The establishment of a health fund in rural communities to reimburse and incentivize taxi drivers who transport to the closest health facilities, women having pregnancy-related or labour emergencies, has been identified as a key strategy to address maternal and child mortality in the country.
Stakeholders at a meeting to discuss the challenges and best practices of a Transport Union Support Services (TUSS) Project, implemented in the Ashanti Region from 2014 to 2017 to this effect, were of the belief that a community fund dedicated to this worthy cause, was critical to sustain the benefits of the project.
The project funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Ghana, and implemented in eight selected districts in the Ashanti Region, folded up in 2017, but will enter a second phase spanning 2019 and 2023 as UNFPA-Ghana provides funding for the next phase.
The stakeholders were of the view that the community health fund with regular inflows, was the way to go as an alternative funding to sustain the project after the final exit of the UNFPA.
The TUSS project, was a collaboration between the Ashanti Regional Coordinating Council (RCC), the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the various transport unions in the beneficiary districts and stakeholders maintain that it must be sustained due to the huge success it chalked.
The goal of the project, was to reduce delays in accessing emergency care for pregnant women in health facilities and ultimately contribute to the reduction in maternal and child mortality in the beneficiary districts.
Taxi drivers providing such services, would then be reimbursed by the District Assembly at a later date, after they had filed their claims.
It was against this background that the stakeholder meeting was held to discuss the challenges, best practices and lessons learnt, to ensure the smooth implementation of the second phase, to achieve the desired results.
They called for a strong collaboration between the assemblies and traditional authorities to set up the fund and levy community members.
Corporate bodies and other identifiable groups involved in income-generating activities, could also be targeted to contribute to the fund, they suggested.
Ms Vivian Araba Eshun, the Regional Public Health Nurse, said the Region recorded 218 maternal deaths, with the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) accounting for 136.
She attributed the needless deaths at KATH to late referrals, scanty information accompanying referrals and poor management in smaller facilities.
She said lack of transportation and ambulance services exacerbated emergency cases and applauded UNFPA-Ghana for the intervention.
Mr Isaac Kyeremateng, the Focal Person of the UNFPA at the RCC, said 16 districts would benefit from the current project in order to reach out to more pregnant women.
He said much as the project was aimed at eliminating the undue delays in accessing emergency care for pregnant women, it was to cater for pregnant women who genuinely could not pay the transportation fee.
He said inputs of the participants would form the basis for the region to make a strong case at the partner learning forum to be held in December in Accra.