Ghana’s Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, on Wednesday, 24th April 2019 launched the first-ever medical drone delivery service in Ghana, and the largest such drone delivery network in the world, at Omenako, near Suhum, in the Eastern Region.
The ‘Fly-To-Save-A-Life Project’, a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Zipline Technologies, will provide a rapid response to medical emergencies, especially in hard-to-reach areas, through the flying of unmanned drones to supply 12 routine and emergency services as well as 148 life-saving medical products selected by the Ministry of Health.
The Omenako Service Centre, the first of four planned centres, will supply these products to facilities located in the whole of the Eastern Region, and parts of the Volta, Ashanti, Central and Greater Accra regions. Three other centres are expected to be completed this year to cover most of Ghana.
The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each centre will be 100% staffed by Ghanaian engineers, healthcare professionals and logistics personnel, and paid for by the private sector through their corporate social responsibility obligations with no cost to the government.
Almost a year to the day since the possibility of setting up a medical drone service in Ghana was broached to him, an elated Dr Bawumia said the successful launch of the service is yet another example of the triumph of innovation, especially in the use of technology, being championed by the Nana Akufo-Addo government.
Dr Bawumia was especially delighted that such innovation was being applied to improve access to healthcare to deprived and hard-to-reach communities, as it forms part of the government’s strategy to reduce inequality and hardships by ensuring the inclusion of every Ghanaian irrespective of status in national development.
“One of the biggest pillars of this government has been how to grow this country without leaving anyone behind; inclusiveness. And one of the ways we are working on is how to use technology to advance our development, improve the ways we do things in our offices, and how to improve citizens’ access to and delivery of the public services they need no matter where they live in this country.
“President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is determined to reduce inequality and hardships for every Ghanaian, especially the disadvantaged. That is why we are implementing Free SHS. This determination informed government’s decision to increase the portion of the District Assemblies Common allocated to Persons Living with Disability by 50%. That is why we restored the Nursing and Teacher Training Allowances cancelled by the previous government, set up the Zongo Development Fund, and are constructing dams in northern Ghana through the One Village-One Dam to ensure all year round farming.
“As you are aware, we have abolished fees for postgraduate medical training in Ghana, we have set up the three Development Authorities – Coastal, Middle Belt and Northern -, and you can now renew your National Health Insurance through your phone. Soon, in collaboration with the National Identification Authority, Ghanaians would be able to register, renew and access health care services using the Ghana Card,” Dr Bawumia explained.
Zeroing in on healthcare, Dr Bawumia deplored the avoidable deaths arising from a lack, or timely availability of, different vaccines, blood products and life-saving medications, and commended the Ministry of Health and their partners for the successful launch of the Fly-To-Save-A-Life Project for working to save Ghanaian lives.
“It is also important to note, however, that this is not a replacement for the already existing programmes, but a complement. By July this year, the government will receive the 275 ambulances already purchased, to strengthen the health delivery system and make treatment of emergency cases more effective,” he disclosed.
The Zipline project has already attracted international attention and major players like Pfizer, NOVARTIS, GAVI, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and UPS have already engaged Zipline to deliver medicines and other supplies in Ghana on their behalf using drones.
The launch ceremony was attended by the Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II; Minister of Health and MP for Dormaa Central, Hon Kwaku Agyemang-Manu; Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline International; Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service; Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health, Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah; Eastern Regional Minister Eric Kwakye Darfuor, and other senior government and health officials.