NHIA to Include Dialysis in National Health Insurance Scheme

Ghana – In a significant move to enhance healthcare coverage, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) is undertaking steps to incorporate the cost of dialysis for kidney patients into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). This initiative is set to benefit a large number of kidney patients across the country who have been facing challenges with the accessibility and affordability of dialysis treatment.

According to Ghana News Agency, the Central Regional Director of NHIA, the Authority is currently collecting data from teaching hospitals where dialysis is performed for a feasibility assessment. This development was disclosed during an interview with the Ghana News Agency, on the sidelines of a blood donation exercise organized as part of the NHIA’s 20th Anniversary celebrations. The exercise aimed to address the shortage of blood in various banks and prevent deaths due to this deficiency.

Mr. Appiah mentioned that his office had already submitted data from the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH) to the NHIA Head Office. He expressed optimism about the outcome of the data collection process, anticipating that it would lead to the inclusion of dialysis in the NHIS coverage package. This response comes amid public outcry over the high cost and limited accessibility of dialysis in Ghana.

The public recently resisted an attempt by the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) to increase the cost of dialysis, perceiving it as detrimental to kidney patients’ survival. The closure of KBTH’s renal unit due to indebtedness led to the reported deaths of 19 patients, highlighting the urgent need for this initiative.

The NHIA’s assessment will determine whether to absorb the full cost of dialysis treatment or a portion of it. Mr. Appiah noted that NHIS currently covers about 95 percent of diseases in Ghana, along with over 540 medicines. As the NHIA continues to expand its coverage, there is a growing need to increase its resource base.

When asked about the potential impact of adding kidney treatment to the Scheme on premiums, Mr. Appiah acknowledged the likelihood of an increase. However, he emphasized that the premium paid by the informal sector, which constitutes only 4.5 percent of the NHIA’s revenue, would not be sufficient even with an increase. He advocated for enhanced government funding to the Authority to ensure sustainable health insurance and comprehensive coverage for all health conditions.

NHIA Ashanti Regional Office Organizes Blood Donation Drive in Kumasi

Kumasi – Marking its 20th Anniversary, the Ashanti Regional Office of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) hosted a blood donation exercise at the Kumasi City Mall. The event was part of a concerted effort to replenish the blood banks of key health facilities in the region.

According to Ghana News Agency, Director of Procurement and Projects at the NHIA Head Office, the event saw staff from all district offices of the Authority and members of the public actively participate in blood donation after being declared eligible. Professionals from the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) supervised the exercise, themed ’20 Years of Care, One Pint at a time: Donate for Life.’ The NHIA targeted at least 300 donors in the Ashanti Region for this initiative.

The importance of adequately stocked blood banks in health facilities, particularly for emergency situations where patients critically need blood, was underscored during the event. Mr. Yeboah emphasized the challenging reality of blood banks facing shortages and the life-saving nature of such donation exercises. He called for participation from all eligible citizens, highlighting the collective benefit to the health system.

Reflecting on the impact of the Scheme over 20 years, Mr. Yeboah noted significant improvements in healthcare access, especially among the poor. While acknowledging the impossibility of satisfying every stakeholder in any program implementation, he expressed confidence that the Scheme had largely had a positive impact on the lives of Ghanaians. He estimated that the Authority had achieved over 80 percent success in terms of claims payments and client services.

The Scheme currently boasts over 17 million enrollees, with an ambitious goal to reach 20 million by the end of 2023. Mr. Kwadwo Dwomoh, the Regional Director, described the blood donation exercise as part of the Authority’s corporate social responsibility and a contribution to health delivery in the region. He encouraged Ghanaians who are not yet registered with the Scheme to do so, highlighting the potential life-saving importance of the NHIS card.

New Patriotic Party Clears 21 Candidates for Oti Region Parliamentary Primaries

Oti Region – The New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Oti Region has given the green light to twenty-one parliamentary aspirants to contest in the upcoming primary scheduled for December 2. This decision follows a thorough vetting process by the party’s committee, emphasizing the aspirants’ commitment to party unity.

According to Ghana News Agency, the vetting committee was chaired by Mr. Salam Mustapha, the National Youth Organiser of the NPP, along with Dr. Asiedu Kokro, the Deputy Director of Communications, and Mr. Abdul Taric Bonsu, the Deputy Nasara Coordinator. Post-vetting, all aspirants signed an undertaking to support the party unconditionally, regardless of the primary’s outcome.

Mr. Mustapha, in his interview after the vetting, called for a civilised and mature approach to the campaigns. He urged the candidates to avoid engaging in insults, acrimony, and false accusations against each other, advocating for a clean and respectful contest.

Mr. Evans Yaw Dapaah, the Regional Chairman of the NPP, highlighted the party’s mission to ‘break the eight’ – a term signifying their ambition to extend their governance beyond two four-year terms. He emphasized that all party activities should align with this goal and warned against actions that could jeopardize it. Mr. Dapaah assured that the regional executives were fully prepared to support the constituencies in their efforts to win the seats.

