Consider appeal to absorb cancer treatment costs
In our editorial of April 20, this year titled ‘NHIS subscribers deserve benefits’, we raised some of the challenges faced by National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) subscribers and their expectations.
We mentioned the issue of the poor and vulnerable finding it difficult to meet the costs of certain drugs and treatments and the need to review the scheme to address the current gaps in it.
We particularly called attention to the fact that some subscribers expected services like treatment of all cancers under the scheme.
We are happy that in one of our stories today (see page13), the Principal Medical Physicist at the National Radiotherapy Oncology and Nuclear Medicine Centre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, DrTheophilusSackey, has urged the government to absorb the cost of all cancer treatments in the country.
He explains that that move is crucial to limiting the exposure of patients to quacks and unsafe treatments that often lead to complications and loss of lives.
The Medical Physicist goes further to say that depending on the treatment modality a patient is put on, the patient can spend aminimum of GHc10,000 on each treatment, an amount the average Ghanaian cannot raise.
The medical professional adds that due to the difficulty in raising funds to meet the treatment, the condition worsens, hence his appeal to the government to absorb more of these bills.
We know it is not easy for the government to absorb all bills relating to the health of the people, but as we had earlier called attention to the need for free cancer treatment under the NHIS, we wish to join DrSackey in his appeal as our way of reiterating our call.
State health financing is already a huge burden on the government but we are inclined to ask for this because of all the troubles associated with cancers even before we think of their fatality rates.
It is sad that unlike certain diseases that do not afflict children, childhood cancers exist and can cut short the lives of youngsters who are the future of every country.
A 2021 World Health (WHO) report states that each year, an estimated 400,000 children and adolescents aged 0-19 years develop cancer.
It adds that in high-income countries, where comprehensive services are generally accessible, more than 80 per cent of the children are cured while in low- and middle-income countries, less than 30 per cent of them are cured.
The WHO thus states that the likelihood of surviving a diagnosis of childhood cancer depends on the country in which the child lives.
In Ghana, only four out of more than the 12 major types of pediatric cancers are treated under the NHIS.
Even though the four – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Burkitt Lymphoma, Retinoblastoma and Wilms Tumor – are said to constitute approximately 60 per cent of all childhood cancers, we think the 40 per cent also need attention, considering the importance of children in the survival of the society.
As for adult cancers, we would be labour the points if we attempt to discuss them.
It is clear from various WHO reports that individual countries can help contain cancers in both adults and children, so the government must consider the appeal to absorb the costs of cancer treatments in the country.