Ghana’s medical emergency care need a lot of input to meet WHO standards. There is serious lack of the needed skill-mix of personnel, consumable, medications at the in-hospital level, while at the pre-hospital level there is lack of knowledge and skill by the public on Basic Life Support (BLS), inadequate number of EMTs, lack of ambulances and multiple emergency numbers to call during emergency.
Pre-hospital medical emergency care contributes enormously to the recovery of victims and save lives, hence the establishment of a functional National Ambulance Service (NAS) cannot be overemphasised. In a country where the public has virtually no knowledge or skills on BLS, the best option for pre-hospital emergency medical care is to have enough ambulances to scoop up victims and rush them quickly to receive medical care. Established in 2004 as an agency of the Ministry of Health, NAS has the following as its functions to fulfil its Motto: Timely Care Saves Lives;
• To provide pre-hospital emergency care to accident victims (Road traffic, Domestic, Industrial, Medical etc.)
• To transport accident victims from the scene of an incident to an appropriate health facility
• To provide stand by emergency cover at mass public meetings
• To liaise with other emergency service providers in time of disaster or mass casualty incidents.
• To assist in the formulation and implementation of programmes for first respondents.
• To identify , recruit and train cadres for the service
• To assist in establishment and operation of makeshift hospitals during mass casualty situations.
These functions can only be fulfilled only if the service receive enough funding, has a well-trained human resource, dynamic leaders with professional management team and well equipped functional ambulances.
The service has so far performed creditably in its leadership and training of professionals, however this cannot be said about the ambulances. Currently, the service has 1557 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and 490 passing out from its training school located at Offinsu come Friday 22nd November, 2019.
This will send the number of EMTs to 2047. I commend its management for working to ensure Ghana succeeds in implementing the Universal Health coverage as it is one of the goals of the SGDs.
The last official information about the number of ambulances in the country was in 2018, which put the number at 55 functional ambulances, but up till date no ambulance has been added to the service. Ghana with an estimated population of 30 million requires a minimum of 600 ambulances.
Contract awarded to supply ambulances by the Mahama administration was halted in 2017 by the current government. However, since 2018 news of ambulances coming into the country to augment the fleet and coming from various government officials, including H.E. the Vice President has always popped up in the media. Various time lines have given for their arrival but it’s yet to materialised.
Just like any other Ghanaian, I felt a sigh of relief when in June this year when it was reported in the print media that a government delegation headed by the Minister for Special Development Initiative, Hon. Mavis Hawa Koomson that work on manufacturing and assembling of the ambulances is near completion.
In September,2019 the Director of communication at the presidency informed the public that 48 of the 300 ambulances had arrived into the country. One would have thought that these ambulances would be distributed as and when they arrived, due to the high demand for them.
Sadly government has decided to pack them for distribution in 2020 by that time according to government officials all the remaider ambulances would have dog on our shore in the country.
This was confirmed by the finance minister when he appeared in parliament last Wednesday to present on behalf of the President the 2020 Budget Statement and Financial Policy. Just like many Ghanaians, I was devastated and shocked to the core when he, Finance Minister said the ambulances would be distributed in 2020.
I consider government’s decision to hold onto the distribution of the 48 ambulances as a clear manifestation of insensitivity to the very people it sworn to alleviate from predicaments because, we live in a country that patients are conveyed in unconventional transport to hospital causing more harm to them, women giving birth on the street for lack of ambulances and most damming of them all is the report from Eastern Regional Health Directorate indicating 70 pregnant women died in the region for lack of ambulances and bad roads. If this could happen in one region then I would not be mistaken to conclude that the absence of ambulance contributed more than half of the 948 pregnant women who died in 2017. In the year 2018, Ghana lost 2,341 victims to road traffic accident.
Perhaps a lower number would have been recorded if we had ambulances to convey these victims to hospitals.
How long should we wait for more incidents of this nature to occur before government distribute the existing ambulances?
Has government also considered the impudence going on at the NAS with 1576 EMTs drawing a minimum of GHC 1,400.00 as monthly salary? A minimum of GHC 2.2 million goes to paying salary of EMTs each month.
As from next month this amount will raise to GHC 2.8 million as 490 trainees are passing out come this Friday. Meanwhile, they remain idle for no fault of theirs while ambulances are packed at the forecourt of parliament house rotting and relatives go through hell to get the sick to hospitals.
To me, distributing the ambulances per batches or as and when they arrive into the country will not take away the shine from the ‘1 ambulance 1 constituency’; it will rather keep our EMTs working for what they are paid for, reduce patient agony and give meaning to the motto of the NAS ‘Timely Care Saves Life’.
Ghana as it stands has 9.1% of the number of its ambulances requirement and this should prompt any government to take drastic but smart measure to improve upon this and certainly this does not include parking 48 ambulances for distribution in 2020 for political expediency.
On behalf of concerned Ghanaians, I would like to know whether official V8s, acquired for government appointees are distributed this way? I have never heard or seen V8s packed for that long for later distribution.
How come this happens when the vehicles that are meant for us the ordinary people?
Enough of the wastage and insensitivity.
Dr.Thomas Winsum Anaba
Africa Center for Health Policy,Research and Analysis [ACH-PRA]