Accra, May 31, GNA. Dr Franklin Aseidu-Bekoe, Director for Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS) says the Government is considering the establishment of a Public Health Emergency Fund (PHEF) to ensure timely and quick response to unplanned public health threats. He said although there were no pencilled timelines on when the fund would be established, the need to have a clearly defined fund for PHEF is a priority for the GHS. Dr Asiedu-Bekoe told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that Ghana had done well in response to epidemics over the years, but the absence of an earmarked fund for public health emergencies made the national response somehow inadequate. ‘We do not have an established fund for public health emergencies normally, we try to mobilize resources when there is an outbreak. So, assuming we have a big outbreak, we are going to have a challenge mobilizing resources,’ he said. The Director for Public Health stressed that it was necessary for Ghana to have a designated fund for public health emergencies to enable Ghana to respond faster to epidemics, saying, ‘If we are able to prevent an outbreak at source, we will be able to prevent it from escalating. He said the government was also considering buying country insurance from the African Risk Capacity (ARC) group to fall on when there is a public health emergency and was also exploring ways to expand the COVID-19 levy into a PHEF. The African Risk Capacity (ARC) group is a specialized agency of the African Union (AU) established to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, through collaboration and innovative financing. Dr Asiedu-Bekoe said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in emergency preparedness in Ghana, and the government was engaging stakeholders to address the challenge of public health financing in Ghana. He said the response to public health emergencies had, however, improved over the last two years with an efficient and comprehensive surveillance system. ‘By virtue of COVID-19, we have tried to make our surveillance system electronic through an Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR), platform. We have also strengthened our Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) both at the national and regional levels, ‘he said. With reference to lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and other disease outbreaks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) say countries, communities, and organizations must be able to respond immediately and effectively to potential health threats and emergencies caused by any hazard. It said for public health emergencies, ‘readiness is essential.’ ‘Readiness is the interface between longer-term preparedness actions and immediate response to emergencies, these actions should aim to build, improve and sustain the operational capabilities of countries, to respond to risks to public health, and ensure sustained capacity on the ground,’ it said. The WHO says investment to prepare health systems for extreme pressure does not only ensure their capacity to cope in a crisis, but also reduces harm, and finance for national health systems should also be sufficient to ensure financial resilience in crisis. According to the WHO, the case for investing in improved emergency prevention, preparedness and response is strong and countries need to include activities for health emergency preparedness in national budgets and health system financing plans.
Source: Ghana News Agency