exception to this rule. Mr. Speaker, it is said that the world is undergoing an unprecedented demographic change and it is estimated that in less than fifty years there would be more people for the first time in the history of the world who would be aged sixty years than people who are aged below fifteen years.
Mr. Speaker, this clearly indicates that the issue of the aged should be at the centre of our policy towards health in this country and indeed in the entire world. We must therefore take steps to meet the health needs of our older persons who are alive today and also plan ahead to meet the needs of the elderly who would be alive tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, the Address by His Excellency the President has been described in various terms, both within this Chamber and in the public domain. But for me, what is significant is the fact that it can be described as a policy guide or a working document for the President's appointees -- that is, the Ministers and other policy formulators and imple- menters -- to follow. Therefore, there should be no excuse or there should be no room for an excuse by any of the President's men, especially the Minister for Health to give the excuse that because the President did not mention a particular course of action that is why he has not included it in his plan.
I am particular about the healthcare needs of the elderly in this country. It has escaped mentioning by His Excellency the President and I hope that even though the President did not mention it in his Address, steps would be taken to take up this very critical and ever-emerging trend. There is an urgent need to integrate older persons' needs in our policy programmes and
development strategies, and there is the need for us to allocate adequate resources do deal with the growing numbers of older persons.
Mr. Speaker, there is the growing need to promote economic growth, healthy life and human security; thus we can create a society for all ages. This phenomenon has been described as active ageing, that is when one is growing older without growing old. In this way we can achieve better health, better ageing and better living as the National Democratic Congress (NDC) aptly described in its 2004 manifesto, “A Better Ghana”.
Mr. Speaker, majority of our elderly people still work especially in the informal sector. Last year, I remember that the best farmer award went to a 70-year-old grandmother. This goes to show that we still have a lot of old people who are doing a lot of good work for the economy of our nation.
Mr. Speaker, we must have a healthy policy that would include programmes that would ensure a minimum, decent living standard for the elderly and the poor, especially those in the deprived areas and who are still working to earn a living.
Mr. Speaker, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has been in existence for over 40 years now and I think that it is time for them to begin to introduce programmes that are aimed at capturing the pension and social security needs of our aged. Our hospitals and health centres should have clear-cut and favourable policies for the elderly. Sometime back there was the need to set up special departments called paediatric departments to take care of the needs of children.
There is therefore the need for us to set
up geriatric departments to take care of our aged. I believe that if a stakeholders meeting that would focus on population, ageing, health, poverty alleviation or wealth creation and other development issues as soon as possible is organized, it would lead us into taking the steps that would be desirable in meeting the needs of our old people.
Healthcare is still very expensive for the majority of Ghanaians. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) will definitely introduce some respite for the healthcare needs of Ghanaians. But almost two years after the Bill was passed in this honourable House, majority of people, especially in my constituency, East Ayawaso, are yet to experience any benefit whatsoever from the Scheme. As I speak, there is a 50-year old man from Nima who is in dire need of surgery to correct his abdominal ulcer at the nation's number one hospital, and he cannot come by the ¢21million that is required for this operation, and for that matter he has not been scheduled at all for the operation. There is a twelve-year old girl who was helping her mother to prepare the food for the Eid-il-Adha feast when we had the “Sallah” recently in Maamobi. Whilst doing that, she suffered severe burns that covered extensive parts of her body; I hold her picture here, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the little girl is in danger of suffering the dire consequences of inability to pay for medical care in Ghana today. Mr. Speaker, there is the need for special arrangements to be made for Ghanaians who are in the categories that I have just described.
Mr. Speaker, His Excellency the President says on page 9 of his Address and with your permission, I quote:
“A healthy mind lies in a healthy body.”
I also wish to draw attention to the quotation -
“poor health begets poverty and poverty also begets poor health.”
To explain further, I just wish to say that poor people are more exposed to environmental health hazards than people who are much more endowed, that is the rich. They suffer the hazards of contamination in their environments and therefore suffer from increased incidence of malaria, schistosomiasis, buruli ulcer and the rest.