Dr Daniel Mingle has stated that mental health care for cancer patients must be prioritised in Ghana.
“Oncology management is comprehensive but the psychological treatment is not reimbursed. Meaning mental health access is not a priority,” he charged.
“In people who are diagnosed with such diseases [as breast cancer], they need mental health assistance to help them first accept the diagnosis, and even agree to go and stay on therapy. So that part of the bill, if the patient is supposed to pay and can't afford to, what happens to the patient?” he questioned.
Dr Mingle, a public health physician specialist, asserted this care situation pushes desperate patients to places where they could be taken advantage of.
“This whole idea of patients moving to spiritualists, herbalists, sometimes, it is an awareness problem, but sometimes too it is a financial access problem,” he noted.
“Any person who is ill, would want to do something about his or her condition [but] the inability of such a person to afford a service will see them seeking care in other alternate healthcare practice centres like the prayer camps to see whether they can get relief," he added.
He also highlighted the National Health Insurance Scheme's (NHIS) graces in alleviating the financial burden on breast cancer patients.
“I think the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has done a bit of work. Once you are referred to a specialist, that consultation with the specialist is free. So that bit [of cost] has been taken off," Dr Mingle said.
"Once you get diagnosed, the treatment, the chemotherapy part of the treatment, is also free," he revealed.
"There are other treatments which we call biologics. These are monoclonal antibodies, like Herceptin, it's also free under the NHIS," he concluded on the successes of the NHIS and made a suggestion.
"What is left, I think, is the radiotherapy part," he said and added: "but most of the cases, or let me say, some of the cases, may not need radiotherapy but I think the NHIS is also working on reimbursing radiotherapy treatment."
A medical doctor at the 37 Military Hospital, he noted what the “NHIS has done is a step in the right direction and it's taken a lot of the financial burden off the patients” but added that more oncology centres have to be created and more oncologists trained to relieve “the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital [and other popular places]” of the “long queues.”
Dr Daniel Mingle was speaking to Class News’ Prince Benjamin on the sidelines of the maiden ‘Pink October: Breast Cancer Educational Talk’ organised by the Duala Medical Centre at the Garrison Methodist-Presbyterian Church, Burma Camp, Accra.