Deputy Minister of Health presenting a card to one of the inmates as Mr. Mensah and Dr. Osei look on

THE NATIONAL Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has handed 1000 free health insurance identification cards to the less privileged in various institutions in the country as part of efforts to increase its membership.

The distribution to inmates of psychiatric hospitals, leprosaria, orphanages, and other institutions was to ensure that all Ghanaian residents have access to quality basic healthcare, especially the needy and other vulnerable groups in society.

Some of the beneficiary institutions include the Ankaful Lepers Camp and Psychiatric Hospital in the Central region, where a total of 119 cards were distributed, Tisapaa Psychiatric in the Northern region where 7,523 cards were distributed, the Lepers Committee in the Volta and Upper West regions where 853 cards were distributed among others.

Speaking at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, where 711 cards were distributed to inmates, Sylvester Mensah, Chief Executive Officer of NHIA, said health insurance remains a healthcare safety-net for all Ghanaians particularly for the poor and vulnerable.

?Health insurance coverage of this nature would help take care of the healthcare needs of our brothers and sisters here and elsewhere,? he said.

Mr. Mensah said the NHIA Act 605 which is currently before Parliament had provisions on mental health adding that an amendment of the Act would make provision for ?exemption services? for persons with physical disabilities and mental illness.

He further noted that to further improve the Scheme, the authority has initiated new programmes such as a clinical audit unit, internal audit division, a claims processing and call centre.

?We have put in place reform initiatives, running concurrently, to increase efficiency, improve quality of care, curb and contain escalating costs and secure the long-term future of the NHIS,? he said.

Deputy Minister of Health, Rojo Mettle-Nunoo commended the NHIA for the initiative and management of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital for their excellent management of the institution.

He however urged Ghanaians to name and shame people who smuggle drugs through the country to the security agencies as statistics indicate drug related mental illness is on the increase.

?The little money they make cannot be compared to the damage they cause to other people?s lives,? he said.

He said the psychiatric hospital should be seen as a place where people can come to seek help and counseling when they are depressed and not a place for ?mad? people.

Dr. Akwasi Osei, Medical Director of the hospital and Senior Psychiatrist at the Ministry of Health, said the free registration of the inmates was a milestone in ensuring mental health in the country.

He said with the issuance of the health insurance cards to inmates, the burden of having to bear the cost of their physical health needs as well as their mental needs will be eased.

He said, ?The patients will now have the insurance they need to get treated for other diseases.?

He later urged the authority to sustain the insurance by promptly renewing the cards when they expire.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri

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