Minister-designate for Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, was grilled at his vetting by Parliament’s Appointments Committee yesterday, and as an old horse in the stable he acquitted himself quite creditably.
However, he made a statement that sounded a little ambiguous when queried about the intended 88 hospitals the president promised to construct in the heat of the coronavirus outbreak last year.
“What the president said was his vision, and that should have translated to actual work,” he added. He actually explained why the project had delayed – but we were surprised when he said it was the president’s vision when the call was first made, because the outbreak of virus exposed the country’s fragile health system which needed to be strengthened.
Hence, during his speech in one of his COVID updates in April last year, the president promised to build more than 90 new hospitals planned for 88 districts in Ghana that are currently without a hospital, as well as six additional regional hospitals.
As media we are enjoined to hold duty-bearers to account, and we believe the question posed to the minister at the vetting exposed the fact that not a single hospital was constructed in any of the districts.
Mr. Agyeman-Manu’s feeble response was: “We built CHPS compounds and health centres”. President Akufo-Addo was specifically quoted as saying: “Each of them will be a quality, standard design 100-bed hospital with accommodation for doctors, nurses and other health workers”.
It is pretty obvious that none of such facilities were constructed, and it is not too surprising since many questioned the president’s ability to deliver on the pledge. However, the minister-designate explained that, indeed, some work was done.
“A committee was set up at the presidency chaired by the Chief of Staff and I was a member…we wrote to district assemblies for land and site plans; but as we speak, 13 of those assemblies are yet to complete their work…and that is why we are where we are.”
We believe such a promise from the first gentleman of the land carries a lot of weight, and therefore something should have been done to put up a few, if not all. When confronted before the committee, this question could not be answered satisfactorily.
This should serve as a lesson to duty-bearers not to bite-off more than they can chew.