Medical tourism refers to people traveling to a country other than their own to obtain medical treatment. As the cost of healthcare in the US and Europe continue to rise, many citizens and residents coming from these areas are in search for destinations outside where they can receive quality healthcare at a much lower rate.
India saw this demand and took advantage of it. Currently, India is one of the key players in the medical tourism industry, as it strives to provide health care services with cutting-edge technology.
Healthcare in India saves patients between 65% to 90% of money, compared to the cost of similar services in the US, making India one of the most visited countries for health care.
Patients from US and Europe visit India, not only for the quality and affordability of healthcare service, but also for the beautiful scenery and architecture in India’s landscape. Obviously, this sector of the Indian economy has become a major revenue earner.
In 2013, Ghana, under the administration of the late Professor John Evans Atta Mills, dreamed of rivaling India in medical tourism by building a modern hospital complex for West Africa and beyond. This dream was indeed actualised in the signing of an agreement to build a 650-bed University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC). It was funded with a loan facility from Israel, with counterpart funding from Ghana.
The project started in April 2013 as a turnkey project by Messrs Engineering and Development Consultants Limited of Israel, with Sheba Medical Centre, Israel, as the Medical Consultants. Being the first of its kind in the sub-region, it is expected to receive patients, not only from across the country, but also from the sub-region and beyond.
Phase 1 of the University of Ghana Medical Centre was completed and commissioned on Wednesday 4th January 2017. The 650-bed facility is the first of its kind in West Africa and second to only a few hospitals in South Africa.
Some of the specialised services to be delivered by the hospital are in Gastroenterology, Trauma and Orthopedics, Urology, Othumology, Ear-Nose&Throat, Cardiology, Dermatology, Neurology, Radiology and Accident and Emergency services.
Another intention of the project was to move the University of Ghana Medical School from Korle-Bu to the new facility.
No right thinking Ghanaian would not appreciate such a laudable initiative to get Ghana, just like India, to feed an annual average of over 11 million patients/travelers (which figure will grow by up to 25% every year) who leave the shores of the US in search of different countries around the world seeking affordable healthcare. This figure is from only the US, not to talk of those from Europe.
The irony of the situation is that, since the commissioning of the University of Ghana Medical Centre in January 2017, the project has remained idle and unproductive for two years now. The reason for the inactivity of the hospital is the most flummoxing and bewildering.
Ghanaians were told that the facility was yet to be operational due to a tussle over the management of the medical centre by the University of Ghana and the Ministry of Health. The government later assured Ghanaians that it was finalising a framework on the management module for the running of the Medical Center.
As if that was not enough, the Health Minister raised another excuse by saying the Medical Center was not in use because it lacked certain essential facilities like standby generators. However, Joy FM investigations have revealed that the University of Ghana Medical Center has a standby generator.
The Chronicle has been wondering how a $217 million hospital facility cannot afford a $6 million standby generator.
The vision to establish the University of Ghana Medical Center dates back to the pre-independence era. India might have had a similar vision and mission around the same period, but the difference is that they rose above and beyond petty politicking, and today, they are reaping the benefits of medical tourism, while we in Ghana continue to welter in our blame game.
While we are at it, we must just consider that the facility was built with a loan that must be serviced, equipment in the hospital with their warranty running out, Ghanaian professionals who have been interviewed and trained waiting to work at the facility.
We don’t have to become like Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep and woke up twenty years later, having missed the American Revolution, the death of his wife, the marriage of his daughter and the birth of his grandson.