Death scare hits patients as NHIS providers revert to cash and carry

Some patients who depend on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to access health care say they will “die” if ‘cash and carry’ is reintroduced in hospitals.

This follows a decision by the NHIS service providers to make card holders pay cash when they visit their facilities due to the seven months outstanding arrears owed them by scheme managers, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).

The service providers consist of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Society of Private Medical and Dental Practitioners (SPMDP) and the Ghana Registered Midwives Association (GRMA).

Joy News’ Michaela Anderson was at the La General Hospital here in Accra and reports that patients are unhappy with the decision.

Most of these patients are pensioners who depend heavily on the NHIS to supplement the cost of their medical bills.

Patients with tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs, High Blood Pressure and eye problems, for instance say the decision must be rescinded because they visit the hospital frequently and will not be able to afford the high fees charged by the hospital if a cash and carry system is instituted.

The administrator of the hospital Phillip Afeti Korto said the facility is waiting for a directive to implement the cash and carry system.

He said the NHIS owes the hospital Ȼ900,000 in arrears; this makes it impossible for the facility to run effectively.

Suppliers are also unwilling to give them materials on credit because they have not been able to clear debts owed them and so the facility will not relent if a directive from the Ghana Health Service requires that they begin cash as carry system, he added.

In the Northern Region, JoyNews’ Hashmin Mohammed reports that authorities at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, on the other hand, say they cannot revert to cash and carry system.

Chief Executive Officer Dr Prosper Akanbong explained that they cannot take such a decision because the hospital is the only referral centre for the three northern regions.

Although he admits that the hospital is going through challenging times, he believes it will not be appropriate for the hospital to adopt the cash and carry system because it will put grave burden on patients.

A visit to some hospitals in the Ashanti Regional capital, Kumasi, by Luv FM’s Erastus Asare Donkor indicates that patients are still allowed to use their NHIS cards and are only asked to buy medications outside the hospital if they are unavailable.

Authorities of the hospitals say they have not yet received a directive to begin the cash and carry system and that they will wait until an instruction from the Ghana Heath Service indicated that they do so.

A statement issued by the GHS, SPMDP and the GRMA yesterday indicated that a milder form of the cash and carry policy will be introduced in the country.

This means that patients will be attended to by health care professionals but will have to buy medications and pay for other costs that may come with their health care services.

The Executive director of CHAG, Peter Yeboah later told Joy News the action is a “distress call” meant to draw the attention of the NHIA.

Story by Ghana | | Naa Sakwaba Akwa |

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