Exploring the experiences of National Health Insurance Scheme subscribers and non-subscribers in accessing healthcare within the Accra Metropolitan Area

Maintaining the health and wellbeing of a nation largely depends on the state of health care policies and programs that guarantees citizens access to health care. Policies and social intervention programs such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) should create an enabling operational environment for health institutions. The study examines the experiences of subscribers and non-subscribers of the National Health Insurance Scheme in accessing health care in the Accra Metropolitan Area (AMA) in Ghana. It identifies the challenges in accessing health care, the resources available to individuals and the other strategies individuals employ in accessing health care. A combination of primary and secondary sources was used to collect data for the study. Using a qualitative research design, twelve participants were sampled using a stratified sampling technique. Interviews conducted revealed that many participants had negative experiences in accessing health care with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Delays in registration processes, long queuing systems at health centres and delays in reimbursement of health centres by the government were some of the core challenges that led to these negative experiences in accessing health care. As a result, many people resort to alternative means to cater for their health needs. The study further revealed that some people utilized the formal health care facilities only in critical conditions due to past negative experiences and perceptions around accessing health care with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). However, the NHIS was seen or perceived as an important mechanism for removing financial barrier to achieving equitable access to health care for all citizens in Ghana. The results further showed that the NHIS has improved access and benefits to maternal and child health services. The study concluded by advocating for an improvement and a rebalance of efforts by decision makers to inculcate more health promotion approaches or concepts in making policies concerning public health.

Community engagement and involvement in Ghana: conversations with community stakeholders to inform surgical research

Background: Involving patients and communities with health research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) contributes to increasing the likelihood that research is relevant in local context and caters to the needs of the population, including vulnerable and marginalised groups. When done right, it can also support empowerment of wider communities in taking ownership of their own health, lead to increased access and uptake of health services and generally improve the wellbeing of individuals. However, the evidence base of how to undertake successful community engagement and involvement (CEI) activities in LMICs is sparse. This paper aims to add to the available literature and describes how the Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery’s (GSU) team in Ghana worked collaboratively with the Unit’s team in the UK and a UK-based Public Advisory Group to involve community stakeholders in rural Ghana with surgical research. The aim was to explore ways of reaching out to patients and community leaders in rural Ghana to have conversations that inform the relevance, acceptability, and feasibility of a clinical trial, called TIGER.
Methods: As this kind of larger scale involvement of community stakeholders with research was a novel way of working for the team in Ghana, a reflective approach was taken to outline step-by-step how the GSU team planned and undertook these involvement activities with 31 hernia patients, two Chiefs (community leaders), a community finance officer and a local politician in various locations in Ghana. The barriers that were experienced and the benefits of involving community stakeholders are highlighted with the aim to add to the evidence base of CEI in LMICs.
Results: GSU members from the UK and Ghana planned and organised successful involvement activities that focused on establishing the best way to talk to patients and other community stakeholders about their experiences of living with hernias and undergoing hernia repairs, and their perceptions of the impact of hernias on the wider community. The Ghanaian team suggested 1:1 conversations in easily accessible locations for rural patient contributors, creating a welcoming environment and addressing contributors in their local dialects. A UK-based Public Advisory Group helped in the initial stages of planning these conversations by highlighting potential barriers when approaching rural communities and advising on how to phrase questions around personal experiences. Conversations mainly focused on understanding the needs of hernia patients in rural Ghana to then incorporate these in the design of the TIGER trial to ensure its relevance, acceptability and feasibility. When talking to patient contributors, the GSU teams found that they were more likely to open up when they knew members of the team and the opportunity to speak to local leaders only arose because of the Ghanaian team members being well-respected amongst communities. The experiences of the patient and community contributors led to changes in the study protocol, such as including women in the patient cohort for the trial, and allowed the GSU teams to confirm the relevance and acceptability of this trial. These conversations also taught the team a lot about perceptions of health in rural communities, allowed the Ghanaian team to establish relationships with community leaders that can be utilised when future studies need input from the public, and has changed the minds of the Ghanaian research team about the importance of involving patients with research.
Conclusion: This paper contributes to the evidence base on successful CEI activities in LMICs by providing an example of how CEI can be planned and organised, and the benefits this provides. The conversations the teams had with patient contributors in Ghana are an example of successful patient consultations. Even though there are certain limitations to the extent of these involvement activities, a solid foundation has been built for researchers and community stakeholders to establish relationships for ongoing involvement.

