Finance Ministry to settle GH¢4m Korle Bu Renal unit debt
The Ministry of Finance has approved the disbursement of over GH¢4 million to settle the debt of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) Renal Unit Outpatient Department to enable the unit to function continuously.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who was answering an urgent question in Parliament yesterday, said in order to forestall the recurrence of the situation which led to the closure of the unit, the ministry, in collaboration with the KBTH and the Ministry of Finance, was considering the possible inclusion of dialysis treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Also, the collaboration will consider granting subsidies based on proposals received from KBTH as well the possible review of tariffs to ensure sustainability of the service.
The minister's appearance followed a directive by the Second Deputy Speaker, Andrew Asiamah Amoako, for him to brief the House on the reasons for the closure of the unit and the increase in kidney-related problems in Ghana.
Prior to his appearance yesterday, the ministry had ordered the reopening of the unit last Monday.
The minister said the unit attended to between 260 and 300 patients, and conducted more than 2,000 dialysis a month.
Currently, every patient is on a subsidy of GH¢380 per session.
He said over the past five years a Ghanaian company called Sky Group of Companies had committed to pay GH¢1 million every quarter to enable patients who could not afford a session of dialysis to have it for free.
Subsequently, 230 patients are benefitting from the free dialysis programme.
That, according to him, constituted 80 per cent of the patients receiving treatment at the renal unit.
The minister said as part of the non-communicable diseases roadmap, the Ministry and its agencies would continue to raise awareness of the prevention and early detection to reduce renal diseases and minimise the burden of the renal unit on the health sector.
Mr Agyeman-Manu announced the construction of a 100-bed urology and naphthology centre of excellence at the KBTH which would be inaugurated by the end of the first quarter of next year.
This, according him, was aimed at facilitating the provision of kidney transplantation services, among others.
The minister said it would further reduce the dialysis burden on the nation and Ghanaians who travelled abroad for those services.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said a local team had been trained to provide the services at a reduced cost.
Already, the group has undertaken the first kidney transplant successfully in the country.
That, he said, was in line with the government's vision of making Ghana a hub of medical tourism.
Last week, the National Democratic Congress MP for Juaboso said the initial cause of the Renal Unit's closure was attributed to a scarcity of essential medical consumables required for dialysis.
When dialysis medical consumables were finally procured, the dialysis service saw an unprecedented increase in fees from GH₵380 to GH₵765.
He said the hospital's Public Relations Officer (PRO) explained to the general public that the alarming price adjustment was a result of the government's withdrawal of tax exemptions, leaving the hospital burdened with the full cost of importing vital medical consumables for dialysis, leading to unexpected financial strain.
The hospital, therefore, had no option but to increase dialysis fees to cover part of the cost in order to render service sustainably.
However, a subsequent statement by the hospital's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on September 28, 2023 contradicted the PRO's explanation.
Per the CEO, the tax exemptions were still in effect but the hospital opted to pay the duties to expedite the clearing of those medical consumables to avoid incurring demurrage charges which might exceed the required duties.
Mr Akandoh told the House that GH₵4 million should not be the reason for which many Ghanaians should be denied critical dialysis treatment.
Whatever financial bottlenecks were warranting the continuous closure of the dialysis centre should not be countenanced by the government, neither the House, he said.
Meanwhile, the president of dialysis patients in Ghana, Kwadwo Ahenkroah, has expressed appreciation to the minister for the answers and swift intervention.
However, he called for further reduction of the GH¢380 per session to make it more accessible to patients.
Mr Ahenkroah, who was addressing the parliamentary press corp after the minister's address, also expressed appreciation to the media for helping to bring the issue to the fore for public discourse.