Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister-designate for Health will face Parliament’s Appointments Committee at a time focus is on healthcare because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Though the health sector saw some improvement in areas like emergency health care, the expansion of medical schools and consolidating free maternal care under national health insurance, there are still some issues that Ghanaians hope the minister can streamline and provide clarity on ahead of the next four years as he faces the Appointments Committee today, February 10, 2020.
Below are a few issues Ghanaians expects answers from the health minister-designate:
The COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout
With Ghana recording over 5,000 new cases since the new year, there has been concern over the new surge in COVID-19 infections. After initially being hailed for its handling of the virus, the government came under scrutiny over what critics have said is lax contact tracing and data management for the virus.
Attention has also turned to the procurement of the virus with a first batch expected to arrive in March 2020. The government hopes to procure 17 million vaccines by the end of June.
Expansion of healthcare infrastructure
Back in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced agenda 111; a plan to construct 100-bed hospitals in 88 needy districts. In addition, the government said it would provide a new regional hospital in every region that do not have such hospitals.
This was to commence in July 2020, but there have been no clear progress updates from the state outside of government assuring that the various projects would be executed by local construction companies. Before this, as captured in the New Patriotic Party manifesto, the government had already promised to upgrade all existing district hospitals and establish new ones in areas lacking.
The status abandoned hospital projects
The NPP 2020 manifesto notably made no mention of abandoned health projects. In July 2019, the government has shifted deadlines for the completion of eight major hospital projects across the country. Most of them were to be completed after June 2020. Citi FM and OccupyGhana had also sent a petition on the matter.
Ahead of the election, this was a point of contention with the National Democratic Congress claiming the Akufo-Addo administration had deliberately abandoned projects from the Mahama administration. The government said out of the 30 health projects it inherited, it completed 16.
The state of the National Health Insurance Scheme
Among other things, Mr. Agyeman-Manu had indicated during his vetting as a nominee in 2017 that the President had specifically assigned him to the Health Ministry to find sustainable funding for NHIS.
But the scheme still struggles to settle debts to accredited service providers. Recently, over 50 manufacturers comprising the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association of Ghana and the Chamber of Pharmacy claimed they had provided drugs on credit to the tune of GHS100,000 within a five-year period but had received no payment for the products.
Labour issues and worker agitation
Mr. Agyeman-Manu has faced some labour agitation since he assumed his role as Minister of Health. The Minister, during his vetting in 2017, had suggested that agitations in the health sector would be tackled with proper management of the human resource and motivation, but these challenges are still existent.
Sections of health workers like the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association have embarked on several strikes to demand better conditions of service.