Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr.Anthony Nsiah-Asare has said, centres of excellence for the treatment of sickle cell will be established across the country to fight the disease.
Speaking at the Inaugural World Sickle Day Lecture in Accra, under the theme, “Blood is Thicker than Water,” the Director General said, the move would ensure that newborn babies were diagnosed and put on early treatment to save their lives.
“With the centers of excellence in place, we can screen newborn babies to ensure they live a normal life after being diagnosed of the sickle cell disease,” he stated.
He added that, “sickle cell should not be a death sentence and measures must be put in place to save the lives of children.”
Currently he said health workers had been trained on how to manage the disease with the introduction of the hydroxyrea drug, for the treatment of sickle cell.
“In February, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between government and global pharmaceutical company, Novartis to provide the drug for the country and together with the center of excellence, death related to sickle cell could become a thing of the past,” he stressed.
The drugs, he said had already started coming in and would need the support of all, especially the government to sustain the programme.
In that regard, President of the Sickle Cell Foundation Ghana (SCFG), Prof. Kwaku Ohene- Frempong called on the government to come on board through the National Health Insurance Scheme(NHIS) to make the drug accessible to all.
“The NHIS must pick up the drug so that the next consignment from Novartis would be free for all at the health centers,” he stated.
Currently he said, Novartis is offering the drug at half price to all but there was still a challenge and the government must take it up to save the children.
“We also need to continue creating the awareness on the disease, especially on the fact that anyone can be affected despite the race,” he said.
The disease, he said had been around for a long time and the fight against sickle cell was a global one.
The Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee, SCFG, Prof. Solomon F. Ofori-Acquah also stressed the need for a global approach to the fight against sickle cell.
He asked for more collaboration among African countries, with Ghana taking the lead to ensure the next generation would not die from the disease.
Group Head of Global Health and Corporate Relations at Novartis, Dr. Patrice Matchaba said the outfit was committed to helping Ghana and Africa at large to fight sickle cell.