This would enable prisoners have quick and easy access to medical care, a dream which has been illusive to the prisons authorities for years
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in collaboration with the National Health Insurance Authority has freely registered 1000 inmates of the Nsawam Medium Security Prison under the National Health Insurance Scheme.
The exercise would be extended to cover all prisoners across the country.
This would enable prisoners have quick and easy access to medical care, a dream which has been illusive to the prisons authorities for years.
The sector minister, Nana Oye Lithur said, this obligation is part of the ministry's mandate to ensure the empowerment of the vulnerable, excluded, aged and persons with disability through the use of social protection and other interventions.
She said since last year a total of 5,597 vulnerable persons in the Greater Accra, Eastern, Volta, Ashanti and Central Regions have been registered under the scheme.
According to Oye Lithur, the Prisons Service spends One million Ghana cedis annually on the medicals of both inmates and officers of the service. The Nsawam Prison alone spends GH¢ 39,000 annually.
As a result of this, the free registration of inmates would certainly result in savings for the prison service.
The Minister added that if inmates of prisons are able to have quick access to social services, especially health, it could contribute to the process of reformation.
The Director-General of Prisons, Matilda Baffour-Awuah said the prison service is mandated by law to ensure the safe custody and welfare of prisoners and to undertake their reformation and rehabilitation.
She said it is unfortunate to note that the prison system has been bedeviled with serious challenges ranging from dilapidated structures, overcrowding to insanitary conditions and lack of funds as well as medical facilities to provide an acceptable level of medical care for inmates in prisons custody.
Madam Baffour-Awuah disclosed that the service currently owes the health providers a whopping amount of GH¢1,016,988.
She said what is more disturbing is the fact that prison infirmaries which are supposed to be the first point of call for sick prisoners, do not have the requisite healthcare personnel or equipment and drugs to deliver any appreciable standard of healthcare.
The Director-General said the service has also failed to attract the needed qualified medical personnel to work in the prisons infirmaries.
The Nsawam Clinic which is the only one of its kind in the service is virtually empty with scanty drugs and equipment. She said the situation arises because the service does not have the capacity to pay cash up-front for the needed medical care.
Madam Baffour-Awuah said it is for these reasons that the Prisons Administration sees this intervention by the ministry and NHIA very timely and a relief.
The Chief Executive Officer of NHIA, Nathaniel Otoo assured the prisoners that their cards are valid not only within the prisons but everywhere in the country.