THE TREATMENT for childhood cancers and the cost of Hydroxyurea, an essential drug for the treatment of sickle cell anaemia, are now covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia has announced in Accra last week.
Vice President Bawumia said reimbursement of childhood cancers under NHIS began in July 2022, and that there are plans to add treatment for other forms of cancer to the list of ailments covered by NHIS.
“We have started with four cancers amongst children for now but we are determined to expand in due course. As we know, incremental improvement is always the way and exponential impact should not be compromised when it comes to healthcare.
“Our children’s present and future can only be secured if all the factors that threaten their existence and quality of life are eliminated. We are determined to make it happen and we should not relent,” he added.
A diagnosis of cancer often appears to be a death sentence, affecting not just the subject but the rest of the family and the entire community, unless well-structured and well-resourced interventions are at play to curb the burden.
In many developing countries, cancer is on the rise and its consequent effect on economies, is and will be grave if nothing is done to control it, the Vice President explained.
“Where countries have attempted to curb it, the perception of acutely exorbitant costs of management has meant that many under-resourced countries have often avoided opening the Pandora’s Box for fear of being unable to manage those costs.
Childhood cancers in particular have shown significant success rates in achieving desired management outcomes and often at manageable costs.
“I am glad that we, as a nation, are putting our children first and protecting them and their dreams. Sometimes it is good to look at the value of investments and not just the cost,” he noted.
Dr. Bawumia has, therefore, enjoined all stakeholders to bring their resources to the table to make the programme successful and sustainable, pointing out that “For most things to be sustained funding is required: good funding streams enable projects to be sustained and this is the same in childhood cancers and other disease areas.
It requires us to be collectively innovative in proffering solutions and investing in them and all other factors that will ensure the best outcomes.
Highlighting the importance of technology, effective collaboration and data in health management, Dr. Bawumia noted that there are multiple players in healthcare that require data for valuable investments, with health data generating income for some countries.
“Clinical trials, research, and budgeting all require data. But data is not valuable if it is just that, and not useful. I will encourage us to prioritize data capture related to childhood cancers and other cancers to ensure that investments in healthcare are well-informed.
For a middle-income country, every cedi we spend must be well thought through and data will enable us to do so.
“Reducing wastage is a key means of enabling that efficiency we desire which will ultimately support the sustainability of this journey we have embarked on.
“It will be key for us to have standard platforms across private and public sectors that enable easy access and top-quality data that inform work going forward.
Extraction of population-level data and its analysis will enable favourable investment and development of strategies that are directly impactful to our people,” he noted.
The Veep noted that the desire to ensure a greater geographical spread of access to healthcare, especially for persons who require specialist care and medication, explains the reason behind initiatives such as One Constituency One Ambulance, Medical drones for the delivery of essential medical supplies and blood and the Agenda 111 projects, which would see to the construction of District Hospitals in all districts without one, as well as the construction and or upgrading of regional hospitals across the country, he indicated.
“Government is also showing leadership and keen commitment to addressing geographical access limitations through Agenda 111 and we are keen to drive this and make it a reality. In these facilities that will be set up, we will be looking at providing all relevant and priority services and will look at how we could also aid improved cancer control including childhood cancers in Ghana,” he pledged.
Vice President Bawumia commended the First Lady, Her Excellency, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the Minister and Ministry of Health, the Board Chair of NHIA and his team, the CEO of NHIA, World Child Cancer, Roche and all collaborators for helping to achieve such a life-saving initiative, which feat should not be underestimated.
By Kow Richardson