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MEDICAL DRONES DEAL GETS PARLIAMENTARY OKAY

Health & Lifestyle

Members of Parliament yesterday approved a service agreement between the Government of Ghana, represented by the Ministry of Health, and Fly Zipline Ghana Ltd for delivery of emergency health and blood products to public health facilities in Ghana.

Members of Parliament yesterday approved a service agreement between the Government of Ghana, represented by the Ministry of Health, and Fly Zipline Ghana Ltd for delivery of emergency health and blood products to public health facilities in Ghana.

The four-year contract, which is estimated to be worth a maximum US$12.5 million, will serve over 2,500 facilities of the Ministry of Health, with a monthly payment of $175 per facility per month for 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, instant access to almost any emergency supply item that a particular facility might need.

The deal was supposed to be approved or disapproved on Wednesday, but was stepped down by the Speaker after the Minority side raised concerns.

Goes to a headcount

However, the deal was finally approved yesterday by a headcount.

Before the count, the Speaker put the resolution to a voice vote, which was challenged by the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mohammed-Mubarak.

The Minority Chief Whip believed the Nos had it but the Speaker thought otherwise. The Speaker called for a headcount to settle the matter.

After the headcount, the results confirmed the Speaker’s ruling that the resolution should be carried. Those in support of the motion were 102: those who opposed it were 58. With this, Parliament approved the agreement.

Inefficient old arrangement

Meanwhile the director general of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Nsiah Asare, has insisted there is nothing criminal in the execution of the drone health service delivery agreement.

According to him, figures recently bandied about by the Minority National Democratic Congress, led by the party’s spokesman on finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, are inaccurate and mischievous.

Outlining the importance of the project on the Newsfile political talkshow last Saturday, Dr Nsiah Asare noted that the service of supplying blood and other essential drugs to patients is already being undertaken across the country at a cost, albeit inefficiently.

The GHS boss said that introducing the drones could only improve efficiency in the supply of drugs using technology.

Costs

Dr Nsiah Asare explained that contrary to claims by Mr Forson, the government is not buying the drones, let alone paying $1m for each aircraft. These will be paid for not by the government, but by corporate institutions, he said. The state will cover only the cost of services to be rendered by the drones.

He said blood and drug supply services are already being paid for by the Ghana Health Service, though this is being done in an inefficient way. If a patient is hospitalised at Begoro or any other town and needs blood from Korle Bu, usually a relative of that patient gets into a vehicle at one location and makes his or her way to another.

This comes at great cost, Dr Nsiah Asare said, as one must also pay for the blood or essential drug before returning to the hospital where the relative has been hospitalised.

In many cases, the patient dies solely because of delays in providing the item, he said.

Under the drones system, a request can be made on behalf of a patient by a health attendant at a hospital or CHPS compound, and within 15 to 30 minutes a drone will supply the drug or blood required, Dr Nsiah-Asare said.