Parliament Approves Medical Drone Agreement

Parliament has by a majority decision approved an agreement to allow the use of drones to distribute essential drugs and blood to health facilities across the country.

In a head count Tuesday, 102 legislators voted for the controversial policy, with 58 dissenting.

The dissenting votes came from the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs, Joy News Parliamentary Correspondent, Joseph Opoku-Gakpo reports.

The parliamentary approval means USA-based Zipline International Inc, in partnership with the Ghana Health Service, will next year begin to use the unmanned aircraft systems to deliver essential health care products to hospitals and other health facilities in the country.

The system will also be employed to deliver other items such as urgent letters, examination papers and election materials such as ballot papers, according to government communication on the deal.

This makes Ghana the only country in the West African sub-region currently using the technology to improve health service delivery.

Controversy

Legislators in Parliament had been divided over the agreement that was presented to them last week for consideration.

A key point of contention between the two sides of the House was the cost of the project.

While the Minority MPs held that the government had signed a deal to pay $1 million for a drone which should cost some $100,000, the Director-General of Health Service, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare has debunked the claim saying government was not going to buy drones at all but was going to pay for the services to be provided by the drone.

Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare explained “if the company [Fly Zipline] makes less than 15 deliveries there will be no payment. If it is from 15 to 50 deliveries they are paid $11,000 per month. If they deliver 150 deliveries per day they get $88,000 [per month].”

The Minority MPs have also raised concerns about why Fly Zipline was sole-sourced for a project costing $12 million.

They argue the amount may have been reduced if the contract had been subjected to competitive tendering.

However, Dr Nsiah-Asare explained that Fly Zipline is the only company working within the West African sub-region with the requisite expertise and technology, challenging opposers of the deal to mention a company that measures up to Fly Zipline in the unmanned aircraft systems.

Minority

The Minority MPs have not backed down on their opposition to deal despite losing its bid to block the deal in Parliament.

Shortly after the vote was taken by the Speaker of Parliament, Prof Michael Ocquaye, the dissenting rushed out to hold a press conference where they are expected to highlight the reservations they have about the deal.

Spicefmonline.com | Ghana

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