Patients need Hepatitis testing and treatment on NHIS – Doctors appeal

Dr Yvonne Nartey, a Physician Specialist, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, and other health experts, are appealing to the government to consider enrolling the testing and treatment of Hepatitis ‘B’ and ‘C’ onto the National Health Insurance Scheme.

“If the average Ghanaian earns about GHS928 a month and needs to use about GHS850 to conduct a Hepatitis abdominal test, what will the person live on and how will the person selling on the streets afford to go for a test,” she said.

They appealed on Wednesday at a “Hepatitis Evaluations to Amplify Testing and Treatment (HEAT)” Local Coalition Closing Meeting spearheaded by the Ghana Health Service, Ministry of Health, Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana, The Task Force for Global Health, and Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination, in Accra.

Dr Nartey said the cost involved in testing and treatment of the disorder deterred many people including expectant mothers from conducting tests to ascertain their status and seek healthcare.

Hepatitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver by the Hepatitis virus. It can be contracted through unprotected sex, saliva, semen, vaginal secretions, and contaminated shared needles and syringes, and sweat according to some researches.

She disclosed the status while presenting a report on an epidemiologic assessment conducted to understand the burden of Hepatitis disease, laboratory testing capacity, developing a budget-based plan to guide the scale-up of testing linked to rate, and convening a coalition of stakeholders to put the plan into action and implementing testing.

They collected data from five teaching hospitals, six regional hospitals, three district hospitals, four Christian Health Association of Ghana hospitals, one quasi hospital, and two public health reference labs.

According to the report, hospital labs recorded 101,547 Hepatitis ‘C’ status from 2016 to 2020 and 1,269 Hepatitis ‘B’ profile records from 2019 to 2021.

Blood Banks through blood donation recorded 35,458 Hepatitis ‘C’ statuses from 2017 to 2020, pregnant women noted 7,585 antenatal clinic records between 2018 and 2020, and 83,920 Cirrhosis and liver failure problems related to Hepatitis killed 1,058 patients from 2017 to 2020.

Dr Nartey, also an Epidemiologist, said the Upper East, Upper West, and Savannah regions had a high burden of Hepatitis B and C nationwide, adding that the failure on the part of patients to test for Hepatitis C, partly due to little or no knowledge of its existence and cost involved, resulted in the fallacy that Hepatitis B was more common than C.

Globally, she said the health sector strategy on viral hepatitis included Hepatitis ‘B’ vaccination, prevention of mother to child transmission, injection and blood safety, harmful reduction, testing, and treatment of Hepatitis B and C.

The Epidemiologist mentioned procurement challenge, cost of PCR, equipment breakdown, and lack of maintenance and reagent shortage as some of the bottlenecks to testing as reported by labs.

On the field, she said the national exercise unearthed that community health planning and services compounds and health centres performed little to no Hepatitis B and C tests, and there were poor linkages to care for positive and negative persons after testing.

Moreover, there was the unavailability of Tenofovir drugs in hospital pharmacies for Hepatitis therapy, and poor reporting of cause of death, and data capture of mortalities.

Dr Atsu Godwin Seake- Kwawu, the Programme Manager, said the data collected, had revealed the reality of the Viral Hepatitis cases in the country and the inability of people to afford the test and treatment.

The data, he explained, would be used to create awareness and draw the attention of the Ministry of Health to strengthen partnership to make life bearable for people suffering from the inflammation.

“We need to have appropriate health care centers, test kits and also make investigations nearly close where people can easily go and access”, he said.

He urged authorities to amplify the cause and translate the results into concrete action to benefit the people, adding that the goals of the project could only be achieved through hard work and implementation.

Dr Theobald Owusu-Ansah, the President of Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana, admonished the government to help train more physicians at all district levels to help in the testing and treatment of Hepatitis cases.

“We also need to introduce a birth dose of Hepatitis B vaccine to prevent mother-to-child transmission so that by the next decade to come, people will be free from Hepatitis B challenges,” he said.

He charged the youth to endeavour to regularly check their Hepatitis status to be sure of their status to know the next appropriate step to take.

Source: GNA

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