worked very hard, and we are working even harder; we have an impressive record of achievements, and most importantly, we have a superior manifesto – “The Peoples’ Manifesto.”

There is hope ahead for every Ghanaian because God willing on December 07, we will go to the polls and change this Government which has been a gross disappointment, divided instead of uniting our people, and visited socio-economic pain on many a Ghanaian in several facets of our national life. This includes the health sector, which is the focus of today’s press conference—specifically, Free Primary Health Care.

Free Primary Health Care

Ladies and Gentlemen, during the historic outdooring of Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang at the University of Professional Studies (UPSA), among other significant promises such as paying depositors of all affected financial institutions all their monies within one year, President Mahama for the first time, announced his programme to roll out the Free Primary Health Care Plan, God willing, when voted into office.

Free Primary health Care will be the single largest social intervention under the Fourth Republic.

The Free Primary Health Care Plan will deliver preventive health, health promotion interventions and curative care. It seeks to provide quality health care for all Ghanaians at no cost to the individual. And President Mahama has demonstrated his unquenchable determination to implement it.

Under the Free Primary Health Care Plan, no Ghanaian will pay for health care in District hospitals, Polyclinics, Health Centres and Community Health Planning Services (CHPS) compounds. Notably, you will not need a National Health Insurance (NHIS) card to benefit from Free Primary Health Care.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Free Primary Health Care, is very important and critical because health is integral to national development. With Free Primary Health care, we shall significantly reduce avoidable deaths due to hypertension, strokes, diabetes, kidney disease and many others…This significant reduction in the death burden will help improve the quality of lives for those suffering such diseases. In addition, we shall intensify public education on preventable lifestyles that can lead to such diseases.

Under the Free Primary Health Care Plan, Ghanaians – teachers, health workers, civil and public servants, journalists, students, farmers, fishers, artisans, drivers – will no longer have to postpone the need to see a doctor because they neither have money nor health insurance. With Free Primary Health Care, free means free: walk into the health facility and you will receive care.

In this election, Ghanaians will choose between the candidate and the party with a clear promise to provide health care for all Ghanaians, and the NPP which remains locked up in the past and has shown through the abandoning of health infrastructure that it is not committed to achieving “Health for All” Ghanaians as stipulated by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, SDG3, Health for All.

Ladies and Gentlemen, even before the SDGs, Ghana had subscribed to the Alma Ata Declaration (1978), the Millennium Development Goals (2000), the Kampala Declaration (2008), and recently in 2018, the current Government also subscribed to the Astana Declaration.

Over the years, since 1978, providing health for all Ghanaians through primary health care in a manner which is affordable, accessible and of good quality, has eluded us.

We believe this, coupled with the gaping vulnerabilities revealed within Ghana’s health system during this Coronavirus Disease pandemic are some of the key reasons defining election 2020. In this election, God willing, Ghanaians will choose President Mahama who provided the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), the Ridge Hospital and a raft of health infrastructure and durable interventions across the country.

Once again, we believe, Ghanaians will choose President Mahama who has an explicit and well thought through promise to provide Free Primary Health Care; and not his opposite contender who has failed the health sector as President and is showing no bold and credible commitment towards the achievement of “Health for All” Ghanaians.

Ladies and Gentlemen, globally, providing health care is focused on prioritising primary health care. This is premised on the fact that keeping citizens healthy has been shown to:

  • Minimise overall health care cost;
  • increase quality-adjusted healthy years and life expectancy;
  • ensure adequate skill mix to guarantee accelerated economic growth; and
  • Decrease the pressure on secondary, tertiary and quaternary health care facilities, including addressing the dreaded “No bed syndrome.”

In Ghana, where outpatient per capita (that is the number of times the average citizen accesses primary healthcare) is less than one, health-seeking behaviours are skewed more towards the curative rather than the preventive.

Experts have suggested many reasons for this poor health-seeking behaviour. Amongst them include:

  • high out of pocket cost ;
  • low National Health Insurance coverage – less than 40% of Ghanaians are on health insurance
  • long waiting times (about 161 minutes for an average primary health appointment in a public health facility); and
  • poor customer service at primary health care facilities.

