21.12.2021 Feature Article

Open Letter To The Ghana Health Service

Open Letter To The Ghana Health Service
21.12.2021 LISTEN

Kindly permit me a small space to bring to the attention of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) directorate a concern and some observation I have made at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in Accra, Ghana.

Firstly, let me say a big THANK YOU to the President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo and the officers of the Ghana Health Service and Ministry of Health for instituting stringent measures aimed at curbing the spread of the ongoing Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic and more recently the Omicron variant.

I have travelled to other countries in recent times and it is always refreshing to hear the good stories being told about Ghana`s determination and commitment to fighting the virus. This is an enviable and great achievement.

The recent announcement by President Akuffo Addo that all passengers travelling to Ghana must ensure they are vaccinated before arrival in Ghana received mixed reactions from citizens. That notwithstanding that approach has been hailed by some members of the international community.

Because of this requirement however among other things, traveling into the jurisdiction has become a bit painful, stressful, and sometimes more chaotic. In fact, those days when traveling was fun are gone for good as a result of these tight regulations.

Today, I share my personal experience on the COVID-19 measures at the Kotoka International Airport. On 17th December 2021, I joined about 150 passengers in a Kenya Airways flight from Sierra Leone to Ghana. We arrived at Kotoka International Airport around 9:00pm.

As fate would have it, much bigger flights like British Airways, KLM and Brussels Airlines landed within a space of 30-40minutes interval. I may not have the exact number of persons who were on board these flights, but your guess is as good as mine. The Airport was packed and filled with an estimated number of 600-700 passengers that evening due to the bigger flights.

There came the horrific exit protocols staring at me. Let me admit that, since I had completed and paid the USD50 (USD150 for non-Ghanaians) COVID-19 test fee, completed the Ghana Health Service requirements online (using the HDF Reference/Unique ID on the payslip) and followed the laid down process to undertake the COVID-19 test, it was relatively smoother and faster – in spite of the long queue. After this exercise, I went through the internal arrival rudiments to pick my luggage.

The process requires that, before a passenger moves out of the airport the passenger must obtain a manually printed COVID 19 laboratory results before the immigration officers will allow the passenger to exit. This is where I found an unbelievable and hectic process that passengers had to go through to obtain a printed COVID-19 laboratory report and show to custom officials before exit. There may be reasons best known to GHS for doing this but with all humility, this is not an efficient approach.

What amazes me is that, as soon as the COVID-19 test is taken, travellers are advised to be intermittently checking for the status at using the passenger’s passport number to confirm if the laboratory report is ready. The question I and other passengers asked was that, why was the COVID-19 laboratory report itself not automated for those who may need it.

Meanwhile, this same report I queued to obtain is electronically signed by MLS Lawrence Annison. In my case, I didn’t cut corners, I followed the laid down process and eventually left the airport at 11:45pm (thus spending 2hours 45minutes) - all due to the cumbersome protocols. It wasn’t fun! And only God knows what was going through my head. In any case, it wasn’t also the first time using the airport.

Every process implemented requires a review at some point in time. The essence is to ease traffic flow and reduce the stress passengers, who have travelled an average 4-6hours to be in Ghana, go through. In view of the above, I recommend the following for your kind consideration with the technical team:

  1. Automate the entire process of obtaining the ‘COVID-19 laboratory report’ after the test is taking at the arrival hall so that, passengers can show the results to Custom/Immigration officers and exit quickly.
  2. There should be the option for a passenger who prefers the manual print out of the COVID-19 Laboratory Report to access same through the current procedure.
  3. Due to the Christmas festivities, there will be a lot of travellers to KIA, it may be good to increase the personnel printing the laboratory results.

I am sure I may possibly not be using the right words to describe the disturbing situation at the Airport but it is worth noting that other travellers (both first time and regular) also expressed dissatisfaction and the painful experience they go through at the Airport. I believe that, to be the gateway and hub for the aviation industry in the sub-region, we will have to pay close attention to the teething challenges which frustrate passengers and threaten the drive to achieve this goal.

Maybe I am exaggerating but I think it will be important for our media personnel to take key interest in this and evaluate this claim. As the president of the republic encourages us to be citizens and not spectators, it`s in the same spirit that this problem is highlighted.

I therefore do not have interest in degrading the good work done by the health ministry but exploring alternatives to improve life, wellbeing and precious time spent at the arrival hall. I will check again on 29th January 2022 and reassess the situation.

God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are personal views and doesn’t represent that of the media house or institution the writer works.

Credit Mrs Miriam Amoako,

About the writer

Carl Odame-Gyenti, PhD is a Finance and Investment professional, Director and Country Head, Client Coverage of an International Bank in Sierra Leone. Contact: [email protected] , Cell: +233 200301110