Dr Lydia Baaba Dsane-Selby, the Chief Executive Officer for the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), has acknowledged the key role being played by the private sector in the delivery of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
She said Ghana’s decision to use the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as the vehicle to catalyse the achievement of UHC, fully incorporated the private sector right from the inception, giving them full credentials to service delivery and in terms of membership, and pay them high tariff to incentivise them to stay on the programme.
Dr Dsane-Selby said currently, very few private providers voluntarily leave the NHIS, saying, some interesting trend has also been noticed, where the private sector was moving to underserved areas of the country, contrary to what pertained in the past where they were concentrated in the regional capitals.
“Now, we find the private sector investing in health in quiet rural areas and I think this is because, we have a strong health financing mechanism,” she said.
Dr Dsane-Selby was speaking at a stakeholder conference organized by the Marie Stopes International Ghana (MSIG) in collaboration with the PharmaAccess Foundation, on the topic: “Healthy Returns: The Role of Private Sector in delivering Universal Health Coverage-Sharing lessons from the African Health Markets for Equity Programme”.
The event, sought to share lessons from a study on the African Health Markets for Equity (AHME) project, which was being implemented by MSIG and PharmaAccess Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), the Health Facilities Regulatory Agency (HEFRA and the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
It aimed at making quality, affordable health services accessible to low-income populations in Ghana and Kenya.
Dr Dsane-Selby said in line with the government’s vision of ‘Ghana beyond Aid’, though private sector capacity and innovation would be pivotal to the attainment of universality, there were a number of challenges around their participation, more broadly impacting on the availability of high-quality essential healthcare services for the poor.
She said her outfit was currently deepening collaboration with the Gender Ministry to link its membership database with the Ghana National Households Registry (GNHR) to help in targeting the poor who really needed assistance in accessing primary healthcare services under the NHIS, for Ghana to achieve its health-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and UHC.
Again, the NHIS membership database would also be linked with that of the National Identification Authority (NIA) Ghana Card, so that people could use either facilities to access health care services, she said.
Dr Dsane-Selby said the AHME with its proxy needs testing, “enables us to begin to realise our goal of leaving no one behind,” and that the findings of the project showed clearly that in middle income countries it was not impossible to access the economic status of citizens and find a way to assist them”.
The AHME project, he stated, was a lesson for other middle income countries, “we shouldn’t shrug our shoulders and say, we don’t have economic data”, saying, there were ways and means for identifying the problem.
Mr Maxwell Akwesi Antwi, Ghana Country Director of PharmaAccess Foundation, in an overview of the AHME project, said it aimed at achieving its goals by franchising private providers, offering them access to SafeCare, a step-by-step holistic quality improvement programme, providing access to business support and Medical Credit Fund (MCF) loans.
He said apart from supporting franchised providers to become accredited with NHIS in both countries to increase accessibility from the client side, AHME was assisting poor communities to be enrolled onto the Scheme so that they could receive care at accredited facilities.
He noted that these clients, however, had obvious financial constraints when paying out of pocket and likely needed to make trade-offs between quality and cost when accessing health services.
Ms. Anne Coolen, the Country Director of Marie Stopes International Ghana, said the partnership between her outfit and PharmaAccess Foundation, would remain strong with SafeCare and MCF as key elements of the new BlueStar strategy.
She said the partnership aimed at ensuring that BlueStar franchise remained a key service delivery partner to the Government of Ghana and to the NHIA on their fast-paced journey to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
She noted that by supporting the NHIS and GHS with high quality, sustainable service provision in hard-to-reach and underserved communities, MSIG would ensure that the populations it served would have access to quality services.