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GMA decries “killer” tariffs

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has decried what it describes as “astronomical tariffs” in the country, saying their effects on the mental health of ordinary citizens have been terrible.

The association raised this concern among other national red-hot issues at a news conference held to climax its 3rd National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Bolgatanga, Upper East regional capital.

“The dire implications of the current astronomical tariffs on the mental health of ordinary Ghanaians and survival of businesses in the country cannot be overemphasised,” President of the association, DCOP/Dr. Ebenezer Ewusi-Emmim, stated.

He added: “The other time I was monitoring some stations. And people were actually saying that even when they go to bed and they are waking up in the morning, it’s difficult for them because they haven’t had money to settle their electricity bills. We have people who are in private practice and also in the government sector itself. The huge electricity bills are really killing some of their businesses. Everybody should be able to pay what they owe, but not at this rate.”

Flying tariffs and ticking electoral clock
Telephone lines to radio stations across the Upper East region and the country at large are overstretched by complaint calls from agitated Ghanaians whose homes and businesses are drowning in what some have described as “cutthroat bills”.

Some observers strongly believe the ballooning public frustrations would find clear expressions on the ballot papers at the November 7 polls if the situation persists.

“May God keep our fingers crossed till November 7,” Vida Ayamga, a resident in Bolgatanga, once told Starr News. “You take 30 Ghana cedis to VRA; they give you just nine units that will last you only two days. How much is my salary at the end of the month? And when you complain, they try to convince you with all manner of jargons,” she added.

A commercial driver recently told some disturbed passengers discussing the country’s power market whilst heading for Bawku from Bolgatanga: “We are just working for VRA (Volta River Authority). It wasn’t like this even two years ago. These days, you buy units and two days later it’s finished. And you have to go and buy again. You have no choice in this heat, especially if you have a baby. We are now working just to take the money to VRA.”

An old passenger, about the age of a pensioner, on that same bus groaned whilst alighting with great composure: “You see VRA and the Ministry of Finance, they will overthrow the government. Everybody wants to work at VRA. Why? Even the salary of a watchman at VRA is twice the salary of a trained teacher. Go and crosscheck. They have just thrown a tight rope around the neck of this country and they are squeezing it hard.”

The GMA, drawing on the news conference, also joined the swelling string of calls on government to without further delays clip the wings of the flying tariffs.

“The GMA would like to add its voice to that of numerous Ghanaians in calling on the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC), the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Ghana Water Company and for that matter government to work assiduously to ensure reduction of the current high utility tariffs.

“The ECG should also take steps to deal with the software issue that has resulted in escalating the already high tariffs. They have to make sure the software issue is sorted out and the appropriate tariffs are paid by people and not these high tariffs going round,” DCOP/Dr. Ewusi-Emmim stressed.

NHIS providers sell properties to buy drugs
Worries about delays in settling claims submitted by health insurance service providers in the country also shared centre stage with the tariff troubles at the GMA’s NEC meeting, and were highlighted at the news conference.

Members of the association, in a statement jointly signed by DCOP/Dr. Ewusi-Emmim and the association’s General Secretary, Dr. Frank Serebour, said they were “gravely concerned with the gradual re-introduction of cash and carry at the various health institutions and facilities in the country”.

The statement observed that “some facilities have not been paid their claims in the last quarter of 2015” and “are resorting to cash and carry because of prolonged indebtedness of the NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme) to them”.

Then, it warned strongly: “The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) should as a matter of urgency take steps to pay the facilities the amounts owed them to save the health system from total collapse. We cannot afford to return to the days of cash and carry.”

Health insurance service providers are now selling their private possessions to stock their dispensaries with medicines, Starr News has learnt.

This is because the NHIA owes them for about nine months and pharmaceutical companies are no longer willing to supply drugs on credit. Service providers engaged by the NHIA reportedly also have not paid their workers for a year due to unsettled claims.

“We were paid up to August last year. That’s about nine months ago or so. The pharmaceutical [companies] have stopped supplying us with drugs. We used to take these drugs on credit basis. All of us have not paid our workers for one year. The little money we have we use it to buy drugs. Sometimes, I have to sell a property before I can buy drugs just to keep the system running,” Harry Epsona Ayamga, former Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Bolgatanga and proprietor of the Asankunde Memorial Clinic at Soe, a suburb of the municipality, told Starr News.

The Upper East Regional Chairman of the Health Insurance Service Providers Association of Ghana (HISPAG), Dr. Francis Asaanah, told Starr News the delays “are making health delivery very bad” in the region.

“And when you tell them on TV, they will say no, no, no; we’ve paid, we’ve paid, we’ve paid. You’ve paid when? So, I want a challenge on television and I will say it. For me, the last payment I have received was for my May, June, July of last year. So, when I got that money, I went and bought drugs. But before I got this money, I had no drugs in my two hospitals. We were writing for patients to go and buy.

“A few of my colleagues have received August and very few have received September. The whole of last week I was in Accra, pulling it up; and they (NHIA) told me that they are trying to pay. I can tell you nobody has received October last year. That is how bad it is,” Dr. Asaanah added wrathfully.

GMA cautions EC, Supreme Court
The GMA said some developments triggered by the polls ahead and monitored so far called for such stakeholders as the media, the political parties, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the security agencies to be mindful of their “actions and inactions”.

The association indicated that the EC’s task to organise credible elections with generally acceptable results was nonnegotiable and, therefore, urged the commission to ensure a free, fair and credible election in November.

“The GMA would like to call on the EC to as quickly as practicable deal with all emerging issues especially with the voters’ register. This will bring transparency to the electoral processes thereby enhancing the credibility of the election,” the association emphasised.

It added: “Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of the land should as a matter of urgency come out to clarify all conflicting issues regarding their recent ruling on the voters’ register. The peace of the country is the responsibility of all Ghanaians including the Judiciary.”

The GMA, who is expected to hold its 58th Annual General Conference in Ho, Volta Region, in the first week of October, this year, under the theme “Cardiovascular Diseases: Emerging Trends”, also announced its readiness at the news conference to play any supporting role if involved in the current electoral processes.

Source: Ghana/starrfmonline.com/103.5FM/Edward Adeti

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