President of the Ghana Medical Association and Medical Superintendent of the Bekwai Government Hospital, Dr. Frank Serebour, has stated that if THE Electricity Company disconnects power to the facility, staff will have no option than to stay at home.

The National Taskforce of the Electricity Company of Ghana plans to cut electricity to 91 hospitals, including the Bekwai Government Hospital, due to outstanding debts totaling GHc261 million.

Dr. Serebour, in an interview with Kojo Marfo on AbusuaNkommo at ABUSUA965FM, stated that they were unafraid of the threats emphasizing that the facilities were not privately owned by the management of the hospital.

“We’re not afraid of these threats; if our lights are cut off, we won’t hesitate to stay at home, it is surprising that for a big facility like Bekwai Government Hospital, we have one meter. Even the 2 million cedis debt they’re quoting appears underestimated because I think it’s beyond that,” he stressed.

Painting a picture about the gravity of ECG’s threats, He wondered how the hospital could have managed the 27 badly injured road accident patients who were rushed to his hospital over the weekend with multiple wounds and broken bones if the hospital didn’t have power.

He pointed out that the government’s expectation that hospitals used part of the claims for national health-insured services to pay for utility bills was not practicable.

“If I receive my claims, my utility bills alone form some two-thirds of the amount. If I have to purchase medical consumables and medications, do you expect me to risk the lives of the patients to pay for electricity bills?” he queried.

He expressed concern if the government did not settle the debt, hospitals would be compelled to shift the cost to patients with its attendant consequences on the cost of healthcare to the ordinary Ghanaian.

“Even with drugs, if you don’t manage well, you can’t recover the cost of it. This is why we continue to hear about top-ups,” Dr. Serebour further lashed out.

He noted that if push came to shove to save the hospital from shut down, his management would be forced to begin billing patients to offset the electricity bills.

“I’m yet to meet the management of the hospital, and we can’t pay it ourselves; it’s the patients who will bear the cost. We will ensure that patients pay for electricity separately,” he hinted.

Dr Serebuor called for a national discussion about the billing of emergency service providers like hospitals and how utility costs should be allocated and shared to avoid such unnerving episodes.

90% of our clients are on health insurance. If we truly want hospitals to pay their electricity bills, we must sit down, discuss and plan that every time insurance pays us, there should be realistic tariffs allocated for water and electricity with no hidden fees. These charges should be added to bills and paid for; otherwise, no hospital can afford to pay these bills,” he stated.

The subject of hospitals paying their own utility bills stoked controversy when the Ministry of Health (MoH) directed all government health facilities to from June 1, 2023 use Internally Generated Funds (IGF) to pay their electricity bills.

Source: Ghana/ Owusu