Cost of dialysis: It’s now or never to scrap taxes on consumables
When I was in the Central Region as the regional correspondent for the Daily Graphic between 2014 and 2019, one of the issues which occupied me on health reporting was renal disease and dialysis challenge.
I decided to turn my attention to that subject because a colleague journalist, Thomas Cann, was a victim of that life- threatening disease, and would always seek my assistance in his advocacy and public education on the disease, the possible causes and precautionary measures one has to take before and during the plague.
The Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH) was our central focus because the only renal disease centre in the region was found in that hospital.
It has always been pathetic to see patients from all parts of the region as well as from the Western Region converge on the hospital to jostle for the few dialysis available.
Even mindboggling and pathetic is that teenagers are now victims of the kidney disease, which hitherto was a reserve of the elderly.
And because the limited number of the dialysis in that centre (nine or ten), patients had to queue the previous day to enable them to get the necessary attention the following day.
Many of them also had to skip the service three times a week due to financial difficulties.
The then Director of the Renal Centre at the CCTH, Irene Allottey, told me in a chat that some of the causes of teenage kidney diseases could be due to polluted water, as a result of intensive galamsey in those areas.
She said people in galamsey prevalent areas largely depended on rivers and streams as a source of drinking water and that the emergence of illegal mining had worsened the situation. She also mentioned the use of herbal concoction as a cause.
According to Mrs Allotey many victims of the disease passed away largely because of lack of funds to pay for the expensive services.
As kidney-mauled victims brood over their conditions and pray the Lord to save them came the shocking news that the fees for a session at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital had been increased from GH¢380.00 to GH¢765.42, an increase of more than 100 per cent.
Then the argument and the counter-argument began.
The defence arguments are largely centred on the fact that the consumables are taxed by the government and also the general economic conditions prevailing in the country, hence the justification for the ‘astronomical’ upward review.
But how difficult is it for the government to scrap taxes on consumables and other medications of government health institutions to enable kidney patients to afford them and not skip the three sessions required?
It is an undisputable fact that Parliament in 2017 alone granted a tax exemption to some companies to the tune of GH¢2billion, while $400 million was granted in 2019 alone.
Data on regional distribution of functional dialysis centres and patients per million populations in the country is as worrying as shown below.
All these said and done, may I, on behalf of patients of kidney disease, appeal to Parliament to, as a matter of urgency, scrap taxes on consumables and other medication to save lives of many of such patients.
Our fear, however, is that the bold commitment by the Sustainable Development Goals to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030 will be in jeopardy if we fail to conduct ourselves well; it must be deliberate.
The hour is now or never.
The writer is a Sub Editor, Daily Graphic