By Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
If I woke up tomorrow with a broken jaw, a fractured ankle or a fainted heart, I wouldn’t be more miserable, I wouldn’t look more pathetic or hopeless. Chances are that I could get emergency medical service. I could chance upon a “Good Samaritan”.
Indeed, I would be better off than the Cro-Magnon Man who walked on the surface of the planet Earth butt-naked.
What happened on Tuesday January 28 2020 at the Black Star Square – a venue located close to the Gulf of Guinea, and not far from the Parliament House in the Gold City enclave – could be viewed as a major boost to Ghana’s healthcare delivery service.
The area had seen the commissioning of 307 ambulances – an event one health expert had described as “historic”.
Professor Ahmed Muhu Zakaria, chief executive officer of the National Ambulance Service (NAS), said: “The 307 is the highest fleet in the history of the procurement of ambulances for emergency healthcare in Africa.”
He also said the 145 new stations are the highest single addition in the history of ambulance service in Ghana.
But where did this come from? I’ve seen the trajectory of our body politic over the last two decades. And it seems to me that we’ve all been screwed up by politics, no two ways about that. We’ve disdainfully sacrificed patriotism and nationalism on the altar of politics.
A friend asked me: “How come the ‘historic’ event didn’t seem to resonate with everyone?
And I told him this: There were three groups of people who were at the venue. The first group saw everything and their joy had hit the ceiling. They were so elated.
The second group, however, claimed they didn’t “see” any ambulances, and if they did they were nothing but mere phantoms. And the third group couldn’t hide their disdain for what they call cheap PR stunt by the governing NPP. In fact, they ridiculed the whole event.
But how’d they miss that? How’d they not hear or see the freight train that drove through the railroad near their balcony– puffing and pulling over one hundred coaches?
They could care less about it. After all, they don’t get to call the short not until power smiles back at them. It’s politics! Politics in Africa has been treading a trajectory that could potentially undermine the spirit of democracy. Elsewhere, this would have been welcomed by all political parties.
Let’s all benefit
Matter of fact, we might all need the services of emergency medical technicians one day.
It could be your loved one, a friend and it could be your children or a family member because these ambulances will provide services to all irrespective of one’s political leanings.
According to Prof Zakaria, NAS was conceived in 2004 and started in 2005 with seven stations in three regions.
In 2006, he said, it started full scale operation with additional 12 stations.
Here’s how the service plans to distribute its fleet. Out of the 307 ambulances, 275 will go to the constituencies, with the remaining ones going to other hospitals, emergency areas nationwide and possibly the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO).
It must be noted that the ambulances were procured under the government Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP), currently being implemented by the Ministry of Special Development Initiatives.
Since the establishment of the National Ambulance Service with an initial investment by the Kufuor administration in 2004, with some 10 ambulances and seven stations, emergency health care had in recent years ground to a halt, leaving the ambulance service with some 55 ambulances functioning currently and a handful of emergency medical technicians.
Critics have taken a swipe at the government.
They see the whole thing as irrelevant. They’ve queried: “Why should the ambulances grab headlines? But how quickly did they forget that it’s the stock trade of politicians?
Truth be told, Ghana could do real mega stuff because we’ve the potential man power but perhaps what we lack is the will power and the love for nation.
Consider this, if we built the biggest man-made Lake in the world, built a well-laid out city (Tema), established close to 100 factories and built the Tema Harbour, among others, more than 50 years ago, why should we be commissioning things like schools and drinking water today?
And in that vein, I tend to share the critics’ view, given where we’re coming from as a proud nation, how we started and why we find ourselves where we are today.
One Facebook user wrote: “A nation that built the Akosombo Dam and the Tema Harbour etc. in the 1960s shouldn’t hold durbars over KVIPs, schools and ambulances in 2020.”
Mr Fiifi Amakye, a founding member of GIJANA, also expressed similar sentiment. This is what he shared on WhatsApp: “The provision of ambulances to our communities in Ghana is an indispensable social issue. To that end, the hyper heated politicking with respect to ambulances diminishes our level of seriousness as a people. Our approach to the subject matter is infantile and laughable.”
The seasoned journalist stated: “After all, governments are elected to use government machinery to ensure the wellbeing of the citizenry. I know many people are euphoric about the presence of the ambulances. Here comes the difficult question: what are we going to do as a nation to ensure the mechanical efficiency and the longevity of the ambulances?”
And that question posed by Mr Amakye remains to be seen, going forward. But I’m tempted to believe that those concerns were thought through.