Management of chronic non-communicable diseases in Ghana: a qualitative study using the chronic care model

Background
While the burden and mortality from chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) have reached epidemic proportions in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), decision-makers and individuals still consider CNCDs to be infrequent and, therefore, do not pay the needed attention to their management. We, therefore, explored the practices and challenges associated with the management of CNCDs by patients and health professionals.

Methods
This was a qualitative study among 82 CNCD patients and 30 health professionals. Face-to-face in-depth interviews were used in collecting data from the participants. Data collected were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results
Experiences of health professionals regarding CNCD management practices involved general assessments such as education of patients, and specific practices based on type and stage of CNCDs presented. Patients’ experiences mainly centred on self-management practices which comprised self-restrictions, exercise, and the use of anthropometric equipment to monitor health status at home. Inadequate logistics, work-related stress due to heavy workload, poor utility supply, and financial incapability of patients to afford the cost of managing their conditions were challenges that militated against the effective management of CNCDs.

Conclusions
A myriad of challenges inhibits the effective management of CNCDs. To accelerate progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on reducing premature mortality from CNCDs, the Ghana Health Service and management of the respective hospitals should ensure improved utility supply, adequate staff motivation, and regular in-service training. A chronic care management policy should also be implemented in addition to the review of the country’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) by the Ministry of Health and the National Health Insurance Authority to cover the management of all CNCDs.

Evaluation of postoperative refractive error correction after cataract surgery

Suboptimal cataract surgery outcomes remain a challenge in most developing countries. In Ghana, about 2 million people have been reported to be blind due to cataract with about 20% new cases being recorded yearly. The aim of this study was to evaluate postoperative correction of refractive errors after cataract surgery in a selected eye hospital in Ashanti Region, Ghana. This was a retrospective study where medical records of patients (aged 40–100) who reported to an eye hospital in Ghana from 2013–2018 were reviewed. Included in the study were patients aged ≥40 years and patients with complete records. Data on patient demographics, type of surgery, intra-ocular lens (PCIOL) power, availability of biometry, postoperative refraction outcomes, pre- and postoperative visual acuity were analyzed. Data of two hundred and thirteen eyes of 190 patients who met the inclusion criteria were analyzed. Descriptive analysis and Chi-square test were carried out to determine the mean, median, standard deviation and relevant associations. The mean ± SD age was 67.21±12.2 years (51.2% were females). Small Incision Cataract Surgery (99.5%) with 100% IOL implants was the main cataract surgery procedure in this study. Pre-operative biometry was performed for 38.9% of all patients on their first eye surgery and 41.5% for second eye surgeries. About 71% eyes in this study were blind (presenting VA<3/60) before surgery; 40.4% had post-operative VA <3/60. Pre-existing ocular comorbidities discovered post- surgery, attributed to suboptimal visual outcomes. More than half (55.3%) of patients did not undergo postoperative refraction due to loss to follow-up. Year of surgery (p = .017), follow up visits< 2months (p < .0001) and discovered comorbidity post-surgery (p = .035) were the factors significantly associated with postoperative refraction. Myopia and compound myopic astigmatism were the dominant refractive error outcomes. The timing of post-operative refraction had a significant effect on postoperative refraction done. These findings indicate a clinically meaningful significance between completion of postoperative care and postoperative refraction done. Consequently, with settings in most developing countries, where less biometry is done, it is appropriate that post-operative refractive services are encouraged and done earlier to enhance the patients’ expectations while increasing cataract surgery patronage.

