The coronavirus pandemic is making a lot of people in Ghana realise the sense in the health infrastructure development that Mr John Mahama during his presidency, former Minister of Health Alex Segbefia has said.
He noted that health infrastructure is critical to the socio-economic development of nations, hence the need to invest in that sector.
This is why, he explained in an interview with Benjamin Akakpo on Class91.3FM’s Executive Breakfast Show (EBS) on Tuesday, 28 April 2020, that the Mahama administration devoted a lot of resources to that sector.
Mr Segbefia’s comments come on the back of a promise by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to build 88 additional district hospitals to augment the existing health infrastructure in Ghana.
On Sunday, President Akufo-Addo said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the loopholes and weaknesses in Ghana’s health infrastructure, thus, his government’s decision to invest heavily in that sector this year and beyond.
Addressing the nation on the COVID-19 situation, Mr Akufo-Addo said: “The virus has also revealed the unequal distribution of health facilities as we’ve tended to focus our infrastructure on Accra and one or two other big cities”, adding: “As we’ve seen, epidemics and pandemics, when they emerge, can spread to any part of our country”.
“There are 88 districts in our country without hospitals. We have six new regions without regional hospitals. We do not have infectious disease control centres dotted across the country and we don’t have enough testing and isolation centres for diseases like COVID-19. We must do something urgently about this”, he said.
“That is why the government has decided to undertake a major investment in our healthcare infrastructure – the largest in our history.
“We will, this year, begin constructing 88 hospitals in the districts without hospitals. It will mean 10 in Ashanti, nine in Volta, nine in Central, eight in Eastern, seven in Greater Accra, seven in Upper East, five in Northern, five in Oti, five in Upper West, five in Bono, four in Western North, four in Western, three in Ahafo, three in Savannah, two in Bono East and two in North-Easter regions.
“Each of them will be a quality, standard design 100-bed hospital with accommodation for doctors, nurses and other health workers and the intention is to complete them within a year”, he said.
Mr Segbefia told show host Benjamin Akapko: “COVID has brought to the fore former President Mahama’s focus of his tenure, which was on health facilities or health infrastructure.
“Now, everybody is beginning to see the sense of what President Mahama was trying to do for this country and are beginning to appreciate fully the health infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, the Akufo-Addo government has said its plan to construct the new district hospitals starting this year will be captured in the mid-year review and supplementary budgets, and has, thus, wondered why the opposition has been drumming up the fact that expenditure for those projects was not captured in the 2020 budget.
Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah told Benjamin Akakpo that: “So, something that is to be budgeted for, absolutely. Next year? No, because you expect the work to start this year”.
What that means, he explained: “Is that, at the mid-year review, when we go for the mid-year review, one, we know that COVID-19 has thrown our fiscal projections or our budget for 2020 out of gear and, therefore, it needs to be recalibrated and you’d expect to find expression of this project in the mid-year review and potentially supplementary estimates that will be put before the republic.
“So, as they [Finance Ministry] complete their work of putting the figures together, our expectation is that it will find expression in the mid-year review and supplementary budgets and that is why for those who argue that it is not in the budget, we’d say with great respect that’s a moot argument because nobody has even said that it is in the budget.
“It is a matter that, where we are now, we are of the view that we must go full throttle and deal with now as a legacy as a legacy item in this COVID-19 war, and, therefore, the necessary appropriation for it will have to be made, presented before Parliament accordingly”, the Ofoase-Ayirebi MP said.