Break new grounds in research - JAK
Accra, June 2, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Thursday called on the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) to break new grounds in research and capacity building saying this would ultimately influence health policy on the entire continent of Africa.
President Kufuor was speaking at the inauguration of a 600,000-dollar building funded by the Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Tala Abdulaziz Al-Saudi, for clinical research into malaria, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition by the NMIMR.
The facility, named the "Prince Al-Waleed Building for Clinical Research into Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Malnutrition", has a conference room, four consulting rooms, two offices, a laboratory, eight wards with 16 beds, two store rooms, a kitchen, nurses station, two data management offices and an IT server room.
Prince Al-Waleed made a donation of one million dollars (8.6 Billion Cedis) when he visited the country in April 2003, to three institutions in the health and education sectors.
Six hundred thousand dollars of the amount went to the health sector for research into malaria, malnutrition in children and HIV/AIDS, 300,000 dollars for pre-school education of the Ministry of Education and Sports and 100,000 dollars for the Otumfuo Education Fund. President Kufour said government would continue to support the Institute to enable it to function even better to the benefit of the nation and the entire continent of Africa.
He, however, stated that the nation was counting on the work of researchers and lecturers at the Institute to help minimize further the burden of diseases and sicknesses that continued to afflict the people and undermine productivity while taking a heavy toll on the national budget.
The President said many African governments invested significant parts of their revenues into health care delivery, yet access to health care continued to be elusive and unaffordable to many due to their level of poverty.
The President said Ghana, not being an exception to the dilemma, took a bold decision and introduced a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), to overcome the problem.
He announced that currently 32 schemes were fully functional and were managing claims, while 68 more were preparing identity cards for registered clients.
"The remaining 23 are at various stages of preparation and we expect about a 100 more schemes to be fully operational and managing claims and benefits by the end of June."
President Kufour said urged all operators of the scheme to endeavour to bring them on stream quickly for the benefit of their prospective clients and that government would continue to lend its weight to the scheme until its benefits became clear to all. He further stated that the government was determined to work in partnership with the people and genuine investors to accelerate the development of the nation.
Prince Al-Waleed, thanked the government of Ghana for the opportunity to put up the structure and said he was ever prepared to assist improve the health sector with the government's support.
Prof. David Ofori-Agyei, Director, NMIMR, thanked the Saudi Prince for recognising the important contribution of medical research to national development.
He said the institute, since its establishment in 1979, had been conducting researches into both communicable and infectious diseases and nutrition, offering post-graduate training and supporting public health programmes of government.
He explained that the donation was the largest to be received by the institute and therefore the University Council deemed it appropriate that the building was named after Prince Al-Waleed, with his approval. Prof. Ofori-Agyei said the building was a lasting memorial that would enhance research into health problems of national importance, help expand the training of post-graduate medical researchers and offer high laboratory support to public health programmes.
"Further to these the facility will be used to conduct human studies involving the clinical testing of both orthodox and herbal drugs and vaccines."
He explained that though the facility was not a hospital or clinic in the regular sense, both healthy and sick persons may be admitted and given vaccines, and be observed for the effects of the vaccines through physical examinations and laboratory investigations.
"This will allow us to determine whether the drug does what it is expected to do, its side effect and adverse effects."
Prof. Ofori-Agyei appealed for additional support to enable the institute to acquire equipment and training to raise the operations of the facility to international standards.
Oyeeman Wereko Ampem II, Chancellor of the University of Ghana and Chief of Amanokrom, commended the Institute for living up to expectation.
He stated that since the establishment of the University, it had established institutes linked to faculties or departments respectively for the purposes of building the "Ivory Tower", on the foundations of the market lace.
He said these Institutes were expected to respond to real life situations found in their specific spheres of endeavours and they could only do so primarily through research, service and teaching, which the NMIMR had being providing for years.
Oyeeman Wereko Ampem said he was pleased with the standing of the Institute and the contribution it was making in the improvement of life in the country.
"Available reports indicate that the institute has gained both national and international recognition as a centre of excellence for biomedical research in the tropical environment."
He stated that he was also confident that with the addition of the Clinical Research facility to its string of newly acquired research and service facilities, it would be leading example of African contributing to the solution of their own problems.