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In a very humorous way, the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, now prefers to be called ‘Drones Minister, especially by his colleague Members of Parliament (MPs) on the other side of the political divide.
The Minister, who could not hide his joy following the launch of the drone project to deliver emergency health care products to health centres, accepted the name given to him by his colleagues in Parliament.
Delivering his remarks at a ceremony yesterday at Omenako in the Eastern Region to launch the ‘Fly to Save a Life’ project, the Minister recalled that when the government introduced the project to Parliament, his colleagues started calling him Drones Minister.
He added that despite the challenging processes, he is proud for the fact that his sector had successfully worked for President Akufo-Addo’s vision to see the light of day.
“In Parliament now, some of my colleagues call me the Drones Minister. But, from today, when I get to Parliament, I will announce that they should stop calling me Kwaku Agyemang Manu and call me the Drones Minister,” he said to loud laughter from the dignitaries.
However, the Vice President, launching the project, described it as part of the Akufo-Addo-led administration’s commitment to improve health care delivery in the country.
He said that but for the hard work, dedication, and commitment of the government, the project would have remained a dream, adding that good health care was key towards the sustainable development of every nation.
He believed that the drone project will prevent a lot of deaths caused by the late delivery of medicines or other health care products, emphasising that with the drones, all referrals based on lack of medicines will be avoided.
A demonstration was done as part of the launch in which health care products were packed in a drone at the medical ‘warehouse’ of the Omenako facility and delivered to the Tafo Hospital, which is about one hour’s drive from Omenako.
After packing the requested health care products in the drone, the destination was set through the help of a Global Positioning System (GPS) location.
The drone was placed on a machine described as the launcher, en route to the destination. The receiving health facility was notified through a phone call. Within 15 minutes, the hospital received the package and the drone returned. It was retrieved by a recovery system made up of metal and solid rope set up at the facility.
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of the Ghana Health Service, indicated that the project was a performance-based private public partnership. He explained that Zipline would only be paid upon a delivery, thus, no delivery, no pay.
Apart from the Eastern Region, Dr Nsiah said the centre would reach the Greater Accra and Central regions.
The drones fly autonomously and can carry 1.8 kilogrammes of cargo, cruising at 110 kilometers an hour, and have an all-weather round trip range of 160 kilometres. Each Zipline distribution center can deliver to an area of 20,000 km2.
The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from 4 distribution centers – each equipped with 30 drones – and deliver to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country. About 150 medical products would be distributed.
Together, all four distribution centers will make up to 600 on-demand delivery flights a day on behalf of the Government of Ghana. Each Zipline distribution center has the capacity to make up to 500 flights per day.
The Omenako facility, the first of about four earmarked, has 20 staff, who are all Ghanaians, operating the drone facility.
The Okyenhene, Amoatia Ofori Panin II, who was delighted such a project was kick-started in his territory, called for a proper maintenance culture, and honesty and commitment among the staff and stakeholders.
The Chief Executive Officer for Zipline International, Mr Keller Rinuado, said, since launching its drone delivery service in Rwanda in October of 2016, Zipline has flown over one million autonomous kilometres. The company has made more than 13,000 deliveries, about a third of which have been in emergencies when someone’s life was on the line.
Zipline now delivers more than 65% of Rwanda’s blood supply outside of the capital, Kigali.
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