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After years of consistent pleas from various stakeholders for the treatment of childhood cancers to be included in the list of treatments covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the treatment of four common childhood cancers, which are said to account for most reported cases, are now to be covered by the Scheme.
It is the government’s hope that this will lessen the financial burden on parents and guardians whose wards, through no fault of theirs, contract one form of cancer or another in their primitive years.
The wife of the President, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, revealed this in her keynote address at the launch of the 2nd NHIS Week Celebration, which is being held under the theme, “NHIS: Using the Ghana Card for Expanding Access to Health Care”.
“In 2017, I made a commitment to build a hostel at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital where children undergoing cancer treatment can stay with their parents. Without this hostel, many patients may abandon treatment due to the cost of travel and other expenses. I am happy to say that last week (on November 10) I commissioned the ‘Sunshine House’, a 54-bed hostel, the first of its kind in Ghana and the biggest in Africa.
“One major area of concern for many stakeholders is the financing of treatment, which places a huge burden on families. Indeed, during the commissioning of the ‘Sunshine House’, speaker after speaker called for the inclusion of childhood cancers in the NHIS benefit package. Today brings hope to our children and their families. I am extremely excited to announce that the NHIS Benefit Package now includes four childhood cancers namely; Burkitt Lymphoma, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Wilms Tumor, and Retinoblastoma. As I understand, these constitute over 60% of childhood cancers seen in Ghana. Indeed, this is a major intervention in the fight against childhood cancers.”
This year’s celebration, which is slated for 15th-21st November, is hinged on increasing the membership of the National Health Insurance Scheme. It will also focus on increasing awareness of the major childhood cancers in Ghana.
Taking his turn to address the gathering, the Minister for Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, reiterated the government’s commitment to supporting the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) by ensuring the prompt release of funds for onward payment to healthcare providers.
“I am delighted that the National Health Insurance Authority continues to introduce new innovations to expand the NHIS operations. Notable amongst these innovations is the introduction of the mobile renewal platform, which has helped a lot of people to do self-renewal of their expired NHIS Cards. The ongoing merger of the NHIS and Ghana Cards is commendable, and I will urge all holders of the two cards to do the merger now and use one card to access healthcare.”
“What is key for us today is leveraging the use of the Ghana Card for healthcare access. As a government, we will continue to ensure that the NHIS’ finances are released on time to solve the problem of unpaid bills to healthcare providers. The smooth operationalisation of the Health Insurance Scheme is the government’s major priority.”
The Health Minister also used the opportunity to encourage members of the public to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Let me remind all of us that we need to take COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. We now have doses in towns, all districts, every village – and wherever you are, if you are not vaccinated, please find a way to get a jab. We are now taking outreach teams virtually into all gatherings, so find yourself a jab to protect yourself and the rest of us.… That is the only way we can protect this country from COVID-19 spread.”