Jul. 10 (GIN) – Government officials call it a “development levy” but for the sick and needy, the new fees for medical services at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital are onerous and discouraging.

The new fees affect both in- and out-patients at Ghana’s second largest health facility. They reportedly will be used to pay for minor repairs and “staff motivation,” at a time when Ghana sits on some of the world’s biggest reserves of gold and bauxite, as well as considerable amounts of offshore oil.

Reaction to the new charges which came into effect this month has been negative from the public and the hospital staff.

Public Relations Officer Kwame Frimpong defended the fees. “We have only one Komfo Anokye. It acts as a regional hospital, district hospital and it’s a tertiary facility. We all owe it a duty to contribute our bit to ensure that clinical services are not interrupted”.

Weaknesses in Ghana’s insurance-based health system were recently outlined by the Oxfam development agency. “As little as 18% of Ghanaians are covered – and those are the more affluent members of society,” they wrote. “The 82% excluded from the insurance scheme are still paying the user fees introduced by the World Bank some 25 years ago.”

“Millions who cannot afford to pay are not getting the treatment they need… Scandalously, because this is largely a tax-funded scheme, this means the poor are paying for the health of the rich.”

“Cost-sharing” was one of the recommendations in a new report by the World Bank on “Health Financing in Ghana at a Crossroads.”

The report sparked outrage by the Ghana Free Universal Access to Health Care Campaign for coming just as governments across the world are being urged to invest more in their health sectors and to ensure universal access to health care. They wrote: “The World Bank (should) stay off our health sector, and let the nation Ghana be.”