Health Ministry calms pharma industry’s nerves over GH¢300m debt

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urges players not to stop drug supply to NHIA

The Ministry of Health has made a last-minute step to stop the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana (PMAG) and the Chamber of Pharmacy Ghana (CPG) from halting their supply of drugs to health care facilities funded by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).

The pharmaceutical suppliers had given the ministry up to July 1, 2020 to redeem debt owed its members or face their wrath; but in a letter dated 30th June, 2020 the ministry has pleaded with the pharmaceutical suppliers to hold off the strike as it has taken steps to ensure that health care facilities funded by the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) pay their debts to avoid tension in the sector, which would affect health care delivery in the country.

The letter sighted by the B&FT, signed by the Minister of Health Kwaku Agyemang Manu and addressed to the Chairman, Chamber of Pharmacy, Harrison K. Abutiate said: “The Ministry wants to thank you and your members for bringing this issue to its attention. We also thank you for your patience and commitment to do business with our Health Service Providers. The ministry is pleading with you and your members to submit data on all outstanding debts owed to your members, indicating: supplier/company name; the name of facility or hospital that owes; total amount of indebtedness; age of indebtedness”.

The letter added that: “The ministry will engage you and your members after receiving this data, and discuss the way forward to settle these debts as soon as possible. Once again, we thank you and look forward to receiving this data from you within the shortest possible time”. As a result, the pharmaceutical players are contemplating halting their action, but are assiduously putting together the data for presentation to the ministry this week.

Meanwhile, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) in a statement last month said that it has so far paid a total of GH¢686million to health service providers as claims under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) this year.

The payments, according to the NHIA statement, were effected between January 1 and June 18, 2020 to both public and private service providers, as well as quasi-government service providers and mission health facilities. It also includes withholding taxes on behalf of the providers.

A breakdown of the figures show that public health facilities received GH¢361million, representing 52.6 percent of the payments; while the private service providers have received GH¢199million pegged at 29.1 percent. Mission health facilities (CHAG) have received GH¢112million representing 16.4 percent, while quasi-government service providers got GH¢13million representing 1.9 percent of total payments made to date.

But the pharmaceutical suppliers say their members are still owed by the NHIA. The Executive Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana (PMAG), Lucia Addae, in an interview with Ghanaweb said: “NHIA owes us. They’ve been owing us for 5 years. They have invoices to show that, and the debt is about 300 million cedis. Now NHIA has come to say that, in a matter of days, they’ve paid some 7 million and 5 million”.

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