Ghanaâ€™s hope of meeting the Millennium Development Goal 5, to improve maternal healthcare is under threat despite the introduction of programmes such as the Free Maternal Care Initiative (FMHCI) in July 2008, to accelerate the process.
A survey conducted by the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights as part of its Transparency and Accountability Project and copied to the Ghana News Agency indicated many women continue to deliver their babies outside health facilities.
The study utilised a Citizen Report Card (CRC) to assess the FMHCI as well as to ascertain gaps in its implementation.
It revealed that issues of hidden cost at the level of the health facility discouraged pregnant women from accessing the free maternal care.
The CRC is a social accountability tool used to assess public service delivery in terms of quality, reliability, satisfaction, corruption and usage.
According to the statement, the study sought to, among others, understand the extent to which rural women in three districts were benefitting from the free maternal health care initiative.
It also ascertained the existence of corruption, problem redress, factors affecting access and usage, levels of satisfaction and the quality and reliability of skilled delivery services by September 30, 2012.
The study was conducted within three regions in three administrative districts – Juaboso (Western Region); Offinso (Ashanti Region) and Bongo (Upper East Region) based on the relatively low uptake of skilled delivery.
It was apparent that the mere removal of usage charges was not enough to persuade a significant majority of women to utilise delivery care services because many of them did not have the wherewithal to pay for the related hidden charges or costs.
These charges included payments for antenatal cards, hospitals supplies like soap, beddings, Dettol, cost payment for burying placenta, mackintosh, food and some items, which should be available, but unfortunately were not supplied at health centres.
The study noted that: â€śHealth Promotion Educational campaigns aimed at improving comprehensive knowledge about the entire benefit package of the Free Maternal Healthcare Initiative should be strengthenedâ€ť.
â€śThe campaign should be targeted towards giving reliable, factual and comprehensive information and describing the full range of FMHCI as well as benefits of accessing free delivery care.â€ť
The study recommended that the implementation of the policy as evidenced by the responses of both health officials and patients alike indicated that the operational barriers that hindered the successful implementation of the initiative must be addressed in a holistic manner in order to ensure progress.
â€śHidden cost associated with deliveries, which should be available, but unfortunately, are not available at health centres; among others must be removed if indeed the initiative was meant to be free,â€ť the study concluded.
TheÂ Member of Parliament (MP) for Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem (KEEA), Dr Stephen Nana Ato Arthur, hasÂ presented 50 streetlights worth GHÂ˘15,000 to three health centres and some communities in his constituency in a bid to improve the lighting systems in the area.
The beneficiary centres are Kissi Health Centre, Abrem-Agona Health Centre, Elmina Heath Centre, Eguafo Senior High School and the Elmina Market.
At the ceremony, Dr Ato Arthur stated that the donation was in response to the requests made by the organizations when he visited them to ascertain some of the problems confronting them.
At Elmina, the KEEA Municipal Director of Education, Quaning Kofi Mends, made the donation of streetlights which he said would help improve the healthcare delivery systems in the district. He thanked the MP for the kind gesture and appealed for more help from other organizations since government alone could not assist in the healthcare delivery of the country.
At Kissi, the medical assistant in charge of the centre, Irene Joyce Acquah applauded Dr Arthur for his prompt response to their request and urged him to speed up works on the deplorable roads that they have in the community which was making access to healthcare difficult.
Mrs Acquah used the occasion to appeal to the MP to also solve the accommodation problems facing staff of the health centre.
The Queenmother of Kissi and Adontenhen of Komenda Traditional Area, Nana Efua Badu II, appealed to the MP to help construct drainage systems in the community to prevent flooding anytime it rained.
At the Elmina Market,Â the MP noted that the streetlights would help improve the security situation in the area, especially for the traders.
From Sarah Afful, Elmina
Pharmacists across the country under the leadership of the Government and Hospitals Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA) would begin rendering emergency services to HIV/AIDS and critically ill in-patients at psychiatric hospitals.
This followed an assurance by the government through the Minister of Health, Sherry Ayittey, to resolve the issue of their conversion difference and agreed structure within 30 days.
