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Opinions Tue, 22 Jan 2019

Will government patronise the medical drone?

Every country needs a robust health system which will enable her to provide quality health care delivery to its people.

It is however not surprising that advanced countries like the United State of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Germany and the rest pay due attention to their health sector.

Ghana last year made progress in its health sector as parliament approved the drone deal that was presented to the house by the government. Prior to the approval of the deal, several misunderstandings did ensue between the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the majority New Patriotic Party (NPP).

There was the usual politicking of national issues in the House.

Is it necessary at all that we politicize every discussion in this country? At the house, the government (majority) justified why the drone is crucial for the survival of our health sector while the minority stressed on the danger the deal affords should it be approved. My question is, “will top government officials and politicians patronize the use of the drone”?

Vice president, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, said at the 2018 Annual Health Summit in Accra that, Ghana would by September 2018 use drones to distribute blood and other essential medicines to remote parts of the country as part of efforts to ensure quality health care delivery. Up until October 2018, this promise was not fulfilled. He reiterated government’s commitment while addressing participants at the UK-Ghana Investment Summit in Accra when his first deadline had passed.

We need to adapt to the technological changes that the world is currently facing and make every effort to make good use of it. In this 21st century, the use of technology is inevitable and as such, we need to embrace it. The days of “archaic technology” of the old are gradually winding up and are paving way for modern technology. It is not surprising therefore that advanced countries are where they are now because of technology.

How beneficial is the drone to the development of our health sector? We must commend the government for such innovative measures aimed at advancing the health system of the country. Prior to the approval of the deal in parliament, minority argued that the deal was overpriced as they speculated that the deal supposed to cost $100,000 is now priced $1million by the government per some distributions. They further raised the issue of sole sourcing as the contract was given to Zipline Ghana limited. Imani Africa similarly shared a similar view and suggested that the government should review the drone contract to minimize risk.

In as much as we applaud the government for such initiative, they need to be criticized for failing to engage the Ghana Medical Association (GMA); a stakeholder in the industry amongst others. For crying out loud these are the agencies who will be manning the drone. Should they not be informed? That was entirely unacceptable. Such innovation needs broader stakeholder consultation because its survival or collapse will have a great impact on the state.

Other schools of thought uphold the view that the whole initiative is a misplaced priority by the government as there exist many pressing needs that ought to be attended to. They raised issues of infrastructure, arguing that government should have concentrated in strengthening the infrastructure system first before advancing to that of the drone. Infrastructure aside, attention could be shifted to the provision of essential materials which will necessitate effective health care delivery. Although these are legitimate reasons, they cannot deprive the country to acquire the drone. Most at times we always cry for infrastructure when certain initiatives come up. Have you heard about the issue concerning the government should have built more secondary schools before advancing to enrol the Free Senior High education policy? I am very confident that if we are serious as a country, we would be able to tackle these issues concurrently.

Subsequently, parliament approved the drone deal by a majority decision as the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had 102 votes as against 58 for the National Democratic Congress (NDC). A lot of people have therefore censured the NDC for their hypocritical stance with regards to the drone. Surprisingly, their members on the health committee in parliament gave approval at the committee level which was further forwarded to the house for supplementary consideration and final approval.

Ghana has 275 members of parliament but currently is 174 because of the demise of the NPP member of Parliament for Ayawaso West Wuogon Mr Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko who died in November 2018 in the United State of America and out of these number, the NPP has 168 and with 106 for the NDC. Per the regulations of the house, the speakers are not supposed to participate in the voting of the house. Others opined that if the minority NDC were serious, they would have gone in their numbers and voted 105 as against 102 but this assertion does not add up. What this approval means is that Ghana will start to use drones to distribute blood this year.

In December 2018, the President Nana Akuffo Addo responding to questions from journalists at the Jubilee house said, “he prefers medical drones that will deliver essential health care services to the people of Ghana to invest in Guinea Fowls that will eventually fly to Burkina Faso”. Many Ghanaians, however, did not take delight in his remarks as some said the president went below the belt. Since Mr President prefers the drone that will deliver quality health care service to the people of Ghana to Guinea Fowls flying to neighbouring Burkina Faso, then it presupposes that he will patronize the drone for himself. If any of the ministers were sick, will he or she use the drone? Won’t they be transferred to the USA and UK for medical treatment as has been the case over the years?

One major problem that we have been facing as a country is that our leaders themselves fail to patronize the very things they bring out. When was the last time you heard of a President of this country seek medical care from home? When the Late President Prof. Evans Atta mills felt sick, he went to the United State to seek for medical treatment. Somewhere last year, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia also took some medical leave to the United Kingdom for some medical checkup. Don’t we have competent medical personnel who can deliver quality health care service in Ghana?

Each year government allocates huge sums of money to the health sector yet, we spend huge amounts of money on these dignitaries to seek medical care outside Ghana. This is clearly an indictment on the Ghana medical society and I feel this to a larger extent is unfair. We are not making good use of them neither are we trusting their efficiency. “Year in year out we churn out graduates from the medical school yet still if any head of state is suffering from common cold, they would prefer to go to Europe to get treatment and when you ask them why they would tell you that they are not suicidal. Now that we have the drone, I guess they would also use it”.

I saw this striking quote on a friend’s status which indeed led me to come up with this piece. Do we have the facilities as a country? The answer is yes. The likes of Korle bu, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi and the recent facility at the University of Ghana campus; the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC) amongst several others. Meanwhile, each year we get qualified Doctors and Nurses who come out from our various Tertiary Institutions, yet we do not make good use of their capabilities.

Most at times, the government waits for strike action from these medical professionals before they act. The idea of flying government officials abroad for a medical checkup is a big insult to our Nurses and Doctors. Let us have confidence in our medical personnel and support them so they can deliver quality health care service to the people in this country. Also, it is important to note that they lack several facilities and resources rendering them inefficient.

I hope our Members of Parliament, our Metropolitan, Municipal, District Chief Executives, (MMDCEs), the President and his family members, Vice President and his family members and all other government officials will patronize the drone delivery system. Technology is inevitable and as such we must learn to adapt quickly and grow alongside as a country. Ghana must work again. Ghana will work again. YOUNG POSITIVIST, a concerned citizen of Ghana.

Columnist: Myjoyonline.com
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