16th July 2024

By: Lawson Edem Morttey

Before a formal medical system introduced by the British Colonial administration existed, primary care givers were traditional priests and herbalists. However, our predisposition to traditional medicine, maybe in 21st century healthcare delivery, precolonial primary care system was and continues to be rooted in our belief system as a form of social identity. These background facts are just beside the point. Rolling the tape fast forward to our present healthcare system should give every well-meaning taxpayer a reason to shudder.

Health care policies

First, we must all abreast ourselves with the necessities of a healthcare policy with a primary objective of quality and the patient at its core for a country and not precisely universal healthcare system. The purpose of healthcare policy is to provide standardization in daily operational activities. They are essential in providing clarity when dealing with issues and activities that are critical to health and safety of the people at the receiving end. The importance of healthcare policy cannot be disputed but the way they are managed best will vary from one country to another. In Ghana, healthcare is provided by the government, which is further managed by the ministry of health together with Ghana Health services. The reoccurring theme of our healthcare system is that, it is nationalized and universal. Meaning government ends up doing the most heavy lifting to bring healthcare to the five levels of providers namely health posts, health centers and clinics, district hospitals, regional hospitals and tertiary hospitals.


The missing link

Missing from healthcare administration in this country is the massive role of private health centers and private health insurers. Then, will a non-universal healthcare system render most families with limited income bracket uninsured? The answer is probably yes. Most families or individuals without high income may be unable to afford privatized primary care. Regardless, these same demographic universal healthcare policy was supposed to cater for are not enjoying quality healthcare either.

In Ghana, the cost of treating patients with chronic diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, viral diseases etc is high even under the widely adopted universal healthcare system. As our parents and grandparents grow older so does their healthcare cost increases due to health complications associated with ageing. Most family with older people can conclude universal healthcare system does not work for them because relying on this system means signing a death sentence to their aged love ones so they rely on private primary care providers.


Exposure of health care lapses

The role of private healthcare system bears fruition in the midst of this global pandemic COVID-19. A Global pandemic and Ghana unpreparedness has exposed the lapses in our healthcare system.  A nationalized universal healthcare system only imply lack of choice, quality primary care and an ineffective supply chain to meet healthcare needs of the country. One causative factor for the weakness in our healthcare policy is the absence of dominant private primary care providers and lack of baseline competition for private insurance companies due to National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). A non-universal healthcare system develop powerful solutions, to help manage policies. In response to the pandemic, most health centers are scrambling for PPEs and other supplies. Individual groups and persons donating PPEs and other supplies to hospitals for frontline health workers is a textbook testament that a nationalized healthcare delivery system is ineffective hence; the country’s option of universal healthcare system is broken.














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