Representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and the media, on Tuesday, met in Accra to advocate state institutions to be more accountable in meeting Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) commitments in Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
They argued that to attain UHC in Ghana, there was the need to ensure the systematic integration of GESI actions into national health policies and programmes, and their adoption of such activities by all stakeholders to ensure that no one was left behind.
The meeting was organized by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR), a Ghanaian Non-governmental Organisation, with sponsorship from the STAR-Ghana Foundation.
It was to share with the participants, the outcome of a participatory monitoring and recommendations of a project that sought to ensure the systematic integration of GESI actions into national health policies and programmes in three districts in two regions.
Ms Doris Ampong, ARHR Communications Manager, said the the group seeks to ensure that every Ghanaian, whether rich or poor, young or elderly, female or male, had access to the best reproductive health care.
This, she said could be achieved by challenging systemic and structural inequalities in health systems and other basic services necessary to avoid preventable deaths and mistimed pregnancies, through advocacy, promotion of responsive service delivery, good governance and accountability.
She said the project areas include the Agona East; and Komenda-Edina-Aguafo-Abirem (KEEA) in the Central Region; and South Dayi Districts in the Volta Region.
She recounted how a GESI monitoring tool was developed to guide and support stakeholders in the uptake of their duties, and a subsequent auditing to determine the extent to which the instrument had been utilised.
Ms Ampong explained that subsequently, some key recommendations had been made to address the deficiencies identified, which included ease of access to health care facilities and services by GESI groups, (basically involved Persons with Disabilities (PWD), pregnant women, aged).
Again, there was an issue regarding punctuality on the part of some health care personnel who resided far from their place of work, hence report late to their duty posts.
She said lack of disability friendly services including privacy for adolescent sexual and reproductive health services, as well as proximity of health facilities to PWDs.
Other deficiencies identified included the provision of healthcare services covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and satisfaction with healthcare facilities and services, saying health officials ought to explain the details of patient’s ailments as it was within the patient’s rights to be fully informed.
“There is the need to educate both rights holders and healthcare workers on proper client engagement in keeping with the rights and responsibilities in the NHIS policy document.
“The Community health Worker Manual and the Patient’s Rights Charter, is to allow client to hold healthcare service providers accountable for any lapses in punctuality, conduct or care,” she added.
Ms Ampong said quite a number of the recommendations of the Alliance, which was captured in the policy brief have been implemented, however there still remained a number of things to ensure that GESI groups were wholly considered in national health policies.
The participants in various group discussions, identified further gaps regarding effective access to healthcare services, citing hostile toilet facilities, absence of clear signage for direction, or sign language interpreters to assist and direct PWDs, particularly those with visual and speech impairment.
They further identified the issue of negative and unprofessional attitudes often exhibited by some healthcare professionals towards patients including PWDs.
They suggested punitive measures such as suspension of their salaries and outright dismissal for recalcitrant staff, while instituting simple but competitive in-house award schemes to motivate health workers and instill discipline at the workplace.