The Community Development Alliance (CDA), has observed that the charging of unapproved fees by health service providers is one of the major causes of preventable deaths, especially among pregnant women and newborns.
It said pregnant women and other members of the society who were active subscribers of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) were reluctant in seeking timely medical care due to the fear of being charged fees they could not pay.
Mr Salifu Issifu Kanton, the Executive Director of the CDA, made the observation in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Wa in relation to complaints from a section of the public about paying for health services that were covered by the NHIS.
He said a health assessment conducted by the CDA in 2021 revealed unapproved top-up charges by some health facilities as one of the setbacks to timely access to healthcare services, especially by the poor and vulnerable groups in society.
He was of the view that the maternal and newborn deaths recorded in the region were a result of the unapproved charges at the facilities even though under the Ghana Health Service protocols, maternal healthcare service ought to be free.
“Because of the fear of paying for the services, many people who need urgent medical care are not attending the hospitals until their situations become critical because they do not have the money to do the top-up payment. Pregnant women and their babies are dying preventable deaths because of this”, Mr Kanton explained.
He explained that the situation was compounded by the recent general economic hardship experienced in the country, in which the poor people were the worst affected.
“We are in a period where the economic condition is very harsh. If the economy is hard for even the so-called middle class, how hard will it be for the poor”, Mr Kanton queried.
He stressed that NHIS cardholders must be offered the full services as spelt out in the NHIS benefit package since the active card bearer had already paid for those services through taxes.
According to the health advocate, Ghana had signed the global agreement of ensuring universal access to quality primary healthcare services irrespective of one’s social or economic status or geographical location.
The CDA Director, therefore, urged the NHIS service providers to hold the Ghana Health Service accountable to their contract agreement rather than holding the poor health service seeker who had a valid NHIA membership card to ransom.
Meanwhile, the Upper West Regional Office of the NHIA, during its 2021 end-of-year performance review, noted that illegal charging of fees by subscribers remained the biggest challenge facing the authority in the region.
“When somebody has the National Health Insurance card and goes to access medical care, he or she is asked to pay additional money, which at the end of the day the claim is reimbursed by the NHIA.
“This practice is demoralizing a lot of people and their experiences are not that good enough for them to come for renewal,” Mr Samuel Lobber Lekamwe, the Upper West Regional Director of the NHIA, said.