To assist public health crises, including catastrophes, the government has been encouraged to rebrand the COVID-19 Levy as the Emergency Levy and maintain it at 1%.
The emergency tax would be a strategic step towards the formation of the public health emergency fund (PHEF) without the need for new legislation, according to a statement released after the completion of a symposium on Ghana’s preparedness for catastrophes.
In collaboration with the Ghana Health Service, SEND Ghana, and other development partners, the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) convened the conference.
Its focus was on the role of academics in establishing a public health emergency fund (PHEF).
The establishment of the emergency tax, according to the communiqué, would enable Ghana to address the absence of critical expenditures in public health emergencies, as shown by the insufficient budgetary allocations set aside for foreseeable emergencies.
According to the report, the 1% COVID-19 tax, which was put in place to lessen the effects of the pandemic and was projected to bring in close to GH2.3 billion in 2023 alone, might operate as seed money for the creation of the public health emergency fund (PHEF).
The statement added that the PHEF may be used for preparation efforts, including capacity building and training of frontline workers, laboratory detection and diagnostics, medication discovery, vaccine manufacture, research and development including clinical trials, and more.
It further said that monitoring and surveillance initiatives will be supported in order to improve early detection and response to public health emergencies.
The statement also urged the government to establish distinct budget lines that would act as matching funds to expand the PHEF and enable bilateral support as well as extra financing from generous people and other nonprofit groups.
It was said that the PHEF should be established as a separate organisation, free from government involvement, to guarantee impartial decision-making and efficient use of funding.
According to the communiqué, in order to uphold public confidence and guarantee efficient resource use, the governance structure of the PHEF should emphasise openness and accountability at all levels and offer clear methods for financial reporting, audit, and assessment.
The communique noted that because epidemics and emergencies frequently begin in local communities, PHEF should have clearly defined structures and pathways that connect the national level to the regional, district, and sub-district levels to enable effective coordination and response at all levels of the healthcare system.
It reaffirmed the need for a structure of open and efficient governance that would inspire trust and draw in multilateral, bilateral, and charitable partners to support the expansion of the PHEF.
In order to analyse the impact of public health events, identify areas for improvement, and maintain a state of preparation for upcoming outbreaks or emergencies, the statement also recommended that post-epidemic actions concentrate on ongoing monitoring and surveillance.