Furthermore, he called on the executives of the constituencies to maintain neutrality, fairness, transparency, and to ensure a level playing field for all aspirants. The NPP, Mr. Dapaah stated, is determined to capture all parliamentary seats in the region and called for a collective effort to realize this ambition.

Bunso Cocoa College Welcomes 65 New Students in Third Matriculation Ceremony

Bunso – Bunso Cocoa College, in affiliation with the University of Cape Coast (UCC), has conducted its third matriculation ceremony, welcoming 65 new students for a two-year Diploma program in Agronomy and Extension. This event marks a significant step in the college’s mission to provide specialized education in the field of agriculture.

According to Ghana News Agency, the Rector of Bunso Cocoa College, the students were administered the matriculation oath during the ceremony. She emphasized the importance of adhering to the school’s rules and regulations to uphold its vision. Dr. Asamoah highlighted the college’s experienced faculty and academic facilities, which contribute to holistic learning. She encouraged the students to prioritize their studies and make the most of the market-oriented tree crop manpower education offered at the college.

The Rector also stressed the importance of field practical training sessions, which are integral to the students’ program. Recognizing the need to expand access to their programs, she announced that the sale of admission forms for a weekend program, scheduled to start next year, was already underway.

With the increasing number of students, Dr. Asamoah appealed for additional infrastructure, including a new block to accommodate the growing student body, and a 48-seater bus to facilitate field and practical training.

Professor Grace Vanderpuije, representing the Vice Chancellor of UCC, addressed the students, reminding them of their mission at the school. She advised them to be consistently mindful of the institution’s rules and regulations throughout their academic journey.

Established in 1950 to train technical and field staff of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Bunso Cocoa College has evolved over the years. It has now been upgraded to a tertiary institution, accredited by the Ghana Tertiary Education Council, reflecting its expanded role in higher education and agriculture in Ghana.

Professor Urges Legislation Repeal Against Mining in Ghanaian Forest Reserves

Accra – Prof Alfred Apau Oteng-Yeboah, a retired botany professor from the University of Ghana, has joined forces with Civil Society Organisations to oppose mining in Ghana’s forest reserves. This move aligns with recent demands from the Media Coalition Against Galamsey and OccupyGhana for legislative action against mining in these critical biodiversity areas.

According to Ghana News Agency, who spoke at a public lecture at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in Accra, the current legislation, the Environmental Protection (Mining in Forest Reserves) Regulations, 2022 (L.I. 2462), is detrimental to public interest. He called for its repeal by Parliament, emphasizing the need to preserve the ecosystem integrity of the country. His remarks were part of a series of lectures by GAAS marking the 2023 Founder’s Week celebration.

The professor, who also chairs the Trusteeship Board of A Rocha Ghana, an environmental advocacy group, expressed deep concern over human activities that endanger the environment and, consequently, human existence. He advocated for a response characterized by regret, lament, repentance, reflection, and action to the environmental crisis facing the nation.

Highlighting Ghana’s environmental crisis as a threat to development, cohesion, and livelihoods, Prof Oteng-Yeboah called for urgent steps to avoid undermining nation-building progress. He recommended a ban on future exploitation of wetlands and other wilderness areas until a thorough evaluation and assessment of existing damage is conducted.

He tasked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), and the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) with pursuing their environmental mandates. Additionally, he urged Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to enforce environmental by-laws strictly.

Prof Oteng-Yeboah further suggested suspending proposed petrochemical hub projects in Keta and Nzema until the ecosystem impacts are fully studied and remedies for damages are confirmed. He also advocated for the immediate cessation of the mining license for gold mining in the Amanzule area of the Western Region, citing its detrimental impact on the aquatic wetland ecosystem and local livelihoods.

In his call to action, the professor urged traditional leaders to play an active role in maintaining a clean and secure environment. He also emphasized the need for national consciousness and patriotism among state institutions and staff responsible for managing environmental resources. He concluded by suggesting a collaboration between the NDPC and the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) with the Minerals and Lands Commissions, to provide knowledge about the effective and sustainable use of Ghana’s natural resources.

USAID Commences Construction of Maternal and Child Health Center in Kumasi

Kumasi – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has initiated the construction of a new maternal and child health center at the HopeXchange Medical Centre in Kumasi. This development is a significant step towards addressing the rising maternal and child mortality rates in the Ashanti and surrounding regions.

According to Ghana News Agency, the US Ambassador to Ghana, the state-of-the-art facility, expected to be completed within 18 months, will encompass a labour suite, neonatal and paediatric intensive care units, in-patient and out-patient wards, and an adolescent clinic. She emphasized the importance of a healthy start as the foundation for lifelong good health, underlining why USAID continues to invest in health facilities.