These need to change in line with our changing disease burden patterns. We indeed need Free Primary Health Care to make Ghanaians access health care, including appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries; and provision of essential drugs at no cost to them. Free Primary Health Care will also prioritise and improve the responsiveness of the health system.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the next NDC Government is determined to fix the high out of pocket payments. With Free Primary Health Care, nobody –we mean no Ghanaian – will pay a pesewa at any primary health care facility when he or she is attended to.

Free Primary Health Care Will Reduce Long Waiting Time

Ladies and Gentlemen, another benefit of our Free Primary Health Care Plan will be a drastic reduction in the over two (2) and half hours long waiting time, which overwhelms health workers, wastes the time of patients and their families, invariably leads to poor customer service at our health care facilities and on the national scale reduces productivity.

For many people with chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, most of their routine tests and reviews do not need to take place in the traditional brick and mortar health facilities. This is because personal health information such as blood pressure, pulse rate, height, weight, temperature, oxygen saturation etc. can be performed remotely without these individuals physically visiting a health facility.

Other semi-invasive tests like blood glucose level can be done by using rapid diagnostic kits. The patients will have these tests done at accredited local Pharmacy or Drug stores as the case may be at a fee to be paid by Government.

This will also diversify the range of services that Pharmacy and Drug shops offer and create more jobs. In addition, we will connect patients with medical laboratories – both public and private – that can perform other invasive tests by using their mobile laboratory technicians. This will also create more jobs for drivers, designated motor riders and laboratory technicians.

As a result of the care they will be receiving outside of the health facilities, people will visit district hospitals, polyclinics, clinics and CHPS compounds only when it is necessary to do so. This will reduce congestion in our health facilities, reduce waiting time and make it possible for Ghanaians to seek health care on time.

With this enhanced health-seeking behaviour, diseases will be picked up early by health professionals and managed. This early detection of diseases due to Free Primary health Care will reduce medical complications which usually require inpatient care. As a result, there will be fewer hospitalisations and in tandem, with other interventions, the dreaded “No bed syndrome” will be addressed.

Free Primary Health Care Will Create Jobs

Over and above the jobs to be created under the Free Primary health Care Plan stated, there is, also, excellent news for Physician Assistants, Registered Nurses, Midwives, Community Health Nurses, Pharmacists, Doctors and Allied Health workers and other health entrepreneurs.

Free Primary Health Care will require additional health human resource – this heralds more jobs for the good people of Ghana. The Mahama led government will also enlist the services of private sector providers and support their facilities to participate in the delivery of Free Primary Health Care to Ghanaians.

In addition, in order to ensure that health care reaches all Ghanaians in every corner of the country, health professionals including Doctors, Physician Assistants, Midwives, Nurses interested in private group practice will also be given the needed stimulus to set up and render quality service to Ghanaians.

Free Primary Health Care Will Integrate E-Health and Save Cost

Ladies and Gentlemen, you may recall that President Mahama successfully piloted E-Health in Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Korle Bu Polyclinic and Zebilla District hospital among others. You also recall he provided: the ultramodern Tier-3 600- Rackspace National Data Centre; the biggest in West Africa; the LTE/4G network; the over 800-kilometers Eastern Corridor Fiber Optic; the 112 National Emergency Number and many others.

These monumental achievements in the ICT sector will be leveraged to enhance the implementation of Free Primary Health Care. Deploying and expanding E-health facilities as well as improving access will be one of our major tools of delivering on our promise of Free Primary Health Care to all Ghanaians.

Patient data will be collected with all the appropriate patient consent protocols and confidential guidelines into a national cloud-based electronic patient health record system. Also, the current e-Tracker for Community Health Nurses to collect point of care data of patients as they provide services and undertake home visits from CHPS compounds, will be expanded to cover the whole country.

Thus, as we have highlighted, a clinician could access this information remotely at any point and independently take care of patients. We will also enhance and scale up the use of ICT through teleconsultation and telemedicine across the country. The features will be enhanced to include patient-doctor video consultations.

By using this approach, patients across the country from Paga and the borders of Burkina Faso to the north, Elubo to the west, and Aflao bordering Togo to the east including all Coastal towns and all Ghanaians within Ghana, can be seen by a clinician anywhere.

This Plan will also help address the acute shortage of health professionals in many deprived and rural areas because they will be seen by doctors who may even be in Accra, Ho, Kumasi, Takoradi, Cape Coast via the power of ICT.

