Free Mahamacare: An indispensable primary health care policy

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Former President John Mahama

Former President John Mahama’s Free Primary Health Care Policy in the NDC’s People’s Manifesto is not just a health policy but an inalienable human right that no Ghanaian should be denied. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 which Ghana subscribes to enjoins states to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

According to the World Health Organization, primary health care(PHC) is rooted in a commitment to social justice and equity and in the recognition of the fundamental right to the highest attainable standard of health, as echoed in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”.

John Mahama’s promised introduction of  free primary health care to our health delivery system is more critical than even the Free Senior High School. It is a bold decision by the NDC to ensure social justice and equity in health delivery in this country. The WHO acknowledges contexts in which the PHC referred to the provision of ambulatory or first-level of personal health care services. In Ghana this first level health care has been problematic for many citizens because of cost unaffordability. Many curable diseases are left untreated and degenerate into secondary complicated ones or even taking the lives of their victims prematurely.

Many, especially rural folks, fear going to the hospital for medical attention due to poverty and rather die needlessly from complications. The introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme, which was to solve this problem did little to assuage it because of its own challenges.

Apart from its low coverage of 40%, it does not take care of many drugs even at the primary medical care level let alone in secondary cases. Most people, especially the relatively poor, cannot afford the annual premiums hence let their cards expire and only try renewing when they have challenges. There are issues of delayed payment of claims to service providers by the National Health Insurance Authority causing denial of services to even valid card holding members of the scheme.

The Free Mahamacare the NDC pledged to implement has identified these problems and seeks to address them. According to explanations being given by the party about the programme, the Free PHC shall give free access to health services from the CHPS compound level to District Hospitals, whether one has NHIA card or not. The NDC Flagbearer himself emphasised it in Wa on one of his campaign tours: “Let me point out that this programme and plan we are bringing is going to be implemented and supervised by the NHIS. But it is going to be a programme for free primary healthcare so that at the level of the CHPS compound, polyclinics and health centres all Ghanaians will have access to free healthcare whether they possess a national health insurance card or not.”

The party’s spokesperson on health, Alex Segbefia noted that this policy is designed to ease pressure on major hospitals, allowing them to focus on more critical healthcare areas. He said the current system is clogging up our regional and tertiary institutions for things that can be done elsewhere. Besides this, the National Health Insurance Scheme will be freed to revamp itself to help in advance cases at the secondary and tertiary health care levels where diabetes, hypertension and other diseases are choking victims to death.

The more beneficial of the PHC is the categories it tackles. From the preventive services offered at the CHPS compounds and health centres to treatment of common diseases at polyclinics and district hospitals, Ghanaians can heave a huge sigh of relief when this very important intervention rolls out. Health education/promotion, proper nutrition; adequate supply of safe drinking water and sanitation, maternal and child health, including family planning, immunization against major infectious diseases like polio, hepatitis B etc, prevention and control of local endemic diseases and provision of essential drugs will ensure there will be no financial barrier to accessing good health care in Ghana.

It is also important to note that the NDC flagbearer has demonstrated building enough capacity to implement this critical programme. The infrastructure upon which it will be founded has been one of his greatest achievements in his first term as President. The huge investment he made in the health sector and which he planned to build upon under the $10billion Infrastructure Development Plan dubbed, the “Big Push” will ensure that every Ghanaian will have a health facility where s/he can access the free primary health care.

As is usually said, a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. MAHAMACARE has come not only to ensure our health but also indirectly ensure our wealth. Let us support him and make it happen, we need it now!

By Esther Domi Opinions published on this website do not represent the views of Daily Mail GH

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