Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister for Health has revealed that the government is considering the possibility of adding dialysis treatment to the National Health Insurance (NHIS) benefit package.
This is one of three options that the government is working on with the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) and the Ministry of Finance to prevent the closure of the Renal Dialysis Unit (RDU) from happening again.
The other options are providing subsidies based on the proposals received from the Hospital and reviewing the tariffs to ensure the sustainability of the services.
The Minister gave this update to Parliament on Thursday, November 9, 2023, when he informed the House about the situation of the Renal Unit.
There was public outcry when Korle Bu increased the charges for dialysis arbitrarily from GH¢380 to GHS¢765.42
The hospital defended the increment by saying that the inputs are very costly and that it costs about GH¢800 to GH¢1000 to provide the service.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu explained that the RDU operates from two main locations in Korle Bu and offers both inpatient and outpatient services to patients.
The Medical Block Dialysis Unit, which has a capacity for twenty- two (22) machines, currently operates with one machine that is used to dialyse hepatitis B positive patients with problems with the water treatment system that needs to be repaired twice a week.
The Satellite Unit (Cabin) has 10 functional Fresenius 50085 haemodialysis machines, which is currently the main centre for Inpatient, emergency cases and for outpatient dialysis as well.
He said the unit serves around 300 patients on average and can perform up to 2000 dialysis sessions per month, working 24 hours a day.
He mentioned that First Sky Group of Companies pledged to donate GH¢1 million every three months for the past five years to help patients who cannot afford the essential maintenance haemodialysis to get two free sessions a week.
“Currently, 230 patients benefit from the free dialysis programme. This represents more than 80% of the patients treated at RDU and more than 80% of the RDU’s income.”
“However, in the last two years, the payment schedule agreed upon with First Sky Group of Companies has faced some delays.”
“Because of these delays, the RDU suffers from exchange rate losses, which have made it hard for the RDU to make a monthly payment to Messrs. Fresenius Medical Care South Africa Ltd, (FMC), which supplies the Hospital with dialysis machines and consumables on a 10-year contract worth €11,865,000.00.”
The Minister expressed his concern that the current fee of GH¢380 for dialysis is not enough to enable the RDU to generate sufficient revenue to meet its obligations under the contract with FMC.
This, he said, has affected the ability of the RDU to pay for consumables obtained from FMC on time.
The Minister further disclosed that as part of the government’s non-communicable diseases strategy, the Ministry and its agencies will continue to promote prevention and early detection to reduce renal disease and ease the burden on the RDUS in the health sector.
He added that, the government has also invested in the construction of a 100-bed ultramodern Urology and Nephrology Centre of Excellence at the KBTH to facilitate the provision of kidney transplantation services.
This, he believed, will further reduce the dialysis burden on the nation, and the need for Ghanaians to travel abroad for these services.