7 February 2019

Ghana: 1st Lady Rallies Support for Cancer Care

First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo has rallied key stakeholders in the healthcare industry to do more with the treatment of cancer and build synergies to reduce prevalence of the disease in the country.

Speaking at the first ever cancer conference in Accra yesterday, the First Lady stressed that "we must begin to think of and treat cancers as we think of and treat diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

"Cancer is killing our young and old alike and it is time we confronted it boldly. Both the public and private sectors must support our people to have unhindered access to cancer care, private and public health insurance must cover cancers as possible in their benefit packages and we must finance the training of more healthcare professionals to acquire the needed skills to manage cancer patients," she urged.

The conference which had in attendance distinguished personalities including the Princess of Jordan, Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, officials of the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), cancer specialists, pharmacists, cancer patients and civil society groups working in the area, was to harness ongoing efforts aimed at minimising the occurrence of all forms of cancer in the country.

Held on the theme; "Transforming cancer care in Ghana; providing and sustaining world class standard care for our people," the conference was organised by the Association of Representatives of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industry (AREPI) in collaboration with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

Citing 2018 statistics by the International Agency for Research which showed an annual record of almost 23,000 cancer cases in Ghana with over 15,000 people dying of the disease each year, the First Lady urged that action was taken now to save innocent lives.

"Three things are key for me. If we really want to overcome the challenge of cancer management, we need to come together and build synergy between academia, healthcare practitioners, CSOs, drug companies, government, payers and patients to battle the common enemy.

"We must at all times and with every given opportunity create awareness on the different cancers, we cannot be tired of speaking about cancers until we see all relevant stakeholders taking the appropriate actions to help deal with the challenge and most importantly, we need to boldly confront the financing of cancer treatment in our country," she charged.

Princess Mired who is also President of the UICC, a global cancer control agency, observed that Ghana had the wherewithal to tackle cancers provided "we have a plan, get the right regulations in place, the people and push in resources to prevent the disease".

She pledged the organisation's support to Ghana in the fight against cancers mentioning that, "already, we have launched the city cancer challenge in Kumasi which will be extended to other regions in due time to inspire the cities to deliver quality, equitable cancer care for all."

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the NHIA, Dr Lydia Dsane Selby in a remark, disclosed that the Authority was in talks with cancer care providers to address issues of high cost of cancer treatment.

"Cancer treatment at point of entry is free with the NHIS so if patients are paying then it is not right though we understand that some advanced stages of the disease are not covered under the scheme and there are issues of delay in disbursement of funds and inadequacy.

"We are engaging the providers on it on cost and efficiency in cancer care and also looking at setting up service desks at the major health facilities to assist patients in getting the right care under the scheme," Dr Selby noted.

President of AREPI, Philip Ntim on his part underscored the need to deal with cost and access to cancer treatment particularly for the underprivileged to reduce cancer mortality in the country.

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