Henceforth, the number to dial for any form of emergency help, whether for police, fire or ambulance services, is 112, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has announced.
This is because the government has succeeded in arranging for a sole and unique emergency number for all emergency service providers in the country.
Commissioning 307 ambulances purchased under the government’s One-constituency, One-ambulance policy at a ceremony at the Black Star Square in Accra yesterday, President Akufo-Addo appealed to the citizenry not to abuse the system, pointing out that “90 per cent of calls made to the providers of emergency services are hugely prank calls”.
He expressed grave concern over the abuse of emergency numbers by Ghanaians in the past through prank calls and said the practice was not right, as it endangered the lives of Ghanaians in need.
“In the past, the Police Service, the Fire Service and the National Ambulance Service (NAS) all had different emergency numbers. I am happy to announce that, thankfully, we have merged all the emergency numbers to one number, which is 112.
“For any form of emergency, whether police, fire or ambulance services, the number to dial on all mobile networks is 112,” the President declared.
He said the goal of the government was to establish a strong and accessible healthcare system of world-class quality which would assure the health and well-being of Ghanaians and called on all to be an integral part of the vision.
In addition, he said, the government would ensure that the needed infrastructure was provided for the needed paramedics and the Emergency Care Training School at Nkenkansu in the Ashanti Region to help ensure that it trained paramedics in Ghana and West Africa.
The school, the President indicated, would also serve as a refresher course centre for emergency care training for doctors, nurses and other paramedics in the sub-region.
He said the government was committed to realising an effective emergency medical services (EMS) system to help improve Ghana’s emergency response capabilities and called on all regional ministers, political heads of local assemblies, as well as health officials, to provide the needed cooperation and support to ensure the success of the service.
He said the provision of the fleet of vehicles was to augment the various interventions already initiated by the government, such as drones for medical supplies, the construction of health facilities and the employment of about 60,000 nurses.
Unveiling the 307 ambulances, President Akufo-Addo expressed appreciation to the Minister for Special Development Initiatives, Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson, and the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, for their dynamism and hard work exhibited in realising the dream.
Going down memory lane, he said the NAS used to have 130 stations and 10 regional control rooms across the country.
“It is sad to note that when I took office in January 2017, the service had only 55 semi-functioning ambulances. Indeed, the ambulance service started off with 50 ambulances in 2006, and in 2018, 161 ambulances containing basic life support equipment were imported into the country. In December 2016, 200 ambulances were supposedly purchased by the Mahama government, out of which only 30 arrived in the country.
“As if that was not enough, the 30 were declared ‘not fit for purpose’ because they had cardinal defects and did not come with any medical equipment,” the President explained.
“Today, I am glad to be presenting to the Ministry of Health 307 brand-new state-of-the-art ambulances fitted with advanced life support equipment and tracking devices to be distributed to the 275 constituencies; that is, one constituency, one ambulance, to be managed by the NAS, and the remainder of 32 ambulances to the headquarters of the service.
“As against the scenario whereby one ambulance served approximately 524,000 people at the end of December 2016, today there is a much improved ratio of one ambulance serving approximately 84,000 people,” he added.
He emphasised the fact that in the course of the year, 145 ambulance stations would be created, bringing the total to 275 stations, to ensure that “we have a one constituency, one ambulance station situation”.
“We promised in the 2016 NPP Manifesto to strengthen the National Ambulance Service and we are doing just that,” President Akufo-Addo said.
For her part, Mrs Koomson reiterated the fact that the procurement of the 307 ambulances was funded with the ‘One million dollars per constituency’ allocation of the government.
She said the boost to pre-hospital emergency healthcare delivery under the implementation of Infrastructure for Poverty Eradication Programme (IPEP) was currently being implemented by the Special Development Initiatives Ministry.
She appealed to the NAS to honour its promise to maintain the fleet, even beyond the five-year maintenance contract with the manufacturer of the vehicles.
The Minister of Health said the purchase and eventual distribution of the ambulances had brought him so much relief because he was receiving public pressure regarding why the government was using drones to deliver essential medical suppliers to deprived areas, regardless of a struggling NAS.
Mr Agyeman-Manu expressed optimism that the fleet would not only boost healthcare delivery and pre-hospital emergency services but also enhance access to healthcare facilities and in effect quality healthcare services.
He said the fleet had also brought to an end the era when the NAS had trained and skilled professionals but did not have the ambulances and major equipment for service delivery, as he had inherited.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NAS, Professor Ahmed Nuhu Zakariah, said the ambulances had been equipped with state-of-the-art and advanced life-support devices, including stretchers, first aid kits, oxygen cylinders and all that a modern ambulance must have.
He said the emergency medical system was ready and committed to delivering out-of-hospital emergency and medical care, health transportation for patients with injuries, conditions and illnesses that prevented them from transporting themselves to health facilities.
He said those who required the assistance of the service could call 112 on any network or use the Ghana Post GPS to make requests.
In 2016, the NPP, as part of its electioneering, promised to provide an ambulance for each constituency and revamp the NAS to improve health delivery.
In December 2018, the President announced that the government would deliver its promise on the ambulances for every district in 2019.
After a delegation visited Turkey in June to inspect progress of work on the manufacture of the vehicles, the Ministry of Special Initiatives took delivery of the first batch of 48 new ambulances in September last year.
The second and third batches were delivered in October and December 2019.
The distribution was initially scheduled for January 6, this year, but was shifted to yesterday to enable key pre-requisites to be put in place.
They included embossing constituency names, affixing tracking systems and preparation of receiving points for a number of the ambulances to facilitate their effective operation.