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Feature Article of Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Columnist: Keelson, Richmond

The President’s “routine” check-up - What happened to our hospitals?

Over the week-end rumours were rife all over the country that the President, John Evans Atta Mills, was dead. The story received prominence on many social media networks with some obviously reporting the rumour and others positing as if the President was indeed dead.

The President himself set the heart of many Ghanaians at ease when he popped up at the Kotoka International Airport to debunk the rumour and assured the entire nation that he was hale and hearty. He even jokingly asked journalists: “Look at me as a person. Are you seeing the person who has died?” He later told the media that he was going for a routine medical check-up in the United States, as recommended by his doctors to prepare himself physically and mentally to withstand the rigorous campaign ahead of the December general elections. The PPP wishes the President well ahead of his “routine check-up” and fervently hopes he returns in one piece to continue with his constitutional mandate of leading the country to this year’s election peacefully. We condemn such rumour mongers as well as the social networks that reported the rumour without cross-checking the veracity or otherwise of the rumour.

However, there are inherent concerns in such rumours that the PPP believes should not be lost on Ghanaians. This is not the first time that the President has been rumoured to be dead. Indeed there were similar rumours, prior to the 2008 General Elections that then candidate Mills was dead. It later proved that it was a hoax and a big lie.

So, why do these rumours and lies about the health status of the President persist? There is a section of Ghanaians who still believes the President has not fully recovered from his ailment which treatment, he received from a South African hospital in the days leading to the NDC’s 2008 presidential nomination and subsequently the 2008 General Elections.

Such concerns, we believe, were further stoked by the obvious inaction of the President in responding to the many ethnic and religious conflicts that hit the country some weeks ago, hence the wicked rumours about his demise.

Much as we condemn such rumour mongering, the PPP believes such misguided information can only be averted if we resolve as a country to be very transparent about the presidency. We maintain that the health status of public office holders, including that of the president should be made available for all Ghanaians to scrutinize. That of the president, the PPP maintains, should be a top-most priority. Our presidents must be required to go through an annual medical checkup. As the people who are to take care of our presidents even when they leave office, we have a right to know how healthy they are and ensure that they receive the best medical care possible when they have problems. Certainly, we are not asking for anything extraordinary, except that we believe the time has come for us to look again at an issue that some Ghanaians consider exclusively private. Global practice suggests that is not the case at all.

For instance, there is periodic publication of the health status of the President of the United States. That is the only way Americans know whether their president is hale and hearty and therefore can offer his all in administering their country. We remember how it was made public that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, was suffering from cancer and therefore taken abroad for treatment.

The biggest concern of the PPP is our penchant to fly our presidents and other public officials for medical attention abroad. Not too long ago, Mr. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu and Major (Rtd) Courage Quarshigah sadly died in foreign hospitals. The same can be said of Mr. Jordan Anagblah, the former vice president of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) who could not survive despite being flown to South Africa for treatment. Former African Heads of State like Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua of Nigeria, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and Levy Mwanawassa of Zambia, all died while receiving treatment abroad.

We again reiterate the call to develop, strengthen and improve our institutions and facilities to the standard that foreign health facilities will not be so appealing in attracting our ailing public officials. The PPP again calls on governments to look at how we improve institutions and facilities to avoid the cumbersome traveling of our officials to foreign countries for treatments.

Richmond Keelson

Director of Communications, PPP

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