Parliament has pulled the breaks on a US$12m drone technology expected to distribute blood products in very remote areas of the country where quality healthcare delivery is hard to reach.
This follows the discovery of some legal and regulatory issues in the contractual agreement between the Government of the Republic of Ghana, represented by the Ministry of Health and Fly Zipline Ghana Limited.
First Deputy Speaker, Hon. Joseph Osei Owusu, who presided over the consideration of the US$12,527,000.00 service agreement between the Government of the Republic of Ghana, represented by the Ministry of Health and Fly Zipline Ghana Limited for the delivery of emergency health and blood products to public health facilities in Ghana, after listening to concerns raised by the Minority Caucus directed the agreement to be deferred for a review to enable the parties address all the issues raised by some Members.
The Chairman of the Health Committee, Hon. Dr. Kwabena Twum-Nuama, had earlier told the House to adopt the Committee’s report since the country stands to benefit a lot from the agreement.
“Mr. Speaker, a lot has already been said about how the country stands to benefit from the Service Agreement with Fly Zipline, from lives that will be saved to the creation of jobs and reduction of wastage. It is however worth-emphasizing that we need to leverage on technology to improve the outcomes of our health service delivery system in order to help us achieve Universal Health Coverage among the other benefits mentioned-afore. Using drones to improve our health service delivery will be a great achievement and the Committee is very much convinced that it will be successful. If implemented countrywide, Ghana will become the first country in West Africa, the second in Africa after Rwanda and also the largest in the world, to use such a delivery system to deliver blood and other needed supplies to remote areas”, he noted.
Per the terms of the Service Agreement, according to the Committee’s report, the Ministry of Health bears no risk for installation, operation and maintenance. The Ministry pays only when Zipline succeeds in setting up distribution centers and meets the performance specifications agreed to, in the Service Agreement.
The contract is expected to run for four years from the start of service at first distribution center. Zipline is also charging US$88,000.00 per distribution center per month when fully deployed.
However, the Ranking Member of the Finance of the Committee, Casiel Ato Forson, commenting on the deal said Ghana will not get value for money if the agreement in its current form is approved.
According to him, per his calculation having gone through the entire agreement, the amount charged as service fee is less than what will actually be paid to Zipline Ghana Limited.
To him, Ghana will be paying US$145,000 per month as service fee, stressing that the amount was too much and will not inure to the benefit of the country.
Furthermore, the State stands to pay a total of US$7million while the operational expenses of the entire agreement will cost Zipline Ghana Limited US$1million. He therefore called for the immediate withdrawal of the agreement.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu also commenting on the deal, said Ghanaian women do not need drones to distribute them blood products and other medical supplies. What they need is to be supported to undertake laboratory tests and neonatal care, he noted.
According to him, the amount being used to procure facility could be used to build so many CHPS compounds, especially, in remote areas where access to healthcare delivery is difficult to come by.
The Vice-President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, said at the 2018 Annual Health Summit in Accra that Ghana would by September 2018 use drones to distribute blood and other essential medicines to remote parts of the country as part of efforts to ensure quality healthcare delivery.
He reiterated government’s commitment while addressing participants at the UK-Ghana Investment Summit in Accra in October when his first deadline had passed.