Stephen Okoe Corquaye, GHOSPA president who confirmed the decision of the association to DAILY GUIDE said the associationâ€™s agreement to provide services for HIV/AIDS patients and in-patients of psychiatric hospital was as a result of the Â impact of the strike action on these two categories of people.
â€śThose with HIV/AIDS may develop resistance to the drugs they are taking and that may increase their health bill and in-patients at the psychiatric hospitals may have a withdrawal syndrome or relapse,â€ť he said.
Mr Corquaye however noted that the association had not called off its strike action but was rather putting a human face to the situation as their issues were being resolved by government.
â€śWe have said we are not happy with the situation more so when the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) is not complying with the National Labour Commissionâ€™s (NLC) ruling to use the agreed structure,â€ť he said.
He added that government, through the NLC, should enforce their ruling for the FWSC to comply with the verdict that the agreed structure and conversion difference be used for grading the pharmacists.
â€śFor four months now, the FWSC have not complied with the directive of the NLC and the NLC have done nothing about it but in the case of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), they went to court to enforce their ruling, why are they not doing the same for us?â€ť he asked.
The president of GHOSPA further indicated that the association was willing to call off the strike, should they have a written commitment from government to solve their grievances.
â€śWe have already dealt with the issue at the NLC, and we want a written commitment from government that will make us rescind our decision so the other issues can be addressed within the 30-day period,â€ť he said.
Mr Corquaye urged the public not to put the blame on the pharmacists but the authorities who had failed to implement the decision of the NLC.
GHOSPA intensified its month-long strike action two weeks ago, by withdrawing emergency services to psychiatric patients and the provision of Anti Retro-Viral (ARV) drugs.
The action was necessitated by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commissionâ€™s (FWSC) failure to abide by the ruling of the National Labour Commission (NLC) to use the grading structure provided by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) for pharmacists.
The NLC had, in an earlier hearing of the case, dismissed an application by the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FWSC) which sought to stay execution of its ruling that the FWSC should use the grading structure provided by the GHS for pharmacists.
The NLC in their ruling directed the FWSC to put the pharmacists on the right levels as stipulated in the salary structure presented by the GHS and also resolve the issue of market premium; however, the FWSC had done nothing about the directive given by the NLC.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
The National Lottery Authority (NLA) last Thursday registered about 500 people under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Cape Coast, in the Central Region.
The beneficiaries who could not afford to register under the scheme were drawn from Brofoyedur, Kadadwen and Aboom and were between the ages of 18 and 70.
Addressing the beneficiaries, the Director of Specialist Project at NLA, George E. Gyamfi-Osew said the registration cost GHÂ˘5,000.
He stated that the registration formed part of the companyâ€™s corporate social responsibility.
Mr Gyamfi-Osew said that they consulted the chiefs in Cape Coast about a year ago on some of the things they wanted NLA to do for the community and the chiefs mentioned renovation of the Cape Coast Metropolitan Hospital and registration of NHIS for the less privileged in the area.
He revealed that the NLA would renew the cards when they were due for renewal.
Mr Gyamfi-Osew disclosed that the NLA had two big projects to be completed this year, namely, the renovation of the Cape Coast Metropolitan Hospital and the registration of the people under the NHIS in the area.
The Director of Specialist Project noted that the NLA believed a healthy people made a healthy nation; hence, the need to help improve on the health sector of the country to enable people to contribute their quota towards the development of the country.
Later in an interview, a 70-year old fisherman, Kweku Mensah, thanked the NLA for the registration and said he would not have gotten money to register if they had not come to their aid.
He appealed to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other benevolent organizations to come to the aid of the unemployed in the country.
Â From Sarah Afful, Cape Coast
Health Minister Sherry Ayitey last Friday inaugurated an ultra-modern building to house the Greater Accra Regional office of the National Health Insurance (NHIS).
The two-storey facility built by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) brings to 10 the number of NHIA regional offices owned by the Authority.
â€śI appreciate and congratulate the Authority for putting in efforts to own its office buildings rather than rent them. And I have also observed for myself the efforts operators of the scheme are putting in to enhance the reduction of fraud and this is one thing that needs commendation,â€ť Sherry Ayitey noted.
