mid 2008, I was on night duty at the 37 Military Hospital, a United Nations Level IV Facility. I was called in the dead of night to the Anoff Ward to attend to a very young male patient who was at the point of death .
He eventually died in theatre. Although so many years have passed since the incident, I still feel the pain of his avoidable death. The rest of the story is history, but the lesson remains that administering blood transfusion is not a simple affair; it is a critical process that can be life-threatening even in specialised health facilities.
Fast forwarding to a decade later – on Saturday 8th
Ordinarily, I would have let this slip by but how can a ‘citizen not a spectator’ look on unconcerned as human lives are to be experimented
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Task shifting and blood transfusion
Task shifting is great! But task shifting is not new to Ghana and Africa. It is basically the delegation of a task which requires high skills, to an available human resource who have a lower qualification (WHO, 2006; Dovlo, 2004).
Indeed, evidence suggests that task shifting is already being practised successfully in Ghana (McPake and Mensah 2008) and in other African countries (Pereira, 2010; Zacharia et al., 2009; Lehman et al., 2009; Mullan and Frehywot, 2007; and Green and Pearson, 2006).
Notwithstanding the successes associated with task shifting with respect to maternal health and HIV/AIDS, in 2008 the World Health Organisation had cause to strongly recommend careful selection of tasks, appropriate roles definition and adequate
Therefore, when I heard
I wondered how a whole Director General of the Ghana Health Service could shockingly approve of such a venture knowing fully well the grave dangers in delivering blood and blood products. Moreover, the Clinical Blood Transfusion Policy of the National Blood Service, Ghana http://nbsghana.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Clinical-Blood-Transfusion-Policy.pdf is explicit on the roles and responsibilities involved in blood transfusion.
I believe it is for a good reason backed by evidence that the policy was structured in that manner.
The framers of the policy must have taken into account: the need for blood tests (grouping and cross-matching with its rare exceptions) required before transfusion; who is qualified to insert the cannula in a vein (
However, if we have come to the point where we believe we must satisfy a National Drone Health Service initiative by the President Akufo-Addo government, I strongly recommend we must not put the cart before the horse. The necessary inter-sectoral policy reviews must be done urgently.
But must a review of the blood transfusion policy be driven by this drone-contract and not by evidence and sound emergency health care needs?
I have already shared with you from the outset how a very young male patient lost his dear and promising life as a result of complications from
Implications for aviation
Putting telecommunication and aviation balls in the air and afloat:
- Have we considered the implications for the aviation sector when hundreds of drones begin to fly about?
- Is the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority equipped to handle the entropy that will affect air traffic control?
In fact, the aviation implications which include the availability of robust
In this drone for emergency health services scenario, we are being told hundreds of drones are going to be flying around. They will certainly interact with domestic flights – particularly helicopters. Therefore, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority ought to be assuring Ghanaians about aviation safety.
I believe a well thought-out emergency health policy will prioritise the well-being of Ghanaians and ensure both economic fairness and
I am curious to know if the cost involved in this drone deal has been weighed against the benefits, quality and utility of the services that will be rendered? This question does not require the usual flippant answer, “no amount of money can replace a life.”
We already know this.
I do not expect
Hence it will be worthwhile, if government shared with Ghanaians the report of any such analysis conducted prior to this initiative considering that, there are other acute and critical competing needs in the health sector which require funding.
But if such analyses were not undertaken prior to launching this initiative, then
I am not for one moment suggesting a drone delivering health services will be of no benefit. I am only highlighting the critical matter of personnel and equipment needed in administering blood, aviation implications and the efficient and prudent use of the US$12
Conclusion: Too much zeal for what is new
As our nation broods over this drone deal and many more deals that have passed in the name of technology adoption including the
“From inability to let well alone; from too much zeal for the new and contempt for what is old; from putting knowledge before wisdom, science before art, and cleverness before common sense; from treating patients as cases; and from making the cure of the disease more grievous than the endurance of the same, Good Lord, deliver us.”
Clearly, the attempt by the Director General of the Ghana Health Service to use emergency blood transfusion within the context of task shifting to justify this drone deal bothers on clutching at straws and shows too much zeal for the new. It, sadly, reveals that the policy was procurement driven instead of programme driven.
Already, a myriad of costing deficiencies has been pointed out by other stakeholders, yet this government is recklessly pursuing the drone deal.
This 12-million-US-dollars drone deal offends many aspects of Hutchison’s admonition. Therefore, Good Lord:
Deliver us from too much zeal for the new and contempt for what is old;
Deliver us from putting knowledge before wisdom;
Deliver us from putting science before art, and cleverness before common sense; and
Above all, deliver us from making the cure of the disease more grievous than the disease itself.’ Otherwise, this drone deal will drown Ghanaians.
The writer is a medical doctor and a former Minister of Communication who served under President John Dramani Mahama's administration