Former President John Mahama has said long before President Akufo-Addo’s recent promise to build 88 district hospitals and six regional hospitals, he (Mr Mahama) had already, in 2019, made that promise.
In his latest Facebook Live session on Thursday evening, the flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), said: “The reaction of the public to the President’s promise to construct 94 new hospitals in one year is understandable, considering his rather tall list of unfulfilled or poorly-implemented promises from yesteryears”.
“I believe”, Mr Mahama said: ‘In a well-thought-out and forward-looking agenda, which ensures further strategic investments in our health sector meet contemporary and future challenges”, adding: “This must take into consideration the grave threat posed by global pandemics like COVID-19, SARS, MERS, EBOLA among others”.
He said: “It is in furtherance of this vision that I announced on my visit to the Western North and Bono East Regions in July 2019 that if elected, God-willing in December 2020, I will establish a regional hospital in each of the six newly-created regions.
“I also indicated that I will ensure the provision of a modern health facility in each district that currently does not have one as part of my ‘health for all agenda’”, Mr Mahama recalled.
He explained: “All districts would receive a modern health facility. These facilities would range from polyclinics to district hospitals”, noting: “Proper planning requires that we take into consideration location, demography, population and health needs of the area”.
“There are, for instance, currently districts with well-functioning hospitals owned by faith-based organisations. In such cases, we will partner with the organisations to upgrade their hospitals to improve their services rather than duplicate it with a public hospital.
“In districts where there already exists polyclinics or health centres that are overstretched by population growth, we will upgrade them to the status of hospitals. I reiterated these in my Facebook Live sessions late last year.
“Furthermore, I re-emphasised this commitment in two public engagements since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ghana.
“First, was when I donated PPE and other medical supplies to several hospitals across the country in a bid to save health workers from being infected.
“Similarly, I reiterated my vision to build a robust health system when I presented food items to 20,000 households during the lockdown period.
“On these two occasions, I stated the need for greater investments in healthcare to ensure a total state of readiness at all times to respond to pandemics of the nature we currently face and other disaster situations.
“And I promised to start and complete phase 2 of the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge); expand and double the capacity of the 37 Military Hospital; construct two (2) international-standard Infectious Diseases Centres; and
establish two additional international research centres, with capacity like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in tropical Medicine.
“I have also proposed to establish a National Infectious Disease Response Plan that will enable us prevent the entry of such diseases into our country as we did in the case of Ebola.
“In all these, let us not forget the ultimate goal is to build a health system, which is ready and able to protect our citizens and health workers, against current and emerging threats.
“This is the reason why protective equipment and related logistics will become a permanent feature of our response plan and will form a significant part of our strategic medical supply stock”, Mr Mahama said, adding: “These projects will be carried out using contemporary financing models that bring down costs such as equipment leasing, which has proven cost-effective and is in use in a number of advanced healthcare jurisdictions”.
Mr Mahama, thus, said: “In his [Akufo-Addo’s] last broadcast, and, indeed, in previous ones, the President echoed many of the ideas and policies I have previously outlined. It is gratifying to note that he is listening”.
According to the former President: “Any addition to our health infrastructure is ordinarily welcome. But it is regrettable that it had to take COVID-19 to jolt him into reality about the importance of such critical investments in healthcare”.
“That said, the fundamental difference between our two respective positions is that I come to the table with an established track record of actually delivering many of such projects with less resources than he has had in the last three-and-a-half years.
“Fellow Ghanaians, the NDC comes to the table with a clear plan of modernisation of our healthcare system.
“This plan considers global best practices and will have features that guarantee equitable access to quality healthcare for all Ghanaians.
“I have taken due notice of concerns expressed by the Ghana Medical Association about the availability of health personnel to man new health facilities.
“Here, too, the NDC has a plan. I announced in my interaction with you last December, that we have concluded a public sector Human Resource Gap analysis to guide our employment policy going forward.
“The analysis shows that for Ghana to reach the universally accepted optimal levels of health delivery and bridge the yawning gap between health professionals and our population, the Ghana Health Service would require an additional 86,000 health personnel.
“If we prioritise properly and reduce the large army of ministers and other political appointees, we could probably make more space to accommodate our nurses and doctors who are sitting idly at home.
“We have done it before. With the limited resources available to us, my administration employed the largest number of health professionals in recent times.
“Under my watch, forty-one thousand four hundred and eighty nurses were employed by the Ghana Health Service – we increased the number of nurses from 11,125 in 2012 to 52,605 in 2016.
“This can be verified from the Facts and Figures publication on the website of the Ghana Health Service.
“Let me assure health workers one more time. You deserve better because the gains of the single spine pay policy have been eroded.
“My brothers and sisters, a major plank of our health plan will also be far-reaching reforms in health care financing.
“We shall remove all obstacles, which prevent citizens from accessing primary health care, and relieve the NHIS of pressure from the recurring and widening financing gap, which threatens its sustainability going forward.
“This only represents a snapshot of my vision of a modern and responsive health system for Ghana.
“As I have said before, the next NDC government will prioritise government spending in favour of the wellbeing and welfare of Ghanaians as opposed to the comfort of the upper echelons of society.
“Healthcare will be one of the major priorities of my government. Through healthcare, we shall employ more people both in the health sector and in the manufacturing sector – COVID-19 has proven that we cannot continue to rely on imports”, Mr Mahama said.