Sylvester Mensah, Chief Executive of NHIA, in his address, described the development as a â€ścomplete change in the phase of the NHIA.â€ť
â€śBy 2009 we had no regional offices and we operated mainly in rented offices. But now the cost of rental has been completely eliminated because as we commission this building today, all 10 regions have regional offices owned by the Authority.â€ť
Mr. Mensah explained that the Authority was not only interested in the infrastructure of the Scheme but also the efficiency of health delivery although health delivery does not directly fall under the Authorityâ€™s mandate.
â€śWe have also put up a Claims Processing Center (CPC) comparable to any in the world and the idea of this is to inject efficiency in the processing of claims,â€ť he stated, and added that although the Authority still faces challenges, the exact causes and fine details of the challenges have been meticulously sorted out and the Authority, together with its stakeholders, was working to find a lasting solution.
The Chief Executive also revealed that the Authority would soon introduce instant biometric ID cards to subscribers and that a pilot programme will begin this month in the Greater Accra Region and later move to other parts of the country.
Â By Halifax Ansah-Addo
The Coordinator of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese of the Catholic Church in charge of Strengthening HIV/AIDS Response Partnership Through Evidence Based Results (SHARPER), Kofi Anamboyine Ayamga on Friday disclosed that unprotected sex accounts for 80 per cent of HIV/AIDS transmission.
He said notwithstanding the fact that there were several factors such as blood transfusion, sharing of instruments like blades and needles, unprotected sex still remained the major cause of the spread of HIV. This revelation was made at a lecture organised for second cycle institutions, drawn from the Upper East Region.
The Coordinator cautioned Â students to avoid pre-marital sex and be mindful that one could test negative whilst having the disease and explained that the incubation period could take three to seven months before showing up.
Mr Ayamga described the incubation period as the â€świndow periodâ€ť, saying that, a person in that state could infect people unknowingly.
He said since the outbreak of the disease in 1981 in the United States, it had been estimated that about 35 million people worldwide had died from it, of which 22.5 million were from Africa. He added there were an estimated number of 70 million people in the world living with the disease, of which 50 million people are from Africa.
According to him, statistics in 2011 revealed that 217,428 people in Ghana were living with HIV/AIDS, with many of the affected persons being women. He said the Upper East Region was ranked eighth among the 10 regions, according to the 2011 Ghana Health Survey Centenary report, hinting also that in the region, the Bolgatanga Municipal was on top of the list, followed by the Kassena-Nankana East District and the Builsa District.
According to him, statistics available to the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital revealed that about 30 to 34 people were tested positive every month, saying, â€śmy outfit from 1st January to 30th May 2013 registered about 130 cases of HIV/AIDSâ€ť.
He told the students to abstain from sex or use condoms as a protective method.
The President of NORPRA, Bismark Ayorogo Adongo, commended the HIV/AIDS Coordinator and entreated the students to reflect deeply on the lecture and live responsible lifestyles.
He expressed fears about the spate of the spread of the diseases in the region, particularly among the youth, who are the future leaders and said NORPRA would continue to invite HIV/AIDS experts to educate the people on HIV/AIDS in the region.
The Navrongo-Bolgatanga Catholic Diocese, the Catholic Relief Service (CRS), Family Health International 360 and the USAID are sponsoring SHARPER to support HIV/AIDS patients and to also educate the people on HIV/AIDS in the region.
AN Accra Financial Court on Wednesday ordered the President of Ghana Medical Association (GMA) to ensure its members are at post, while negotiations between the National Labour Commission (NLC) and its members continue.
This was after the court had given the Commission and GMA a week to complete negotiations and report to the court.
Although the judge, Justice Ajet-Nasam, expressed appreciation to the doctors for calling off the strike, he indicated that he would personally investigate to ascertain the truth in that information, and further ordered Dr. Kwabena Opoku-Adusei, President of GMA, to impress on his members to fully commit themselves to their call to serving humanity.
NLC on April 30, dragged the striking doctors to court to seek an order, compelling them to rescind their decision.
On the said date, the trial judge, Justice John Ajet-Nasam, asked the two parties to attempt to settle the dispute and bring him a feedback.
When the matter was called on Wednesday, counsel for the Commission Afiba Amihere informed the court that subsequent to the directive of the court to resolve the matter, the parties have since met and in view of that GMA has called off the strike.
