ENSURING INCLUSIVE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL – KEY TO ATTAINING THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS BY SAMUEL ADADI AKAPULE
It cannot be ruled out that ensuring Inclusive health care for all is essential to sustainable development and the building of prosperous societies. Again it is equally very important to note that access to good health care is a human right as enshrined in international conventions and the constitution of Ghana.
Perhaps it is against this background that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the goal 3 offers a new chance to ensure that everyone has access to decent, qualityand reliable health care.
It is very pertinent to note that Ghana as a country is among the signatories of the SDGs and is expected to join the global communities to work hard by mobilizing resources to help achieve the SDGs by the year 2030.
Critical among the Goal 3 targets is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births , end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births , end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.
The rest of the targets are to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being , strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents , ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes all by 2030.
It should be pointed out that it would be very difficult for the above mentioned targets to be met without ensuring that there is inclusive health care for all. However, investigations conducted by this writer in some of the health facilities in the16 regions in the country, revealed that whilst few of the government and private health facilities are accessible to Persons with Disabilities(PWDs), many of the facilities are not disability friendly when it comes to accessing health care.
For instance a visit by this writer to the Bolgatanga Regional hospital revealed that, the structure of the outpatient ward was disability friendly, but it was not so with the Maternity ward and other wards.
Another major worrisome concern that was discovered by this writer after visiting many government and private health facilities across the 16 regions of the country, was that most of the health workers in such institutions find it extremely difficult in communicating to patients who are deaf and dumb, making it difficult for them to render quality health care services to such patients.
Furthermore, another factor that is militating against Ghana’s efforts at attaining the SDGs particularly the goal three is the unequal distribution of human resources across the 16 regions in the country. For instance it is undisputable fact that majority of doctors and other important health professionals who are usually posted to regions like the Northern, North –East, Savannah, Upper East and Upper West Regions refuse posting to such areas and rather stay in the urban centres, particularly Accra and Kumasi.
Aside the above , the policy of sitting health facilities8km apart from communities is not also helping since it makes it very difficult for many patients particularly those in emergency situation such as pregnancies to travel to far distances to enable them access health care services.
Moreover, health outreach programmes is another area that need to be considered. Whilst other Regional and District Health Directorates are doing well when it comes to health outreach programmes, others are not living up to expectation as they are not able to reach to the hard to reach areas due to some peculiar challenges.
Additionally, majority of the health professionals are not adequately equipped to handle complicated health cases such as children born with disabilities and pregnancy related cases as well as early detection and referrals
The mother of all of the challenges and barriers to theensuringof healthylives and promoting well-being for all at all ages are the referral services and the hidden cost in healthinstitutions across the regions of the country.
The sad part is that apart from some few of the regional hospitals in the country that have somewhat good ambulance services, majority of them do not have let alone to talk about the Municipal and District Health facilities . For instance in the Upper East Region , apart from the regional hospital that has an ambulance which is somewhat functional , the remaining 15 Municipal and District health facilities in the region lacked the facilities , making it very difficult to transfer emergency cases for treatment elsewhere.
The Way forward
At the just ended Regional Dialogue forum jointly organizedby STAR Ghana in Partnership with the Ghana CSOs Platform on SGDs in Bolgatanga, of the Upper East Region, on the theme “Achieving the Health Related SDGs in the Upper East Region: Prospects, Challenges and the Way forward”, the stakeholders proposed a number of interventions that could be adopted to help Ghana fast-track the attainment of the SDGs.
The stakeholders including the Programme Manager, of the Presbyterian Health Service -North, Mr Rudolf Abugnaba Abanga, expressed worry about the hidden cost charged by some of the health facilities in the country and stressed the need for effective checks to be instituted to end the canker.
Whilst proposing for equal and fair distribution of human resource such as doctors and other health specialists to all the regions without discrimination, the stakeholders underscored the need for all the Heath Training Institutions across the country, to offer training to nursing students in the areas of sign language to help address the communication challenges when it comes to handling patients with special needs.
The stakeholders who further called for the reviewing of the policy of sitting health facilities at 8km apart from communities , said it was not helping since it makes it very difficult for many patients, particularly for patience in critical situation such as pregnant women who need to travel afar to access health.
Mr Abugnaba-Abanga underscored the urgent need for all Regional and District Health Directorates to intensify their efforts in the area ofhealth outreach programmes, strengthen their referral services and make their respective health structures disability friendly.
In conclusion, it is very important for the government and all stakeholders including development partners such as NGOs, traditional and religious leaders to join forces in working toward supporting the country to progress positively in attaining the SDGs.