Adopting localised health financing models for universal health coverage in Low and middle-income countries: lessons from the National Health lnsurance Scheme in Ghana

The health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) have recently increased awareness of the need for countries to increase fiscal space for health. Prior to these, many Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) had embraced the concept of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and have either commenced or are in the process of implementing various models of health insurance in order to provide financial access to health care to their populations. While evidence of a relationship between experimentation with UHC and increased access to and utilisation of health care in LMICs is common, there is inadequate research evidence on the specific health financing model that is most appropriate for pursuing the objectives of UHC in these settings. Drawing on a synthesis of empirical and theoretical discourses on the feasibility of UHC in LMICs, this paper argues that the journey towards UHC is not a ‘one size fits all’ process, but a long-term policy engagement that requires adaptation to the specific socio-cultural and political economy contexts of implementing countries. The study draws on the WHO’s framework for tracking progress towards UHC using the implementation of a mildly progressive pluralistic health financing model in Ghana and advocates a comprehensive discourse on the potential for LMICs to build resilient and responsive health systems to facilitate a gradual transition towards UHC.

Epidemiology of Surgical Amputations in Tamale Teaching Hospital, Ghana

The current study aimed to explore the details of surgical amputations in Tamale, Ghana. This was a retrospective descriptive study. We analyzed case files of 112 patients who underwent surgical amputations
between 2011 and 2017. Demographics, site of amputation, indication for amputation, and outcomes were
retrieved from case files. Descriptive statistics were used to report the means and frequencies. Associations
between variables were assessed using Chi-Square, ANOVA, and Student’s t-test. The mean age of the participants was 43.6±23.1 years (range 2 to 86). Most (64.3%) were males. Lower limb amputations accounted for most (78.6%) cases. Diabetic vasculopathy was the most prevalent indication (44.6%), followed by trauma (36.6%). The mean hospital stay was 30.1±22.4 days (range 5 to 120). Surgical site infection (17.9%) was the main complication. In our study setting, there is thus far limited capability for proper management of diabetes mellitus, which needs to be improved. There is also an urgent need for multidisciplinary foot care teams that will help patients receive comprehensive care to reduce complications from diabetes and other vasculopathies

A broken bone no longer a burden to carry: a destination in sight

Worldwide the third leading cause of death among persons under 40 years is attributed to trauma(1). In Ghana road traffic accidents have a case fatality rate of about 17%(3). Over the years with interventions and policies by AO Alliance the burden and morbidity following trauma especially road traffic accidents have reduced; with a destination in sight where a broken bone is no longer a burden to carry.

Injured and broke: The impacts of the Ghana National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) on service delivery and catastrophic health expenditure among seriously injured children

Introduction
Ghana implemented a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2003 as a step toward universal health coverage. We aimed to determine the effect of the NHIS on timeliness of care, mortality, and catastrophic health expenditure (CHE) among children with serious injuries at a trauma center in Ghana.

Methods
We performed a retrospective cohort study of injured children aged 0.10). Uninsured children were more likely to have a delay in care for financial reasons (17.3 vs 6.4%, p < 0.001) than insured children, and the families of uninsured children paid a median of 1.7 times more out-of-pocket costs than families with insured children (p < 0.001). Eighty-six percent of families of uninsured children experienced CHE compared to 54% of families of insured children (p < 0.001); however, 64% of all families experienced CHE. Insurance was protective against CHE (aOR 0.21, 95%CI 0.08–0.55). Conclusions NHIS did not improve timeliness of care, length of stay or mortality. Although NHIS did provide some financial risk protection for families, it did not eliminate out-of-pocket payments. The families of most seriously injured children experienced CHE, regardless of insurance status. NHIS and similar financial risk pooling schemes could be strengthened to better provide financial risk protection and promote quality of care for injured children.