She however indicated that the commission has directed the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission and GMA to resolve all problems within a month, and so would like to take a date to that effect and find out whether the directive would be fully complied with.
The trial judge, after asking them to file the terms of the decision they have so far taken by the close of the day, refused to grant them the one month adjournment because he said it was taking too long.
He asked them to continue with the negotiations and come back on May 15, with feedback. Justice Ajet-Nasam assured them that if there was a need to give them more time, he would do so. GMA was represented by Dominic Brenya Okyere.
Similarly, an interlocutory application brought against the doctors by Lawyer Edward Amuzu, compelling them to call off the strike, was yesterday adjourned to May 16.
At the last sitting, the lawyer for the association indicated that they were short served with the process and requested for time to enable them to file a response.
When the case was called yesterday at the Fast Track High Court presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante, Charles Bawaduah, counsel for the plaintiff informed the court that he had received information that GMA had called off the strike and wanted this to be confirmed by their lawyers.
However, Dominic Brenya Okyere, who did not comment on that, proceeded to inform the court that he had filed an affidavit in opposition to the application.
Mr. Bawaduah had wanted the court to compel the GMA lawyer to indicate their current stand but the trial judge stated that there was no law which could compel him to do that, and therefore, if Mr. Bawaduah felt the condition had changed and wanted to withdraw the application, he could do so.
Mr. Bawaduah then informed the court to grant them a short date for him to come and move his application.
In the substantive case, lawyer Amuzu, the plaintiff, was seeking certain reliefs including a declaration that the entire strike was illegal and against the provision of the Labour Act.
He explained that per the Labour Act, essential service providers which included doctors could not embark on strike, more exactly when the labour Commission had directed them to return to their work.
In addition, he was seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the doctors from ever embarking on strike.
By Mary Anane
NEWMONT GHANA Ahafo Mine has distributed 100 insecticide treated bed-nets to some residents of Gyedu in the Asutifi North District of Brong Ahafo Region.
Newmont has, since 2011, distributed over 3,000 insecticide treated bed-nets to both community members and employees as part of its malaria control interventions.
The latest distribution of the insecticide treated bed-nets coincided with this yearâ€™s World Malaria Day Celebrationâ€™s durbar at Gyedu, which was organised by Newmont Ahafo Mine, in collaboration with the Asutifi District Directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
World Malaria Day is celebrated each year to draw attention to the dangers associated with the disease and the need to take preventive measures.
As part of Newmontâ€™s corporate social responsibility, the company has been partnering with the Ghana Health Service to embark on a series of anti-malaria campaigns in communities around the Ahafo Mine.
Speaking at the durbar, the External Affairs Manager of Newmont Ghana Ahafo Mine, Kojo Bedu-Addo, emphasizedÂ Â the companyâ€™s commitment to the fight against malaria and possibly, eliminate the epidemic from the mineâ€™s host communities.
He advised community members to keep their surroundings clean and be conscious of the fact that the campaign against malaria was an individual responsibility which should be pursued on daily basis.
Mr. Bedu-Addo said Newmont would continue to partner the Ghana Health Service to promote public health, adding that the company has distributed over 3,000 pieces of insecticide treated bed-nets since 2011, to both employees and community members around the mine as part of efforts to control malaria infection.
The Asutifi North District Director of the Ghana Health Services, Richard Akwasi Hinneh, commended Newmont for continuously supporting his outfit to carry out health education in the area.
Mr. Hinneh further thanked Newmont for spending $16,000 to train six health personnel from the area in Malaria Microscopy at the Kintampo Health Research Centre.
FROM Fred Tettey Alarti-Amoako, Sunyani
â€śOur Joy Infant Careâ€ť, a corporation based in the United States of America (USA), has donated assorted items worth GHÂ˘5,000 to Princess Marie Louise Childrenâ€™s Hospital in Accra.
The corporation is geared at providing special services to families with new born babies between two days and three months.
The items which included fruit drinks, toilet rolls, biscuits, used clothes and shoes were provided to support the numerous needs of the hospital.
Margaret Sefah, head of â€śOur Joy Infant Careâ€ť said she decided to donate to the childrenâ€™s hospital because of the love she has for children.
