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26 July 2017

SEND Ghana urges gov’t to prioritise Primary Health Care

SEND Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, has appealed to government to focus on expanding access to Primary Health Care (PHC), saying it is the bedrock for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It said there is the need to link PHC to the entire SDGs and pursue strategies for the harmonisation of all health-related data, improving financing to the sector, intensifying public education on the importance of healthy lifestyles for preventive health and ensuring intersectoral collaboration.

It was also good for improving the quality of Community Based and Health Planning Services (CHPS), it said.

Harriet Nuamah Agyemang, a Senior Programme Officer at SEND Ghana, said in spite of the critical role of PHC, very little attention and funding had been committed to it, compared to tertiary care, which was focused on curative approaches.

She said the core agenda of the “Advocacy for Primary Health Care”, therefore, was to catalyse and leverage action for effective PHC, as the incomplete and uncoordinated implementation of different policies and legislations and persistent vertical approaches, hampered the achievement of effective health care delivery.

Mrs Agyemang made a presentation on the issue at a meeting with members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Civil Society and officers from the Health Ministry and Departments, in Accra, on Tuesday.

The meeting was to discuss issues relating to the PHC and collate concerns and recommendations for inclusion in the national medium to long-term plan by the National Development Planning Commission.

She said despite the efforts being made in PHC, the aspirations were not being realised as expected.

She gave an overview of the country’s PHC status and constraints, saying, tertiary care, as well as vertical disease programming, had continued to characterise the health systems, while the rural areas had been disadvantaged with respect to specialist services.

She identified other challenges as the socio-cultural practices and forms of health-seeking behaviour among poor and underserved women and young people and the opportunity costs associated with accessing health services arising from local transportation challenges.

She said issues with overcrowding of facilities and long-waiting periods, as well as the inadequacy of relevant information to clients and lack of confidence in the facilities and service providers all played a part in limiting the effectiveness of PHC.

Mrs Agyemang said key priorities for action that should be included in the Successor Medium Term Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks beyond 2017 must include strengthening district and sub-district systems for PHC, acceleration of CHPS strategy.

She said government and duty bearers must focus on wide public education and support creation of the CHPS compound, galvanising actions on proposals for health devolution in line with national decentralisation agenda, and building links between ongoing primary health efforts to other relevant.

There should also be sectoral initiatives and strengthening coordination and harmonisation of institutional efforts, promotion of research, dissemination and utilisation of nutrition research results, attention to infrastructural deficits and stimulating complementary support from other sectors and sources.

Vicky T. Okine, the Executive Director for Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights, said the country still required a comprehensive approach to realising its obligations and commitments to ensure broad-based, high quality and affordable healthcare to citizens, especially the poor. 

She said the desired situation was to ensure UHC for all Ghanaians, especially at the basic level, Ghana had already committed to a concerted effort to ensure that all its citizens had adequate, high-quality, affordable, timely, reasonably located and socially acceptable health care by signing onto the SDGs.

Dr Robert Baba Kuganab-Lem, the Member of Parliament for Binduri and Deputy Ranking Member, Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, argued that although the National Health Insurance Scheme was laudable, it was not sustainable as evidenced by the failures experienced by some countries who opted for it.

He suggested that for effective and equitable health care, PHC should be free, but then a structured system is developed with reasonable premium charges for those who could pay to access further health care at the various stages of the service delivery system.

 

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