THE PRIVATE sector has been encouraged to partner government to produce the consumables needed for the treatment of kidney disease, in order to make them more affordable and easy to access.
The Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, made the call at the Ghana Kidney Association’s celebration of 50 years of Dialysis in Accra.
He said just like government’s partnership with the private sector to produce vaccines in the wake of the Covid pandemic, the private sector can partner government to produce the consumables, especially Dialysate, which are all imported.
“One of the clear areas that we have seen, and all the presentations have repeated, is the high cost of consumables as a major factor in the treatment because many of these consumables are imported.
“Of course that means we are at the mercy of the high import cost. We have to find foreign exchange to import them in the first place. But a significant part of it is that we have to import all the Dialysait and the other consumables that we use in dialysis.
“One of the lessons we learnt from Covid 19 was the need to build our capacity to produce vaccines. Last week for example, we had a meeting where we were looking at the progress on vaccine manufacturing in Ghana.
One of the lessons we learned is that the Covid vaccine manufacturing is actually a lot more complicated than if we were to manufacture some of the consumables for dialysis in Ghana.
I believe very, very firmly that in collaboration with the private sector, what we have done to bring in vaccine manufacturing in Ghana, we can do the same for Dialysait manufacturing.
“We can do it. It’s less complicated than what we have for vaccines. And so government would be prepared to support in whatever way to make sure we manufacture here. Therefore, we reduce the cost component and make sure there is affordability.”
“I’m sure the private sector will be willing and government is not averse to tax incentives for the private sector to do this,” Dr Bawumia maintained.
Responding to calls for the inclusion of dialysis in the list of treatments covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr Bawumia said while the call is very laudable, it is also important to consider the financial health of the Scheme in order not to overburden and eventually collapse it.
“One of the issues that has come up here is the request for Government to take steps to make sure that the NHIS is able to cover dialysis treatment. This is a very good point, and I think that at the very least, the NHIS at least could cover treatment for children on dialysis to start with.
“The last couple of years, one of the areas Dr Nsiah Asare (Presidential Advisor on Health) and I have worked on is to look at sickle cell disease, for example, where we’ve made sure the NHIS is covering Hydroxyurea for people with sickle cell disease and that has come to pass and it is now the case.
“We also pushed to make sure Childhood Cancers are also now covered under the NHIS. So I think the third goal now for us is to push for dialysis.
“But, when we were pushing for childhood cancers to be covered, we saw the difficulty that the NHIS was facing because all the tests showed that there was going to be a major stress on their finances.
“So, whilst we also advocate for the NHIS to come in for dialysis treatment, we should also think about their finances and also advocate for more financing for the NHIS to make whatever challenges they take on sustainable. We don’t want to break the NHIS in the process; then everybody loses out.
“So we should look at our willingness to pay a little more to make sure that the NHIS is functioning,” he urged.
BY Michael Ofosu-Afriyie