An average of 7,000 children are born with hole-in-heart conditions in Ghana every year, a Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Kingsley Aboagye Gyedu, has said.
Describing the situation as disturbing, Mr Gyedu said many of the affected children whose parents could not afford to bear the cost involved in heart surgery were left to die.
“This cannot be the situation of a country that values life and believes that children are the future of this country. We need broader conversation on how insurance providers can support and cover such cases,” he said.
Mr Gyedu was speaking at the launch of the “Think Heart, Save a Child” programme of the MTN Ghana Foundation and 3 Foundation of the Media General Ghana in Accra last Wednesday.
The Media General Ghana is the operator of TV3, 3FM, Onua FM, Connect FM, Akoma FM and 3news.com.
The programme is aimed at providing financial support for children who are diagnosed with hole-in-heart condition at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.
Under the programme, the MTN Ghana Foundation and 3 Foundation will provide GH¢200,000 a year to support the admission of and surgery and medication for patients between the ages of one and 12.
Even though the causes of the hole-in-heart condition in children are yet to be established, pregnant women are usually advised by health experts to avoid the intake of alcohol and the use of unprescribed drugs.
Infections such as Rubella, also known as German measles, and exposure to radiation during pregnancy are some of the causes of defects in babies.
The deputy minister said the government, through the Ministry of Health, had, over the years, opened the doors to many organisations to participate in healthcare delivery.
Currently, he said, there were a number of health insurance companies in the health sector providing the public with quality access to health.
Mr Gyedu said avenues created in the health delivery system had also opened doors to some telecommunication companies and their value-added service providers to initiate micro-insurance services that would make it possible for those with phones to access insurance packages for themselves and their immediate families.
The acting Corporate Services Executive of MTN, Mr Samuel Koranteng, said the “Think Heart, Save a Child” programme was in response to the numerous requests from families and health institutions to the company to financially assist children suffering from hole-in-heart conditions.
He explained that GH¢50,000 would be disbursed quarterly to fund the programme, adding that ”the programme will be reviewed yearly to ensure that we make the needed impact in the lives of our dear children”.
Reduced life expectancy
The Head of the National Cardiothoracic Centre at Korle Bu, Dr Lawrence Agyeman Sereboe, said the life expectancy of children with hole-in-heart condition was lower than those without the condition.
On the average, he said, one out of every 100 children born with the disorder would die, whereas more than 50 per cent of the children did not live up to five years without timely intervention.
He lauded the two organisations for their support in the health delivery system, particularly in respect of children with hole-in-heart conditions.