By Calum Drysdale
Yesterday the minister for health tried to shift the blame for the slow rate of hospital development onto the National Democratic Congress (NDC). In a rambling press briefing intended to highlight the progress of hospital infrastructure development Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu lashed out, blaming the slow progress on his predecessors in the opposition.
Showing the assembled journalists lists of hospitals that would soon be completed, he complained that “you probably won’t show this” suggesting that the assembled press were trying to conceal his achievements. However, the figures that he provided seemed to suggest that his department had fewer achievements to report than it claimed.
While discussing the eight hospitals of the ‘Ghana 8 No Hospital Project’ being built in the Ashanti region, the Minister boasted that he had taken over the project of the building of the hospitals, saving the project. He claimed that the NDC abandoned the project in May 2016, allowing letters of credit to expire and contractors to go unpaid in what appears to be a political act, intended to prevent the New Patriotic Party (NPP) from completing the hospitals.
However, when he provided figures on the rate of progress of the hospital construction, the figures showed that during the NPP administration, the project had only moved forward around 8% (from 52% to 60%) in the last three and a half years. This contrasts with the progress that the NDC made during a similar time frame, taking the project from its conception to 50% completion in only 4 years making the Mahama administration at least 4 times more efficient.
The minister seemed to contradict himself, telling the assembled journalists how he wanted to “keep politics out of healthcare” while also criticising the previous government for being too keen to claim credit for projects that they had not finished. In one case, the Minister says he was stoned when he went to visit one of the stalled hospital projects and met by NDC members who told him that the project was “theirs”.
When asked to explain the slow progress being made, Mr Kwaku Agemang-Manu blamed the delay on an audit and problems with sub-contractors. If this is true, the inefficiency of a government that takes three years to carry out an audit and organise sub-contractors should be a greater source of worry than the lack of hospitals.
It remains to be seen whether the Minister will be able to restart all the projects before the election next year. The upgrades to Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital still haven’t restarted due to a contractor not being found.
The minister gave other examples of hospitals that would soon be completed or newly in use such as the five new clinics in the Greater Accra region commissioned in March 2019 and mentioned the progress being made towards the 1 District 1 Hospital initiative, the 2000 new healthcare professionals that he said would be hired to staff the new hospitals and the new 32 contracts that he had signed to restart construction and increase the number of hospitals in the Ashanti region.