Twelve nursing mothers who were detained at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital for their inability to settle their medical bills after they had given birth have been discharged free of charge following a directive from the Minister of Health, Ms Sherry Ayittey.
Their bills, amounting to GH¢12,423.00, will be absorbed by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
As of 12 noon on Tuesday when the Daily Graphic visited the hospital nine of the mothers had been discharged while the three others were being processed to be discharged.
Decongestion at Korle-Bu
Giving a background to the directive which was given by the minister last Friday, May 16, 2014 the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Ministry of Health, Mr Tony Goodman, said the ministry took that decision to help decongest the maternity ward of the hospital.
According to him there was the need to create space for many more expectant mothers so that they would not be turned away by the hospital because of lack of beds.
He said although the directive to discharge the women free of charge was not sustainable, the move was in line with efforts to bring down the country’s maternal and infant death rates.
In this country, the maternal mortality rate is estimated at 350 deaths per 100,000 live births, and to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) five, aimed at reducing maternal deaths, Ghana is expected to reduce the present figure by 75 per cent by the year 2015.
Mr Goodman said although the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) covered delivery, the affected women had not signed onto the scheme and, therefore, had to pay for their deliveries.
He said the ministry would liaise with the NHIS to fashion out ways of getting more expectant mothers to register with the scheme to enjoy the Free Maternal Health Policy being run by the ministry.
Free Maternal Health Policy
When contacted, the Director of Family Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Aboagye, said Ghana’s policy on Free Maternal Health, introduced in 2008, was still in force and therefore called on expectant mothers to take advantage of it.
According to him, the policy allowed mothers to access services from six free antenatal visits , two ultrasound services, three post natal visits and free care for the first three months of the baby’s life.
Dr Aboagye expanded that expectant mothers were not expected to pay anything, including premiums, for their registration with the scheme.
He said the registration which was done by the NHIS covered all essential services provided under the health insurance scheme.
Objectives of the Free Maternal Care Policy
The objectives of the policy, which also covered caesarean deliveries, according to Dr Aboagye, was to facilitate access to free and quality maternal care for all mothers.
It is also aimed at helping to reduce the number of women and children who die from preventable pregnancy and labour related problems.
The policy, he said, was also to encourage women to seek antenatal and post natal care, as well as skilled delivery at health care facilities. What pertains at Korle-Bu
According to the PRO at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Mr Mustapha Salifu, some of the mothers were delivered of their babies four weeks ago but had not been able to settle their bills for which reason they were detained at the hospital.
Although the NHIS has a desk within the maternity block of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, according to the Mr Salifu, most nursing mothers did not take advantage of it.
He said most of the women were rushed to the hospital in critical conditions and therefore they were unable to register with the health insurance scheme before accessing services.
Mr Salifu indicated that it was only when the women were successfully registered with the scheme that the hospital would be reimbursed by the NHIS, a situation which he said was often not achieved.
He was hopeful that with the introduction of the biometric registration under the NHIS, expectant mothers without NHIS could be registered instantly to benefit from the Free Maternal Health Policy.
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