â€śWe have professionally trained experienced baby nurses and night nannies who provide unique and special skills in all aspects of newborn care and parental education and support,â€ť she said.
She added that the items would also reduce the numerous children who visit the hospital for health care.
Sylvia Akins, Senior Nursing Officer at the Childrenâ€™s hospital who received the items on behalf of the hospital expressed gratitude to Mrs. Sefah for the kind gesture.
She said the items would also support children who came to the hospital lacking basic needs such as, food and clothing.
She encouraged other organizations that have similar opportunities to emulate their colleagueâ€™s example to improve quality health care in the country.
Visiting patients at the Out Patience Department (OPD) of the Childrenâ€™s Hospital also received fruits juice and biscuits.
BY Lady Agyapong
The humanitarian organization Save the Children has released its annualÂ State of the Worldâ€™s Mothers report.
It says despite much progress being made in reducing maternal and child deaths, every year, three million babies die within the first month of life. Many just live a few hours.
Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles said thereâ€™s a widespread and mistaken belief that little can be done to save newborn lives in developing countries. As a result, many babies die.
â€śThis yearâ€™s report we really focused in on newborns. And we found that a babyâ€™s birthday is actually the most dangerous day of their life. More than one million babies are dying the actual day that theyâ€™re born.â€ť
There are several reasons why theyâ€™re so at risk that first day.
â€śItâ€™s when they can die of very preventable things. So babies are dying of infection.
Theyâ€™re dying of complications at premature birth and theyâ€™re dying of very simple things like not breathing at birth,â€ť she said.
Miles said one region of the world stands out as being the worst for newborns.
â€śSub-Saharan Africa is the place where this is the biggest issue. And if you look at the index that we put together, the bottom 10 in that index are all sub-Saharan African countries.
From a percentage standpoint thatâ€™s where the most babies are dying.â€ť
Forty percent of first day newborn deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Of the 176 countries that are ranked in the Mothers Index, DRC is at the very bottom. Rounding out the bottom 10 are Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Niger, Central African Republic, Gambia, Nigeria, Chad and Ivory Coast.
â€‹â€‹Miles said, â€śI think the issue in sub-Saharan Africa is really getting the care that these newborns need to the places where theyâ€™re being born. So, a lot of times the health system ends at a district level and there may not be a health post thatâ€™s accessible to these women.
So, one of the solutions here is getting more frontline health workers out into these communities to help mothers when theyâ€™re giving birth.â€ť
The Save the Children report says there are four simple interventions that could turn things around â€“ each one costing between 13-cents and six dollars.
First, steroid injections can be used for women in pre-term labour to reduce premature newborn deaths from breathing problems.
Resuscitation devices can save babies who do not breathe at all at birth, while injectable antibiotics can treat newborns for sepsis and pneumonia.
The final recommendation prevents umbilical cord infections.
â€śWeâ€™re looking at the use of a very simple antibiotic called chlorhexidine, which is put on the umbilical cord after the baby is born. And in Nigeria, the tradition is to use mud or cow dung or something like that on the umbilical cord and that obviously can have really dire consequences for babies,â€ť she said.
Miles also cited a tradition in Nepal, which can put babies at risk. Women there, she said, may be encouraged to give birth in the barn with the animals.
While the recommendations are simple and cheap, theyâ€™re often not implemented in developing countries. The report blames that, in part, on a lack of political will by government leaders.
The State of the Worldâ€™s Mothers report lists Finland as the top country for mothers and newborns.
Itâ€™s followed by Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Australia. The top 10 are credited with high levels of support and respect for women.
As for the United States, Miles said, â€śThe U.S. comes in 30 in the index this year. So that is not terrific, I would say.
Thirtieth is not where I think most American women and mothers think they would end up.
The disparity in the United States I think is what really drives the differences. So it is very much tracked to poverty.â€ť
In fact, the United States leads industrialized countries in first day deaths for newborns, followed by Canada and Switzerland.
As for the major emerging economies â€“ the so-called BRICS nations â€“ the 2013 Motherâ€™s Index ranks Brazil 78th and Russia 59th.Â India is in the 142nd position, while China is 68th and South Africa 78th.Â VOA