Establishing a Sustainable Training Program for Laparoscopy in Resource-Limited Settings: Experience in Ghana

Background:
Healthcare equipment funded by international partners is often not properly utilized in many developing countries due to low levels of awareness and a lack of expertise. A long-term on-site training program for laparoscopic surgery was established at a regional hospital in Ghana upon request of the Ghana Health Service and local surgeons.

Objective:
The authors report the initial 32-month experience of implementing laparoscopic surgery focusing on the trainees’ response, technical independence, and factors associated with the successful implementation of a “new” surgical practice.

Methods:
Curricular structure and feedback results of the trainings for doctors and nurses, and characteristics of laparoscopic procedures performed at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital between January 2017 and September 2019 were retrospectively reviewed.

Findings:
Comprehensive training including two weeks of simulation workshops followed by animal labs were regularly provided for the doctors. Among the 97 trainees, 27.9% had prior exposure in laparoscopic surgery, 95% were satisfied with the program. Eleven nurses attained professional competency over 15 training sessions where none had prior exposure to laparoscopic surgery. Since the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy in February 2017, 82 laparoscopic procedures were performed. The scope of the surgery was expanded from general surgery (n = 46) to gynecology (n = 33), pediatric surgery (n = 2), and urology (n = 1). The volume of local doctors as primary operators increased from 0% (0/17, February to December 2017) to 41.9% (13/31, January to October 2018) and 79.4% (27/34, November 2018 to September 2019), with 72.5% of the cases being assisted by the expatriate surgeon. There were no open conversions, technical complications, or mortalities. Local doctors independently commenced endoscopic surgical procedures including cystoscopies, hysteroscopies, endoscopic neurosurgeries and arthroscopies.

Conclusion:
Sensitization and motivation of the surgical workforce through long-term continuous on-site training resulted in the successful implementation of laparoscopic surgery with a high level of technical independence.

Postoperative Pulmonary Complications in Complex Pediatric and Adult Spine Deformity: A Retrospective Review of Consecutive Patients Treated at a Single Site in West Africa

Study Design:
Retrospective review of consecutive series.

Objectives:
This study sought to assess the incidence, risk factors, and outcomes of pulmonary complication following complex spine deformity surgery in a low-resourced setting in West Africa.

Methods:
Data of 276 complex spine deformity patients aged 3 to 25 years who were treated consecutively was retrospectively reviewed. Patients were categorized into 2 groups during data analysis based on pulmonary complication status: group 1: yes versus group 2: no. Comparative descriptive and inferential analysis were performed to compare the 2 groups.

Results:
The incidence of pulmonary complication was 17/276 (6.1%) in group 1. A total of 259 patients had no events (group 2). There were 8 males and 9 females in group 1 versus 100 males and 159 females in group 2. Body mass index was similar in both groups (17.2 vs 18.4 kg/m2, P = .15). Average values (group 1 vs group 2, respectively) were as follows: preoperative sagittal Cobb angle (90.6° vs 88.7°, P = .87.), coronal Cobb angle (95° vs 88.5°, P = .43), preoperative forced vital capacity (45.3% vs 62.0%, P = .02), preoperative FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) (41.9% vs 63.1%, P < .001). Estimated blood loss, operating room time, and surgery levels were similar in both groups. Thoracoplasty and spinal osteotomies were performed at similar rates in both groups, except for Smith-Peterson osteotomy. Multivariate logistic regression showed that every unit increase in preoperative FEV1 (%) decreases the odds of pulmonary complication by 9% (OR = 0.91, 95% CI 0.84-0.98, P = .013). Conclusion: The observed 6.1% incidence of pulmonary complications is comparable to reported series. Preoperative FEV1 was an independent predictor of pulmonary complications. The observed case fatality rate following pulmonary complications (17%) highlights the complexity of cases in underserved regions and the need for thorough preoperative evaluation to identify high-risk patients.