A growing crisis is unfurling in Ghana's healthcare system. One that strikes at the very core of access to healthcare and human survival.
The amount charged for dialysis has been increasing significantly over the last few years. Recently, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital has had to withdraw its advertised charges because it is yet to be approved by Parliament. Even the GHC300 per session is unaffordable, now GHC765.42?
A national conversation is brewing about the rising cost of taking care of kidney disease. Health experts have described the surge in kidney failure cases and its accompanying mortality rate in Ghana as troubling. At the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, every one out of three patients who are battling kidney failure end up dying.
This, according to a Nephrologist at the facility, Dr Elliot Koranteng Tannor, is due to the high cost of dialysis.
“Ideally, a patient is supposed to get dialysis 3 times a week until a kidney transplant is done, but most patients are unable to afford, with some doing twice and others once a week. The people we start with are not the ones who continue in the next 3 months. Most of them would've run out of cash,” he stressed.
The personal stories relating to the rising cost of dialysis that people have to share, are heart breaking. At just 25 years of age, Mercy Mensah a resident of Accra, has her life teetering on the precipice, held by the relentless clutches of kidney failure. “Sometimes, I wish to die because it's become too expensive to care for myself and my kidney condition,” she laments.
For Ms. Mensah and countless others like her, each day comes with the silent hope of a miracle. The exorbitant cost of living in the country coupled with the soaring fees compel her to cancel her scheduled sessions sometimes. “I go for dialysis once a week, or not at all. I can't afford to pay,” Mercy disclosed in an interview with this writer.
Deprived of a regular life by her condition, mercy clings to hope, even as her future remains uncertain. She needs $50,000 for a kidney transplant in India. The reality at the Renal Dialysis Unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital is that persons suffering from kidney disease are slowly giving up on life.
Living with a chronic condition like kidney failure is challenging enough, but the cost of treatment is making it unbearable for patients. Needless to add the fact that they are grappling with the financial burden of maintaining a kidney-friendly diet, which comes with a high price tag.
Imagine needing three sessions a week of dialysis treatment. That means three round trips from one's residence. That amounts to over 400 trips every year and this puts an immense strain on patients and their families, physically and financially. And as if that is not enough, the constant increases in the prices of petrol and diesel means transport fares keep skyrocketing, making these trips even more financially crippling.
As the cost of dialysis continues its relentless climb, patients like Daniel Mensah (not his real name) find themselves caught in a grim struggle. “The government should consider enrolling us on the NHIS, because every penny on me has been used for dialysis. Most of my colleagues have died because they resorted to seeking cheaper services,” he bemoaned.
The rising cost of dialysis casts a foreboding shadow over the lives of kidney patients, pushing them into heart-wrenching choices between life and death. And it's not just the dialysis; the cost of medication for kidney patients in Ghana has also hit the roof. The cost of essential medications that was once within reach, has become unaffordable, thus adding to the already heavy burden these patients bear.
“It doesn't make sense for individuals to pay out of pockets for dialysis services when they unfortunately get kidney diseases. There has to be some support to be able to help such people. Government must intervene and absorb at least half the cost. It is really pathetic to watch people die on dialysis on daily basis,” Dr Elliot Koranteng Tannor suggests.
He adds, “There's a big issue as to Korle- Bu increasing their prices of dialysis and now it's an uproar. But there's a situation on the grounds, the taxes on the consumables are high. So, people have to pay a lot to be able to go through sessions and that is why the people die from kidney disease, it's really troubling.”
In a nation where resilience is a cornerstone of the human spirit, these patients fight not only against their debilitating condition, but also against a healthcare system that seems increasingly out of reach. The call for reform grows louder, echoing through the corridors of hospitals and the hearts of those who have been touched by this crisis.
As the sun sets on another day in Ghana, the hope remains that a solution will emerge, one that can lifts the burden from the shoulders of these brave souls who grapple with kidney disease.
The cost-of-living crisis in Ghana is not just about statistics; it's a stark reality for kidney patients like Mercy and Daniel who are grappling with the burden of their condition and the economic challenges it brings.
The burden is not theirs alone; it's a shared anguish felt by communities, healthcare professionals, and a nation that is grappling with the stark reality of healthcare inequality. For these broken souls, a miracle is needed- financial or divine healing. So, help them God.
By Godwin Asediba