The Ambassador highlighted that USAID has already invested about $3.5 million in the HopeXchange Medical Centre, Ghana. She added that the United States annually invests over $12 million to enhance the health and lives of mothers, babies, and children throughout Ghana. In 2019, the United States launched a Women’s Cancer Centre at HopeXchange Ghana, serving as a regional hub for medical training, research, and patient care to tackle public health priorities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ms. Palmer also noted that the US is Ghana’s largest bilateral development partner, with bilateral assistance in 2023 amounting to over $150 million. This funding supports various sectors, including health, economic growth, agriculture, education, governance, and security.

Dr. Rita Larsen-Reindorf, the Ashanti Regional Deputy Director of Health Services in charge of Clinical Care, expressed her gratitude to the US Government for its continuous support and investment in Ghana’s healthcare. She stressed that maternal and newborn mortality remains a critical concern in the region. The region’s maternal mortality rate was 134 per 100,000 live births, and the stillbirth rate was 11 per 1,000 in 2022. The new facility is expected to contribute significantly to reducing these numbers.

NHIA Central Regional Office Holds Blood Donation Drive in Cape Coast

Cape Coast – The Central Regional Office of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has conducted a blood donation exercise in Cape Coast as part of its efforts to replenish the National Blood Bank. This initiative is also in celebration of the Authority’s 20th anniversary, aimed at addressing the critical issue of blood shortages in various banks across the country and preventing avoidable deaths.

According to Ghana News Agency, the NHIA collaborated with the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH) for the exercise. Staff from NHIA across the region, the Claims Processing Centre (CPC), and the public participated in this noble cause, convened at the Authority’s office. The NHIA has set a national target to collect over 1,600 pints of blood by the end of the exercise.

Madam Eva Okai, Deputy Director of Finance and Investment at the NHIA Head Office and the Coordinator of the exercise, highlighted the severe shortage of blood at the National Blood Bank. She emphasized the importance of collective efforts from the public and government organizations to ensure the blood bank’s adequacy in supporting the nation and saving lives.

Mr. Fred Appiah, the Regional Director of the Authority, praised the staff and healthcare providers for their contribution to the success of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) over the past two decades. He shared that the regional office aims to increase its membership to 1.5 million by the end of the year, with 1.2 million already recorded by the end of September.

Mr. Appiah encouraged unregistered citizens to join the Scheme and reminded those with expired memberships to renew them. He promoted the Authority’s new ‘mynhis app’ mobile application for both new registrations and renewals, with a vision to achieve Universal Health Coverage in the Central Region by 2030.

Despite its successes, Mr. Appiah acknowledged the ongoing issue of illegal fees being charged to Scheme members by some service providers. He assured that the Authority had established monitoring committees to ensure compliance with contracts and warned that facilities failing to adhere to these standards would face sanctions, including downgrading.

Rising Mobile Money Fraud Threatens Financial Inclusion Efforts in Ghana

Ghana – The increasing prevalence of mobile money fraud in Ghana poses a significant threat to the strides made in achieving financial inclusion, particularly among those in the informal sector. This issue has become a matter of concern as mobile money, once hailed as a transformative tool for financial services, now faces challenges due to fraudulent activities.

According to Ghana News Agency, Imarc Group on Ghana’s Mobile Money Market, the market size of mobile money in Ghana reached US$121.8 billion in 2022, with projections to hit US$590.7 billion by 2028. By the end of 2022, approximately 56.7 million mobile money wallets were created, with 20.5 million being very active. The simplicity and accessibility of mobile money transactions have made it an attractive option even for uneducated individuals in rural areas.

However, the Bank of Ghana reported a total of 12,166 cases of mobile money fraud in 2022, highlighting a significant threat to the system’s integrity. Mobile money fraud is defined as the intentional action by players within the mobile financial services ecosystem to gain illicitly. It includes various types, such as fake promotions, wrong transfer requests, SIM card swaps, fake product deliveries, and posing as fake servicing agents.

The challenges in combating mobile money fraud are manifold. The primary issues include weaknesses in regulatory enforcement by the Bank of Ghana and the National Communication Authority, lack of cooperation from mobile operators, high illiteracy rates among victims, and the role of greed in making people susceptible to scams.

To combat mobile money fraud, various measures are suggested for both operators and subscribers. Mobile operators are advised to enhance ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) practices, improve technological systems for transaction monitoring, and collaborate openly with stakeholders like law enforcement and banks. For subscribers, measures include protecting mobile devices and personal information, verifying the identities of callers and texters, monitoring wallet activities, and staying informed about new fraud trends.

The report concludes that if not addressed, mobile money fraud could derail years of progress made towards promoting financial inclusion in Ghana, causing not only financial loss to subscribers and providers but also damaging the reputation of the service and trust in the financial ecosystem.