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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Columnist: Agya Kwaku Ogboro

Kaafe skin pain, oofeets?

When the Nana Dee government took the reins of power on January 7, 2017, many were shocked to hear the news that a country of almost 30 million people had only 53 ambulances at its disposal. It was even more shocking to realize that the 50 or so ambulances procured to augment the fleet ‘were not fit for purpose’. Whatever that means can only be explained by Hon. Alex Segbefia, the then Health Minister.

The response of the new government had been slower than many expected. It took about three years to finally augment the fleet. Slow it may have been, but it is better late than never.

The 307 ambulances were inaugurated by President Nana Dee himself amidst pomp and pageantry about a fortnight ago. As was expected, those riding on the Elephant hailed the unprecedented feat and praised the government for the great effort, while those under the eagle-headed Umbrella saw the inauguration as unnecessary waste of time and resources.

Of all the dissenting voices, the only voice that sounded discordant in many people’s ears was that of President Ogwanfunu. He did not hide his displeasure at the inauguration and even questioned the rationale for procuring ambulances when the country did not have enough hospitals. Coming from a man who had wasted the country’s hard-earned resources on white elephant ambulances, one cannot help but conclude that the former president’s comment is a case of sour grapes. I liken his action to that of a man who tries in vain to woo a beautiful damsel, only to turn around and question the damsel’s beauty after losing to another man. It is called ‘skin pain’ in local parlance.

Did I hear you ask what I think about the procurement and inauguration? Well, procuring 307 ambulances should not be something to celebrate under normal circumstances. But ours is not a normal circumstance; so adding a whopping 307 ambulances to a paltry 53 is something worth commending.

That I have a soft spot for the Elephant is a fact I cannot deny. But I’m not a fanatic. Any ardent reader of this column would confirm that I’ve on numerous occasions tongue-lashed my own government for the delay in adding to the fleet at the Ambulance Service. Just as I shouted ‘crucify’ them when the government failed to procure the ambulances, so will I shout ‘hallelujah’ now that it has heeded our call and procured 307 ambulances.

It is gratifying to note that major stakeholders in the health sector like the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) are excited at the procurement. An elated GMA General Secretary, Dr. Justice Yankson, has described as unprecedented, the distribution of the 307 ambulances to various constituencies to assist in quality health delivery. He lauded the government for the initiative, saying that the country has never recorded anything close to procuring even two hundred ambulances at a go.

Please listen to him: “Generally speaking, in terms of the numbers and then even in terms of the operational scope and the way it is going to be managed, I think that this is a very big improvement over the years.”

It is also heartwarming to hear that a total of 4,000 new jobs are expected to be created with the move as clearance had been given for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) staff and training across the country. One can only imagine the relief it will bring to the families of the 4,000 persons employed.

However, the unpatriotic behaviour of the average Ghanaian has once again reared its ugly head as the Emergency Centre receives hundreds of prank calls daily. Frankly, I still cannot fathom the reason for such a behaviour. I cannot tell if it is foolishness, stupidity, envy or sheer idiocy. The prank-call syndrome has brought to the fore the need for re-registration of SIM cards to make it easier to identify and deal with such miscreants.

As for President Ogwanfunu and his ilk, we are not bothered by their ‘skin pain’ complaints. We were all in this country when they commissioned head pans for ‘kayayei’. We also saw how they celebrated and continue to celebrate the buffoonery of a government that sited SHS structures in bushes, compelling students to walk several miles to get education. The architects of such buffoonery cannot tell us not to celebrate the procurement of 307 ambulances. If only they would listen to Sarkodie’s 'Oofeets?' for some words of wisdom!

See you next week for another interesting konkonsa, Deo volente!

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