National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Binduri, Hon (Dr) Robert Baba Kuganab-Lem, has described the 2018 national budget presented to parliament last month as “Kwashiorkor”(malnourished) budget.
According to him, the budgetary allocation to the health sector in the 2018 budget is woefully inadequate to address the yawning problems bedeviled the sector, citing the rising figures of infant mortality in the country to buttress his claim.
Dr Kuganab-Lem, a former Deputy Upper East Regional Minister made these observation when he took his turn during parliamentary debate on the 2018 budget on the floor of parliament last Thursday in Accra .
The health sector is not included in the twelve medium term priorities of government in the 2018 budget, which has raised a quite worrying given that most health indicators are poor, thus, high maternal mortality ratio, neonatal mortality, malaria related deaths, and others.
Many are indeed of the view that, Ghana did not meet most health-related MDGs, therefore, the health sector should be seriously considered in a budget that is anchored on the SDGs.
The sector’s budget increased marginally (in nominal terms) by 4.6%, which shows a decline in the sector’s share of MDAs’ budget from 7.8% in 2016 and 2017 to 7.1% in 2018, making it below half of the Abuja Declaration’s target of 15% total budgetary allocation.
This, Dr Kuganab-Lem said, is most worrying given the fact that inadequate funding to the health sector affected the purchase of vaccines for immunization in 2017 for which reasons some immunization indicators such as percentage of children immunized by age one were not achieved.
He said, ” Mr Speaker, there is an alarming rise in institutional infant mortality from 5.8 percent in 2016 to 7.5 percent in 2017. What this means, Mr Speaker, is that children below the age of one are dying more in 2017, as compared to the same period last year.”
“Mr Speaker, I am not surprised, because the government could not raise an amount of US$10 million to pay for vaccines. Vaccination of infants therefore delayed for two weeks in the country. Mr Speaker the budget noted that immunization by children under age one fall from 94.3 in June 2016 to 93.7 by June 2017,” he added.
While describing the budgetary allocation as “marasmic ” to the capital expenditure and goods and services for the health sector, the MP asked how come the government was very fast to raise GHS232 million to fulfill a campaign promise of paying nurses allowance, but could not raise funds for vaccine of children.
The government decision to fund nursing allowance instead of vaccine made it clear the life’s of infants don’t matter in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
He called on the Minister for health to prioritize prevention of under- five death by allocation adequate funds to ensure that essential vaccines for immunization against childhood disease are adequate and regular.
“Mr. Speaker, the Minister for Finance rightly noted that these are protracted financial challenges confronting the health delivery system. Secondly. Mr. Speaker, the budget lacks new and solid inventive initiatives to improve health financing,” Dr Kuganab-Lem argued.
The Binduri lawmaker also expressed the view that, the major problem facing some if the health institution like the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was its sustainability, nothing, ” what is needed is a financial sustainability plan that does not compromise on the pro-poor orientation of the scheme.”
The former Deputy Upper East Regional Minister also decried government sweetheart promises to the health sector, stating, “Mr. Speaker it appears that government is only paying lip services to the NHIS.”
“Mr Speaker on page 124, line one of paragraph 694 of the budget statement, and I quote, ‘the Ministry paid GHS0.6 billion of the total government indebtedness to the national health insurance scheme,” he stressed.
He said with such and among of others issues, it was therefore not surprised that the gross indebtedness to the services provider is the worse in the history of NHIS and urged that the government prioritized health delivery sector.
The Binduri MP further called on President Nana Akufo Addo to sit down with his administration officials and reconsider the impact his polices have had on the nation’s health sector for evidence speaks loudly.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba