‘Payment transparency needed to keep us in business’ – Pharma suppliers to NHIA 

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Pharmaceutical suppliers are pushing government to direct the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to make transparent payments to service providers across the country, noting that the move is critical to helpingsustain their operations and avoiding the collapse of some players in the sector.

According to them, many of their members who belong to the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana (PMAG), Chamber of Pharmacy Ghana (CPG), and the Pharmaceutical Importers and Wholesalers Association of Ghana (PIWA) are reeling under immense financial pressure due to non-payment for drugs supplied to NHIA-funded health care facilities.

Even as the NHIA continues to state that it has paid debts owed healthcare facilities, the pharma suppliers are now urging the NHIA to notify them when payments are made – because these healthcare providers do not immediately pay their suppliers but instead use the NHIA payment for other operations, thus leaving the pharmaceutical suppliers struggling to stay afloat.

“When we met the NHIA over this matter, we told them that any time they make payment they should keep us in copy and tell us that they have paid this or that hospital. We don’t even want to know the amount they have paid, because once we are notified the drug supplier that has given drugs to the facility will then call them and retrieve their locked-up monies.

“We want to know the payment and the month it has been paid by the NHIA; that is what our argument is, but because the NHIA is refusing to give us that data we keep going round and there seems to be no end in sight,” David Kafui Klutse, Chief Operating Officer of Pharmanova – a member of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Ghana – told the B&FT in an interview.

When this Paper contacted a source at the NHIA, the source said the demands of suppliers, even though genuine, are against contractual agreements with the hospitals and some other parties to the agreement; and therefore it will be very difficult to it get done.

Currently, it is estimated that pharmaceutical suppliers are owed over GHȼ300million; and they have also threatened to halt the supply of drugs to health facilities under the NHIA.

The NHIA, in a statement, said scheme managers had paid GHȼ598,940,612 to service providers as claims payments so far in 2020; however, the additional payments now bring the total claims paid to GHȼ686,021,529 as at 18 June 2020. But the pharmaceutical suppliers are sceptical about the payment of these claims, as they are yet to receive payment for drugs that have been supplied for over six months.

The Health Ministry also made a last-minute step to stop the strike action by calling for the debtors list from the suppliers. A letter sighted by the B&FT and signed by the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyemang Manu 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 doing 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.

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