Nhyira Fm’s Ohemeng Tawiah blocked a day light extortion of what officials of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana’s second largest hospital describe as “Development Levy”
The money was paid by patrons of the hospital where more than 85 per cent are on National Health Insurance Scheme.
Ohemeng, who has since September 2011 been investigating health care service delivery at the hospital which has the largest Accident and Emergency Center in the West African sub-region, proved to be an angel to poor patients who before the introduction of the illegal fee could not even afford medical bills.
He worked at the hospital’s main theater and the Intensive Care Unit for 4-months as an undercover doctor where he witnessed several avoidable deaths there as a result of equipment breakdown and in some instances, inadequacies.
Junior doctors and some specialist at the facility were turning away patients in critical conditions some whom had been given dates to come for surgeries.
It was the only alternative, according to the doctors to save more people from dying in their hands.
That story, received attention of officialdom, with Ghana’s Health Ministry responding quickly to fix nine of eleven broken down ventilators while indifferences between management of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and officials of Gertech Technologies, maintenance contractors were resolved.
In his latest investigations, he revealed extortion in broad day-light at the hospital spearheaded by both management and board of directors of the hospital.
This is despite the fact that the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital is the largest service provider of the National Health Insurance Scheme introduced to replace the cash-and-carry system of health delivery in Ghana.
Under the new arrangement, he realized people who seek medical services at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital were been forced to pay special fees authorities describe as development levy.
In-patients have to pay 10 Ghana cedis while out-patients pay two Ghana cedis per visit to Ghana’s second largest health facility.
This means both NHIS and non- subscribers will have no option, than to pay extra Gh 10 or Gh2.
The introduction of the levy also defeats the idea behind the introduction of NHIS tipped to ensure more people visit the hospitals.
However, introduction of the new charges which came into effect on July 1 attracted reprehension not only from public but hospital staff as well.
A memo dated June 29, 2012, and signed by Chief Executive, Prof Ohene Adjei, directed all heads of directorates to charge the levy, and payment covered by government -approved receipts.
According to the document, which was revised on July 3, 2012, the levy has been approved by the board for minor repairs and staff motivation, among other commitments.
However, a group of the hospital’s workers said the step taken by the authorities will only increase cost of health care services and also make the hospital unpopular.
A spokesperson who pleaded anonymity told the reporter the already over-burdened patient should not be the one to suffer in order to motivate hospital staff.
She and other colleagues called on this reporter and the media in general to take up the matter in the interest of poor patients whom they said were been overburden.
In some of his several visits to the Komfo Anokye Hospital, Ohemeng witnessed scenes of near-confrontation between some patients and nurses over payment of the new levy and captured some of these verbal confrontations on record. These recordings outlining not only patients frustrations but in some instances some of nurses were played on radio and also online News site.
Nurses had to virtually plead, especially, with protesting outpatients to pay up because it’s a management decision.
But hospital authorities justified the levy, saying “it’s one of the best options to raise funds to manage the ageing facilities at the hospital”.
Public Relations Officer, Kwame Frimpong conceded not all patients can afford to pay, but insisted it was reasonable.
“You know we have only one Komfo Anokye. It acts as a regional hospital, district hospital and it’s a tertiary facility. We all owe it a duty to contribute our bit to ensure that clinical services are not interrupted”.
But he sees no wrong when patients contribute to the maintenance and up-keep of the 57-year old hospital they have been accessing.
“The ultimate beneficiary of this Development Fund will be the patient because the quality of healthcare is going to increase because there would be funds to do immediate and routine repairs and maintenance”, he insisted.
But three days after Ohemeng’s publication, Ghana’s Ministry of Health halted collection of the levy, describing it as ‘illegal’.
Though that is yet to be done, many Ghanaians, including some agitated staff at Komfo Anokye has commended Ohemeng for his policing role.Meanwhile, few days after abolition, workers who had been against the levy’s introduction called for accounts to be rendered in respect of monies collected in that regard.