Furthermore, this inherent efficiency-enhancing and cost-saving attribute of ICT-driven Free Primary Health Care will cut down overhead costs of running and maintaining facilities. Digitisation of prescriptions will also improve the fight against counterfeit drugs and provide an audit trail that will become a valuable tool in the fight against fraud in the health care system.

Free Primary Health Care Will Make NHIS Better

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Free Primary Health Care Plan will make the NHIS better because it will pay for primary care, preventive and promotive health. Let me clarify once again that, a Ghanaian will not need a National Health Insurance (NHIS) card to benefit from Free Primary Health Care.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this means, unlike the NHIS, you do not have to pay a premium to benefit from Free Primary Health Care.

We believe this will strengthen the ailing financial health of the NHIS and afford the scheme an opportunity to pay debts owed service providers. Expert opinion suggests Health Insurance is insufficient to ensure universal health coverage.

In Ghana, so far, the NHIS does not even cover 40% of the population. The facts. Between 2017 and 2019 – the NHIS recorded an increase of 0.8% in coverage over the three year period.

If you contrast this with the estimated 6.6% increase in the Population of Ghana over the same period (2017 – 2019) you will understand why the NPP’s promise in this election to use the NHIS to achieve SDG3, Health for All Ghanaians, within the next nine (9) years cannot be trusted and must be rejected by the electorate.

They do not have a credible plan for “Health for All” Ghanaians. We do. Vote John Mahama and NDC for Free Primary Health Care.

We wish to assure you, under the next NDC Government, the NHIS will concentrate attention and efforts to protect citizens against the cost of health care at the secondary and tertiary level.

And with a well-functioning Free Primary Health Care Programme, you can be confident that the patients at the secondary and tertiary levels will be reduced because early warning signs of disease will be picked up through screening and attended to promptly.

Free Primary Health Care and More

Ladies and Gentlemen, in addition to Free Primary Health Care, the Peoples’ Manifesto also captures other significant promises in the health sector. The promises include:

  • implement tax waivers to assist health workers to acquire means of transport (Vehicles) to respond to emergency calls;
  • establish a housing scheme for health workers and provide residential facilities at all health facilities for health workers;
  • revise and expand the definition of frontline workers and harmonize disparities in the salaries and conditions of work of health workers
  • amend the National Pensions Act, to allow health professionals who have contributed to SSNIT for 10 years and above, to collateralize their contributions for mortgage loans;
  • employ the backlog of all unemployed qualified health professionals;
  • support health professionals with insurance to cushion them from unintended consequences of their practice;
  • support bilateral and other exchange programmes for our health personnel to expose them to best practices around the world, whiles supporting the pursuit of professional development by health workers;
  • establish a Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule Endowment Fund for medical and surgical specialists training;
  • scale up the training of Physician Assistants and emergency physicians, as well as create more jobs for community nurses and other health professionals through the implementation of free primary health care; and
  • institute a National Health Workers’ Day and establish an award scheme for deserving individual workers and best facilities (including private sector facilities).

Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen, The time has come for Ghana to walk the talk and achieve Health for All through Free Primary Health Care. We cannot continue to pay lip service to the health of the people of Ghana, particularly the poor. The evidence supports Free Primary Health Care to deliver “Health for All” Ghanaians. Ghana can do it.

As the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen puts it, “many poor countries have shown that basic health care for all can be provided at a remarkably good level at very low cost if society, including its political and intellectual leadership, shows high-level commitment.” Ghana is not a poor country. Ghana can do it. Together, President Mahama, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang and the NDC as a unit is showing that commitment.

Free Primary Health Care will emphasise preventive and promotive health, primary care, eliminate out of pocket payments, reduce long waiting time and make the NHIS better.

And above all, it will make Ghanaians happy once again as they seek health care in comfort without worrying about payments from their pockets. Good health will drive Ghana’s socio-economic growth and development. We need you to be healthy to drive the 10 billion US dollar big push infrastructure agenda for all Ghanaians.

But to make this vision a reality, we need your vote on December 7.

Vote John Dramani Mahama for jobs and prosperity for all.

Vote John Dramani Mahama for Free Primary Health Care to deliver true change not for ourselves but for our dear country.

Thank you once again.

Henry George Martinson | radiogoldlive.com

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