Unfettered Access to Quality Health Care in the offing – Health Minister

People living in Ghana would now have untimely access to the high quality healthcare they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship following the completion of the roadmap for the implementation of the Universal Health Coverage, Hon. Kwaku Agyemang Manu, the Minister for Health has said.

He stated this to include full range of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care, stressing that it will go further to prioritize mental health and emergency services like pre-hospital, clinical, and public health.

This, according to him, would certainly impact positively on mental health and improve the sub-sector. The National Healthcare Quality Strategy goal, he said, is to improve the health and wellbeing of all persons living in Ghana through the development of a better health system that places the patient and the community at the centre of care. Mental health, the Minister of Health adds is prioritized in its implementation.

In a speech read on his behalf at a forum on mental health with key stakeholders on policy and legislation as well as funding for mental health in Accra, he said, among the most pressing issues affecting people with mental illness and epilepsy which needs urgent attention is their challenges to benefit from the central Government’s social intervention schemes.

Hon. Agyemang Manu said by their membership of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD), mental health patients qualify to benefit from 3% share of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) allocated to the persons with disability.

He however said many members and associations of mental health and epilepsy peer support groups continue to face challenges in their attempt to access this resource meant for their development noting that Government is closing the gap in resolving this challenge.

Government, according to him, has made some progress in ensuring the inclusion of persons with mental illness in the annual plans and budgets of the MMDAs. In many districts and the regions, he said, BasicNeeds Ghana is currently supporting the enrolment of people with mental illness under the indigent category with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

These efforts, the Minister of Health explained, is being stepped up as people with mental illness in many districts across region are still yet to be covered.

Mr. Samuel Kaba, the Director in charge of Institutional Care, Ghana Health Service[GHS] represented Dr Patrick Aboagye, the Director General of GHS and delivered his speech at the forum. Dr. Aboagye said based on the principles of promoting quality health, prevention of diseases, curative, rehabilitation, and palliative care, GHS had established mental wings in regional and district hospitals.

Through the CHPS, he said, GHS is extending services to households as it embarked on its policy of people, family and community centred care, championing mental health as part of its core business.

The service, according to him, is engaging clinical psychologists, community mental health nurses, and mental health physician assistants to support Ghana’s mental health agenda.

Persons with mental illness and their caregivers, Dr. Aboagye says experience several challenges. Key among them, he adds, is the irregular supply of essential medicines. This, Director General of GHS noted, increases the risk of relapse.

GHS, he explained, are therefore committed to working with relevant agencies to ensure that these shortages become a thing of the past in order to improve on community mental health care.

The number of psychiatrists in Ghana, according to him, is still highly inadequate for Ghana’s population despite the recent increase in the number of consultants and specialists in the field. Dr. Aboagye said there are a total of 29 psychiatrists in Ghana made up 14 consultants and 25 specialists.

Out of this number, he said, three are on contract, 31 in public service, three in private practice and two on retirement. All these consultants and specialists according to him are in the southern and coastal belt of Ghana, leaving a significant portion of the country without their services.

He called on the government to create the enabling environment to allow the full implementation of the Mental Health Act (846) and roll out the national mental health policy of Ghana.

He reminded all MMDAs that mental illness is a disability. Persons with mental illness, he adds, therefore qualify to benefit from the 3% share of the District Assembly Common Fund for persons with disabilities as a matter of right.

Source: Adovor Nutifafa

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