The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has described government’s intention to deploy the use of drones for medical deliveries as extremely useful, and has called on all Ghanaians to support the idea.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday 4th December, 2018, the Director General of the GHS, Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare expressed worry over the continuous politicization of government’s novel ideas by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), even when they have little understanding of the matter.
Dr. Nsiah Asare further dispelled rumours that the project is expensive and would cripple government’s budget. Rather, he said the project cost per service delivery of $17 is lower than what is currently being charged in Rwanda at $22.7 per delivery, and most importantly, would go a long way to save precious lives.
He was emphatic that this drone delivery service will come at Zero cost to the government of Ghana budget, stressing that as per the current arrangements, the cost will be borne by the corporate sector through their corporate social responsibility obligations.
As is done in Rwanda, Ghana, through parliamentary approval is seeking to use a drone delivery network, which will be run by the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health, to give Ghana the most advanced health care supply chain in the subregion.
The drones will operate 24 hours a day from 4 distribution centers across the country. The distribution centers will stock 184 lifesaving and essential medical supplies including, emergency blood and oxytocin to save women’s lives in childbirth, as postpartum hemorrhage has been confirmed to be the leading cause of maternal death.
The rest are emergency medicines for surgeries, severe infections, antivenins and anti-rabies, diabetic emergencies as well as extremely high blood pressure emergencies.
When one of the 2,500 health facilities covered by the new service stocks out of a product, it will order an emergency delivery by drone that will arrive in 30-40 minutes. The drones will not replace the existing supply chain.
In outlining the benefits of the system Dr. Nsiah Asare observed that “Ghana’s emergency medical drone delivery service will save tens of millions of Cedis by eliminating the need for expensive emergency trips to pick up health care products and by avoiding wasteful overstocking of products at health facilities.”
“This revolutionary healthcare service will help save lives, decrease waste in the system and increase healthcare access for more than 14 million people nationwide,” he indicated.
The drones and delivery service will be built and operated by Zipline, a California-based automated logistics company, which helped launch the world’s first national drone delivery service in Rwanda in October of 2016. The medical drone delivery service has been so successful at decreasing waste, increasing access and saving lives that the government of Rwanda recently asked Zipline to quadruple the size of its operation there.
Zipline will employ 200 plus Ghanaians, including pharmacists, engineers, flight operators, and many more essential and allied support staff.
Zipline’s operation in Rwanda is already 100% run by Rwandans. The company has committed to 100% local employment in Ghana as well.
Zipline will build a training center in Ghana to support all of Zipline’s Anglophone West African operations.
When asked what the contract obligates Zipline to do, Dr. Nsiah Asare answered that Zipline will build 4 distribution centers at MoH-specified locations across Ghana.
Each distribution center will include at least 20 drones, launch and recovery equipment, state-of-the-art medical refrigeration equipment, and computerized order management systems, adding that each will be staffed by up to 50 Ghanaian employees.
Zipline must operate drone flights from the distribution centers on a 24/7 basis to deliver medical products on request to health facilities within an 80 km service radius.
It will guarantee a capacity of 150 flights per Delivery Cost (DC) day. This means that the 4 distribution centers will be able to make up to 600 emergency deliveries per day total (and the flights can usually carry more than 1 product).