By Pearlvis Atsu Kuadey, Journalist
No one wants to see their child sick or in pain. But when the inevitable happens, quality healthcare is a must. Child health is a valuable possession we treasure dearly. In recent decades, many countries, including Ghana have made progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goal 4: which is to reduce the mortality rate of children under five (5) years old.
Despite some improvement, severe disparities in the availability and access to high-quality health care for children (not just under 5 years) remain throughout the country. Childhood is a period of dependency and development. Therefore, children’s health and well-being are greatly dependent on the care they receive from their families, communities, and to a larger extent the state. To help children survive and thrive, health systems require sufficient funding to be sustainable, resilient, and inclusive. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) represents a potentially major shift in the financing of healthcare, especially for vulnerable groups. The impact of changes in healthcare access and delivery resulting from this scheme, as well as other health policies have to be evaluated with an emphasis on children’s health status. Evidence suggests that access to the needed healthcare services is still out of reach for many children in the country.A recent worrying trend scenario permeating our society is the new form of soliciting funds to cater to the health needs of our children. Positioned along some major roads and at intersections every morning are critically ill children being paraded by some charities, soliciting funds to support them. These children are supposed to be in hospital seeking treatment but due to lack of money, they are rather on ‘death’s waiting list’.
When people are faced with sudden medical hardship, they are often left wondering how to pay for expensive medical treatment. It is an undeniable fact that crowdfunding can ease financial stress and it has worked in some other jurisdictions. But what is more inhumane than having a sick child under the scorching sun and “begging” society to fund his or her health care. We have all turned a blind eye to it. How many more of these vulnerable children should die before we take a look at the children’s health care system?Every child deserves access to quality health care regardless of health conditions, financial resources, and geographic location. This requires the establishment of a robust system to protect their right to quality health care, especially access to essential medicines and treatment. Delivering adequate promotion of child healthcare, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child implies that we must put in place health services that are available in any circumstance, and must be accessible to every child. In addition, we must ensure that parents of these children do not suffer financial hardship when paying for these services.
For children, the right to quality and accessible healthcare is vital because they are vulnerable beings. The adage that children are future leaders will be mere rhetoric when these children are denied access to healthcare, for lack of money.It is time to approach children’s healthcare from a child-rights perspective; that all children have the right to opportunities to survive, grow and develop, within the context of physical, emotional, and social well-being, to each child’s full potential. We must adopt all appropriate measures to implement the children’s right to health without delay.
Stakeholders, especially the Ministries of Health and Gender, Children, and Social Protection are duty-bound to ensure that children’s healthcare is given a national priority. The existing child health policy document must be reviewed to meet the demands of the people. This policy should not be limited to only immunization and vaccination. We need properly-equipped and functioning children’s hospitals and the NHIS must cover all types of treatment for children. Parliament must legislate for a specific proportion of public expenditure to be allocated to children’s health care.
Lack of ability to pay for health services should not result in the denial of access to quality healthcare for sick children. A new children’s healthcare policy is needed now.