Expectant mothers in Accra who visit a number of hospitals in the city are made to pay monies for care despite the Free Maternal Healthcare Policy under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
This revelation was made as part of an exposé led by Francisca Enchill of Joy News. The journalist had been provoked to look into the goings-on in maternal healthcare delivery in the capital after she was informed of the death of a baby whose mother could not pay for care.
At least, six hospitals in Accra were found to consistently charge pregnant women and women who show up to deliver babies. But not only is this procedurally problematic but also illegal.
Ghana began its Free Maternal Healthcare Policy (FMHCP) in 2008. The process involved the free registration of pregnant women to the NHIS to access healthcare at the cost of nothing.
The FMCHP was in response to the spate of maternal-and-child mortality, a frequency that was put down to a lack of financial means on the part of most pregnant women to seek care. One report stated that about 700 deaths occurred in every 100,000 live births before the policy came into effect.
Pregnant women in Ghana, for the last decade and more, can now legitimately expect a full benefits package covering comprehensive maternal healthcare.
But it would seem in some hospitals, including the 37 Military Hospital, Mamobi General Hospital and the Mamprobi Polyclinic, the policy is being flouted. Enchill acknowledged that the selected hospitals that were investigated were based on intelligence feedback from pregnant women.
“We picked the hospitals based on [case studies]. We speak to women to find out where they have their babies and then find out how the situation is there. After speaking with a number of women, we identified that the complaints of payments were prominent in some particular hospitals and so we decided to randomly pick those hospitals that had been mentioned on a number of occasions by a number of different women,” Enchill said on Joy News on Wednesday morning.
Answering a question about whether the malpractice was more widespread than her investigations suggest, Enchill responded: “If we randomly select six hospitals and out of the six hospitals, no hospital was giving the Free Maternal Healthcare, then I doubt if it is present in any hospital. I doubt if any hospital [in Accra] is giving it [maternal healthcare] for free”.
Incidentally, officials in the hospitals that were looked into reportedly denied that they were charging for maternal care. This was after the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) claimed it did not owe hospitals in arrears.
Indeed, the deputy CEO of the NHIA, Vivian Addo-Cobblah, noted in a statement earlier in the week that there was “no justification” for hospitals to charge visitors for the services covered by the NHIS.
“There is no justification for providers charging the Scheme’s members for services funded by the NHIS. At no point should a member, especially pregnant women, be charged for maternal healthcare services fully covered by the NHIS. Women are entitled to free services throughout pregnancy and at childbirth and so mothers charged at the point of need should report to the NHIA for appropriate redress,” Addo-Cobblah was quoted by the NHIA as saying.
Meanwhile, the NHIA has pledged to look into the matter.
The Ghana Report tried to reach out to the Communications Manager at the NHIA, Barima Sarpong, to clarify how the outfit was looking to investigate the accusations that have been made. But he did not get back to us.