Generally, health affects productivity. In light of this, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 3 which talks about Universal Health Coverage (UHC) seeks to address the health care needs of people to influence their productivity. UHC means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need, at good quality and without suffering financial hardship.
Over the past one year the issue of no-bed-syndrome in our Health facilities in Ghana has come-up strongly for discussion. In the face of the No-Bed-Syndrome and its attendant fatalities, a number of state-of-art Hospitals have been completed or near completion but have been abandoned for various reasons. In some instances, the reasons have been purely on Management issues. That is the Management formula. Who takes what quantum of shares? For others, it has been mainly on Value for money Audit reasons. For the rest, the issue has been whose legacy the project is?
In the case of the University of Ghana Medical Centre, the issue has been purely on who gets to manage the facility. The facility which is a Quaternary Medical and Research Centre is a 650-bed capacity hospital. Because of this tussle between Management of the University of Ghana and the Ministry of Health, the Hospital has been partially shut-down for over one year. Well-meaning citizens called for the immediate opening and operationalization of the facility but this fell on deaf ears. The saying that “when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers” may be relevant here. Thankfully, I understand the impasse between the two parties over the ownership has been settled now, where the Government will take 60 per cent of the shares whilst the University to take 40 per cent.
Does it matter who manages the University of Ghana Medical Centre?
The answer is simply YES.
Does it have to take more than one year to decide the management formula for the Hospital?
The answer is simply NO.
On 21 March 2020, the Government announced that the University of Ghana Medical Centre will serve as a quarantine Centre for COVID-19 cases.
Should we as a Nation wait for crisis times like the instant case of COVID-19 to do the right things? I guess NO.
Let me move away from the UGMC issue to the Bank of Ghana Hospital matter. The Bank of Ghana Hospital is a 60-bed capacity Hospital that I understand was financed by the Bank of Ghana which is meant to serve the Bank’s staff and the General public. Since its completion over two years ago, it has been left to rot for no apparent reason. The only reason I can phantom is whose legacy project is it or whether or not the Bank of Ghana is autonomous and funded the project, hence it is strictly under the sole control of the Bank. Several calls have been made for the facility to be opened and operated. One would have thought that in the midst of this entire hullabaloo about the No-Bed-Syndrome some quick decisions would have been taken about how to use the facility to ameliorate the suffering of the ordinary taxpayers.
Does it matter whose legacy it is as a project?
The answer is simply NO. Let’s leave the issue of whose legacy it is to the citizenry or the general public to judge and allow the Hospital to fully function to serve its intended purpose. After all, it was not built for the people to admire it but for the purpose of providing quality health care to the good people of Ghana.
Does it matter whether the Bank of Ghana is autonomous and funded the project from its purse and for that matter should have full control over when it should be opened to the public?
The answer, in my opinion, is NO. The project in my opinion even though I may be wrong is that it was funded by funds from the taxes of the ordinary taxpayers, who worked hard to discharge their tax liabilities to the State.
Thankfully to COVID-19 again, it was announced on 1 April 2020 that the facility will be used to treat some class of COVID-19 cases.
Should we have waited for COVID-19 to push us to start using the facility?
The answer is an emphatic NO.
There are many other Hospital projects and other Health Facilities dotted across the Country which are completed or near completion that has been abandoned. For instance, the 120-Bed Kumawu District Hospital and Adansi-Fomena District Hospital are currently rotting away. Others are the Euroget Six District Hospitals project each with 60-bed capacity for Tepa, Nsawkaw, Konongo, Madina, Salaga and Twifi Praso.
What is the Way Forward?
The Way Forward will be the following:
1. As a matter of urgency, I will like to advise the Minister of Health to use his power or influence to open and operationalize all completed Hospital projects in the Country. This will increase the number of available hospital beds to take care of the health care needs of citizens and the general population living in the Country. We will be inching towards the achievement of SDG3 if this is done. These Hospital projects when opened and operationalized will create job opportunities for Health Service Administrators, Allied Health Professionals, Doctors, Nurses as well as other Health Professionals, who are sitting at home without jobs.
2. The Minister of Health should make near-completion-Hospitals his priority to complete them. This will make the achievement of UHC within the stipulated time possible.
3. The World is getting complex every day that is why we are seeing complex health issues such as COVID-19. My proposal is that going forward the Government should look at putting-up more Specialized Hospitals and train health professionals adequately to man them. Generally, health workers appeared inadequately prepared to handle the COVID-19 cases. Many of them had to be rushed through training on the management of infectious diseases to prepare them to confront COVID-19. It is reported that in certain facilities health professionals took cover on hearing from clients reporting to their Hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms. This will help us deal with specific health threats as and when they come.
4. We must desist from politicizing very important National issues. COVID-19 knows no political colours. COVID-19 knows not whether a person is rich or poor. COVID-19 has no respect for academic degrees. We should learn to approach issues such as the COVID-19 with the National interest put before any other interest.
This present time is a wake-up call for us to do things right going forward. Posterity will judge all of us.
Farouk Adam IDDRISU