Sunyani (B/A), Jan. 17, GNA - Mr. Francis Tapena, acting Brong Ahafo Regional Manager of Ghana Tourist Board (GTB), expressed worry about low awareness on best environmental and sanitation practices among caterers in the country.
He said consequently, the Board in collaboration with Ghana Traditional Caterers Association (GTCA), has been organising public awareness programmes and training for their members to improve upon sanitation and hygiene, Mr Tapena cited that the GTB has since 2004 trained an average of 700 operators in the catering sector annually.
He was speaking in an interview with GNA in Sunyani on Thursday, after attending a meeting with stakeholders in the catering sector drawn from the region.
The meeting organised by the Brong Ahafo Regional executives of the association, was aimed at explaining to participants the need for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to cover the yearly mandatory medical health screening and related issues for members of GTCA. They included representatives from Sunyani Municipal Health Directorate, Regional office of the NHIS and the Environmental Health and Sanitation Unit of the Regional Health Directorate. Mr. Tapena said that the coverage would help minimise the incidence of communicable diseases that could deter customers in particular and the general public from patronizing the services of Caterers. He after the event "Qualified staff should in turn pass on their skills to their untrained colleagues".
Mr. Tapena appealed to the association to ensure that members and non-members registered with the GTB to enable them to obtain license so that they could benefit from the Board's training programmes. He said the GTB has also been assisting the association "to address the issue of multiplicity of taxes from various government agencies which affect their cost of doing business".
Mr. Tapena praised GTCA for initiating plans to address inequalities in the execution of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
He advised members of GTCA "to employ in the interim persons who have already registered with the NHIS and maintain core qualified staff".
Mr. Casely Hayford Ababio, regional president of the association, was dissatisfied that "the NHIS is not covering the screening and its attendant requirements which is a prerequisite for operating a catering service".
He said, however, that about 60-70 per cent of Ghanaians including tourists patronised the services of caters on daily basis. Mr Ababio said "the inclusion of members of the association on the benefit list will motivate a lot if not all operators to undergo the mandatory screening, which will eventually reduce if not overcome the menace of communicable diseases that affects the health of the people". Dr. David Opare, Sunyani Municipal Director of Health Services, said that the NHIS was taking into account public health interventions but only dealt with sick people and emphasized that, "it is not yet ripe to address public health interventions".
He advised GTCA to ensure that members registered with the NHIS and pay their social security contributions as well, so that they would be automatically covered by the scheme.