Speaker directs Health Minister to brief Parliament on closure of Korle-bu Renal Unit OPD
Mr Andrew Amoako Asiamah, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, presiding as Speaker, has directed that Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, Health Minister, briefs the House on the closure of the Renal Unit’s Out-Patient Department (OPD) at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital on Thursday, November 09.
He has also charged the Minister to brief the House on the upsurge of kidney related diseases in Ghana.
The Second Deputy Speaker, while presiding over the House, gave the directive at the end of a statement by Mr Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Juaboso and Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, on the prolonged closure of the Renal Unit’s OPD at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
“The Minister should come and tell us something, almost everywhere people are talking about the kidney related problems, he should come and tell us if the NHIS (National Health Insurance) can cater for kidney related issues; I mean he should come and tell us and to the extent the whole nation,” he stated.
Mr Akandoh in his statement reiterated that Parliament should be concerned about the closure of the Renal Unit’s OPD Department at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
He said this situation had far-reaching implications for the well-being of dialysis patients in Ghana and raises serious questions about the commitment of government to transparency and accountability in our healthcare institutions.
He noted that the initial cause of the facility’s closure was attributed to a scarcity of essential medical consumables required for dialysis.
Mr Akandoh said when dialysis medical consumables were finally procured, the service saw an unprecedented increase in fees from GH¢380 to GH¢765.42.
“Mr Speaker, the Hospital’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) explained to the public that this alarming price adjustment was a result of the Government’s withdrawal of tax exemptions, leaving the Hospital burdened with the full cost of importing vital medical consumables for dialysis, leading to unexpected financial strain,” Mr Akandoh stated.
He said the Hospital, therefore, had no option than to increase dialysis fees to cover part of the cost and render the service sustainable eventually.
“However, the subsequent statement by the Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer on Good Morning Ghana on the 28th of September 2023, contradicted the PRO’s explanation.”
He said according to the CEO, the tax exemptions were still in effect, but the Hospital opted to pay the duties to expedite the clearing of these medical consumables and avoid incurring demurrage charges which might exceed the required duties.
He said the long and short of this explanation was that the Hospital incurred additional cost on medical consumables by paying duties either due to the withdrawal of tax waivers as said by the PRO or to expedite the delivery of essential medical consumables as reported by the CEO.
He said as of now, there had been no official communication as to whether the duties paid to expedite the clearing of dialysis medical consumables have been refunded.
He said that but even more interesting was the fact that the Hospital owed suppliers of dialysis consumables about GH¢4 million, which was making it difficult for the Hospital to secure these consumables.
He said GH¢4 million should not be the reason for which many Ghanaian men, women, and children were denied critical dialysis treatment.
He said whatever financial bottlenecks were warranting the continuous closure of the dialysis centre should not be countenanced by the government, neither the House.
He said other government hospitals continued to provide dialysis services at the old rate of GH¢380, with some even offering the same service at a lower fee of GH¢350.
He said the reopening of the outpatient department could not continue to remain in abeyance.
He said even more distressing was the statement from the Renal Patients Association to the effect that since the closure of the outpatient department of the renal unit in May this year, more than 19 outpatients had died.
He said the tragic loss of lives emphasised the urgency of the matter and the necessity for immediate intervention.
He noted that it was imperative that the Renal Unit’s OPD was promptly reopened, and the approved GH¢380 fees are reinstated.
He pleaded with the House to rally behind him in calling on the government to consider absorbing the full cost of dialysis for Ghanaian patients or at the least absorb whatever was the difference between the GH¢380.
This, he said, would help alleviate the financial strain on patients and ensure their timely access to life-saving dialysis treatment.
Most MPs, who contributed to the statement, supported Mr Akandoh’s call for the Minister of Health to brief the House on the closure of the Renal Unit’s OPD at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.