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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Columnist: Nana Yaw Osei

Bawumia and medical tourism

Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia

Let me begin by wishing the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana a speedy recovery. “The Presidency has revealed the Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has been flown to the UK for further medical treatment after he was reported unwell last Friday. The statement signed by the Chief of Staff Frema Osei-Opare said the Vice-President is on medical leave as advised by his doctors” (Source:, Saturday January 20, 2018).

In public platforms like this, faith interposes. This partly explains why I deem it expedient to beg the indulgence of other religious believers to state that by his stripes Dr. Bawumia is healed ( I Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:5). Nevertheless, sympathy and empathy toward illness have almost invariably been addictive even if they are ineffectual. Is it not palpably risible for African leaders to be gallivanting around the globe in the name of medical tourism while the rest of their countrymen are left to their fate in times of health uncertainties?

Despite the demise of many African leaders while on medical treatment overseas, flying political leaders abroad for treatment of illness has really not been a big sacred-cow. In 2008, the Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa died in France while on a medical tourism. Omar Bongo of Gabon and Meles Zenawi Asres of Ethiopia died while on medical treatments in Spain and Belgium respectively. In that same 2012 that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died, President of Ghana, Professor John Evans Atta Mills died. Professor Mills, until his demise at the 37 Military hospital in Accra, had received earlier medical services in the United States of America. Koo Nimo, the doubting Thomas; do you remember the famous jogging at Kotoka International Airport?

2012 was a bad year for African political leaders. Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea-Bissau also died in France on a medical tourism. The President of Zambia, Michael Chilufya Sata died in 2014, while on medical mission in England. Cases of African leaders seeking medical treatment abroad, could be mentioned ad infinitum.

The thoroughgoing African leaders’ behavior of seeking medical treatment abroad bequeathed a huge financial burden to the tax payer. More often than not, some of these leaders are flown by an expensive chartered flight or a presidential jet with a large retinue. For example, the parking fee of Buhari’s presidential jet in London cost Nigerian tax payer $4,000 a day. The first 50 days amounted to $200,000.00 (Source: Vanguard, July 10, 2017). Medical cost abroad without insurance is very high. Africans need a concerted effort towards improving health care delivery system in their home countries.

Life they say is a thoroughfare of uncertainties and illness like death is no respecta of man. That is why it is maximally unfathomable for any sentient being to politicize healthcare delivery system at any given moment. It was really heart-rending to see Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng booted out of Korle bu teaching hospital because of his political color. Reeling under the behest of narcissism, bigotry and idiosyncratic posture, political leadership at the time did not see the sense of tapping from Frimping-Boateng’s rich expertise to establish cardiothoracic centers throughout every district hospital in Ghana.

I lamented over this unfortunate attitude in my article captioned “The Surgeon’s Corroded Knife: A horrifying Tale of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng” (Source:, Sunday October 9, 2016). This went to the deaf ears of the then Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government. President Akufo-Addo can use Frimpong-Boateng and other experts to make Ghana a cardiothoracic hub in West Africa. Similar with the economic philosophy of mercantilism wherein exports are encouraged, and imports are discouraged, Ghana leaders must discourage medical tourism [Seeking medical treatment in foreign Countries] and encourage foreigners to seek for example, a cardiothoracic care in Ghana.

But for conflict of interest, Ghana public health care delivery system could be very effective. The practice wherein physicians refer patients to their own private hospitals must be a source of perturbation to all and sundry. Conflict of interest is not one of the grey areas in Ghana Law and professional code of conduct books. Ghana Medical Association [GMA] has a well-honed philosophy that “health is a right and must be made accessible, equitable, affordable and appropriate and safe at all times to the people in Ghana and a mission “to continuously promote good health among all people through…maintenance of the highest possible standards of healthcare delivery in Ghana” (Source: GMA website).

However, the enforcement of the foregoing philosophy and goal has been an illusion. There are reported cases of unprofessional conducts [by deliberately denying some clients of proper health care so that they could refer them to their own private hospitals/clinics] of some members of GMA. Government and some investigative journalists can look into such queer medical practices in public healthcare settings.

Many GMA members have been cherry-picking their professional ethical codes, albeit swearing the venerated Hippocratic oath. For example, “The Medical Superintendent of New Abirim Government Hospital Dr. Osei Bonsu has been arrested for allegedly stealing items belonging to the hospital. The items were being conveyed by one Edward Damptey from Abirim to a private hospital in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, which is said to belong to Dr. Osei Bonsu” (Source:, January 8, 2017).

The aforementioned incidence was a clear case of GMA standard of practice infraction with senseless and irresponsible glee. Some doctors also abuse their nurses and as a corollary, some nurses inflict their venom on their innocent clients. Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association [GRNMA] members in the public hospitals must equally follow their professional conduct of practice to the letter to improve the healthcare delivery system in Ghana.

Suffice it to say that African governments do not trust their own physicians and medical care, who then must use medical services provided by the government? What impression will a husband be creating if he always eats from someone else wife’s kitchen? Will it not be nonsensical to be having a minister of health? The government must cooperate with GMA and GRNMA members to make healthcare delivery system in Ghana more attractive.

African leaders must utilize their local hospitals to gain insight into the healthcare needs of Ghanaians. Let us say no to political leaders’ medical tourism. Let us prioritize health care delivery system in Ghana. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana.