The confluence of the struggle between the University of Ghana and the sudden departure of Vice-President, Dr. Alhaji Bawumia to seek care abroad has focused the nation's reluctant attention on our healthcare system.The struggle between Legon and the Government, acting through the Ministry of Health would be comic if healthcare was not such a life and death issue.
The government sent national security operatives to seize a hospital from University dons? What were they expecting? University authorities armed with "te aboofre" guns resisting the takeover?
Was the 617 bed facility not built by the government?
Who owns the University of Ghana? Is it not the people of Ghana through the government? So the University, which is owned by the government is fighting the government over ownership of a hospital built by the government?
To make the comedy complete, just after Professor Lawson made his "no surrender" declaration, he appealed to the government to make available a 48 million dollar loan to complete the facility that would be repaid over a number of years. Really, Prof!! And during the period of the loan, who would pay the staff of the hospital? The government the University resisted?
While the government has not explained its rationale, this dispute appears to be founded on the misperception that the UGTH will be profitable. That is unlikely unless it abandons what should be its core missions of educating health professionals and providing care to all, particularly the indigent. The truth is that even in the West, teaching hospitals are seldom profitable, because of their missions-- teaching and care. In Ghana, the financial downside of a teaching hospital's mission is even bigger, because of poverty.
It seems that too often, our policy makers have been attracted to the building of big hospitals as a solution to our healthcare challenges. While hospitals are essential, hospital care often comes late and is comparatively more expensive, relative to outpatient care provided in the community.
Indeed, the US government has demonstrated repeatedly that it’s most cost-effective or value-for-money programs is the Community Health Centers. These centers provide excellent care at a fraction of the cost of hospital care. These, centers, adapted from South Africa have shown that money is not everything in healthcare. And so has Cuba compared to America in health expenditures vs life expectancy.
Every healthcare expert can tell you that no amount of excellent care can make up for a poor immunization effort in a flu or meningitis epidemic.
We shall continue to build big hospitals as our healthcare declines. We should not require our leaders to get their care at home when we know that the care is inferior and they should not pretend our healthcare is good when they are not prepared to get care in the facilities. Let's end the hypocrisy.
Most of those dissing Dr. Bawumia would be doing exactly as he did in his shoes.
The NDC minority, as expected, took the side of Legon. I wish their statement had come from the Parliamentary Committee on health signed by members of both parties.If ever there was a case for summoning Parliament, this was it. There should be a Parliamentary hearing open to the public to, in the words of Kweku Baako, "interrogate this issue ". We should not squander this chance because of partisanship.
Let us build a healthcare system focused on prevention and primary care and stop the slogans and gleaming buildings that do little to lift our health.
Long live Ghana.
By: Arthur K