Reform health sector to ensure sustainability -Minister urges African countries
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has underscored the need to reform the sector to improve health security on the African continent.
“The time is ripe for us on the continent to find suitable solutions to ensuring that our populations are protected from catastrophic expenditures,” he said.
At the opening of a two-day regional conference on financing universal health coverage (UHC) and health security in Accra yesterday, Mr Agyeman-Manu said health financing was a core function of health schemes that enabled progress towards achieving UHC.
He said it also improved effective service coverage and protection, including emergency situations.
The minister further said financing determined how much money was available, who bore the financial burden, who controlled the funds, how risks were pulled and how other healthcare costs could be controlled.
The conference, which is on the theme: “Overcoming financial barriers and providing financial risk protection,” was organised by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) with support from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Participants would share lessons from their experiences which could contribute to capacity and institutional development, discuss successes, challenges and innovative ideas that would ensure sustainable financing for health on the continent.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said: “As we embark on a journey to ensure that all people have access to needed services at the right time, with the right quality irrespective of ability to pay at the point of use, let us see health financing as a means to an end within the healthcare system.”
He advised stakeholders to be mindful of complementary efforts needed in payment and organisational regulation, including strategies that were adopted when embarking on health financing reforms.
In a speech read on his behalf, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, called for greater political will and concerted action to accelerate expansion of service access and reverse the worsening trend of financial access.
“We need to scale up coverage of social protection mechanisms for people. We need to work in a comprehensive and inclusive manner.
“We must continue to take every opportunity to advocate increased investment in health and translate government’s commitment to health into reality. We must also improve efficiency in health spending and work to demonstrate impact with existing resources,” he said.
Dr Moeti also stressed the need to improve flow of funds to frontline workers, commit more resources to country priorities and also address duplication of implementation and monitoring of health programmes.
She said since governments alone could not implement all interventions needed to make progress towards achieving UHC, the private sector could partner to drive investment and delivery of services.
Dr Moeti also urged beneficiary communities, who she described as critical stakeholders, to be engaged more and empowered to play their roles effectively for better health outcomes.
The Board Chairman of NHIA, Dr Ernest Kwarko, said the scheme paid an average monthly claim of about GH¢170 million and added that with the support of the government, his outfit had helped to improve the payment of claims.
Dr Kwarko, however, said the NHIA was still having challenges, such as the lack of confidence in the scheme, and, therefore, called for more support to make the scheme more sustainable and resilient.