Government has proposed introducing a COVID-19 Health Levy of a one percentage point increase in the National Health Insurance Levy and a one percentage point increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) Flat Rate to support expenditures related to COVID-19.
It said the COVID-19 Health Levy had become necessary as the pandemic had caused additional health spending that far exceeded the annual budget for health.
Presenting the 2021 Budget Statement and Economic Policy in Accra on Friday, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, said the Government needed funds to recruit more healthcare professionals in addition to 100,000 recruited in the first term of President Nana Akufo-Addo.
He said in 2021, Government would continue with the construction of the Koforidua Regional Hospital, Shama District Hospital, La General Hospital, Tema Regional Hospital, and the reconstruction of the Central Medical Store, a district hospital at Nkoranza, and Accident and Emergency Centre at the Dormaa Hospital.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said to manage the pandemic, Government in 2020 expanded the health workforce by recruiting 58,191 personnel into various agencies in the health sector, comprising 50,970 permanent staff and 7,221 temporary workers.
He said Government provided financial clearance for the employment of additional 24,285 health professionals between March and June 2020.
This was made possible through the Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP I & II) as well as the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP).
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is also the Caretaker Minister of Finance, said the Government also expanded the capacities of laboratories to increase COVID-19 testing and established isolation centres in all regions and districts to manage the cases.
He said government also provided 3.6 million reusable face masks, 50,000 medical scrubs, 90,000 hospital gowns and head covers to health facilities as at June 2020.
“Similarly, 50 per cent of basic salary as allowances for frontline health workers, waived Income Tax for all healthcare workers, and waived Income Tax on the 50 per cent allowances were paid to frontline health workers,” he said.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said government was working assiduously to secure vaccines for 20 million Ghanaians to enable the country to attain herd immunity by the end of this year.
“…Until we achieve herd immunity, we cannot let our guard down if we are to contain the spread of this virus, we must all commit to taking the vaccines in addition to adhering to the COVID-19 protocols instituted for our safety and gradual return to full economic activities,” he said.
The Minister noted that while COVID-19 had been a major disruptive force, it had reinforced the nation’s conviction to transform society and to do so with greater urgency.