My approach is to give a general information devoid of buzz technical words. Will try to make it as simple as possible. My presentation will keep many nagging questions in mind and hope that after everything many questions would have been answered.
I will first like to give a brief background to how Ghana Health Service is organised. ( This is necessary so one can understand the operations of the project and possibly to appreciate why GMA were not initially involved in the discussion of the concept, even though I don’t agree with their non involvement). Will then talk about the various stakeholders in the project and their roles and will end with a step by step description of the process. Hope you will not be bored.
Functionally, Ghana Health Service (GHS) is organised at 5 levels: National through the Teaching or Tertiary hospitals. Example , Korle Bu Teaching hospital, Regional through the regional hospitals like the Greater Accra regional hospital at Ridge, District level through the Polyclinics, Sub-District level through the Health Centers, and, Community level through the Community-based Health Planning and Services centers (CHPS compound or zones).
The CHPS are the smallest units in the structure and can be found in the rural communities. The CHPS have their limitation as to what they can do as a health facility ( HF) and thus they have the appropriate personnel to man these facilities usually headed by a Community Nurse and sometimes supported by a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBAs).
The Health Centers do slightly more complicated job than the CHPS and thus have a higher qualified personnel manning its facilities. Again, the Polyclinics are higher in the rank than the HCs . Next in rank are the hospitals, then the Regional hospitals ( which are referral centers in the regions) and ultimately the Ogboro itself Korle Bu which is a national hospital. Resource ( drugs etc) allocation are made to these HFs depending on its capacity.
If a facility does not have the capacity to undertake a specific job, it will simply refer the patient to the appropriate facility in the hierarchy. I will want you to keep this particular stuff in mind because I will be referring to it again when I come to explain the step by step process in the Drone operation.
THE GHANA HEALTH SERVICE
Ghana Health Service (GHS) is an autonomous EXECUTIVE agency responsible for IMPLEMENTING national policies under the control of the Ministry of Health. ( Not the Ghana Medical Association) . It is one of the agencies under the Ministry of Health (MoH). Some of the agencies are National Blood Service, National Ambulance Service and National Health Insurance Authority. Their mandate is to provide and prudently manage comprehensive and accessible health service with special emphasis on primary health care at regional, district and sub-district levels in accordance with approved national policies.
WHAT AT ALL IS A DRONE
The Supplies, Stores and Drug Management Division is one of the divisions of GHS and one of their objectives is to ” ensure optimum drugs and equipment AVAILABILITY throughout the FACILITIES (HF) of the GHS”. Drones simply put are ” flying computers with a camera or sensor attached to it”. They are equipped with different state of the art technology such as infrared cameras, GPS and laser. They are controlled by remote control systems also sometimes referred to as a ground cockpit. It is unmanned. All unmanned aerial vehicle system has 2 parts; the drone and the control system.
Many drones are equipped with obstacle detection sensors and collision avoidance systems. This project will be designed, installed and operated by the US based Zipline International Inc in partnership with the GHS. It will leverage on technology to improve the SUPPLY CHAIN of critical medical supplies, reduce waste and save lives. This is in line with the government policy of exploring innovative ways, including the use of drone technology to make UNIVERSAL health care available to every Ghanaian in a TIMELY manner irrespective of LOCATION.
STAKEHOLDERS OF THE PROJECT
Ghana Civil Aviation Authority who will create an air corridor for the drones to prevent collisions with airplanes and other larger aircrafts. They will do this through the provision of Flight Control Centers ( FCC). Having given a general description of the structure of GHS and a definition of a drone, let’s now address what I have termed “Ghana’s Drone for Health” project.
Any time I mention project subsequently, I am referring to the Ghana’s Drone for Health project. This project seeks to offer a drone – enabled supply chain solution in Ghana that will ensure secure, reliable and TIMELY deliveries of essential health care products( resources) to hospitals and other health facilities. The Drone facility plus satellite technology using GPS and GIS ( Geographic Information System), all HFs will be mapped and their GPS imputed into the Drone Navigation system.
DISTRIBUTION CENTRES (DCs)
These are the nerve centers for the project. Each DC will have at least 20 drones, launch and recovery equipment, state of the art medical refrigeration equipment and Computerized Order Management systems. Other agencies under MoH like the Supplies, Stores and Drug Management Division of GHS ( you remember? ) and National Blood Service will also be linked to this system. The final stakeholder is the National Security.
OPERATION OF THE PROJECT
The drones will operate 24 hours a day from 4 DCs that will be implemented under the project. 1 D.C. has been decided and that is the Suhum DC. It will service some 500 HFs. The DC will be stock with some 148 life saving and essential medical supplies including emergency blood and oxytocin. Others include emergency medicines for surgeries, severe infections, anti venins and anti rabbies, diabetic emergencies and extremely high blood pressure emergencies.
In all, the will be 2,500 HFs under this project spread across the country. Each DC will manage a number of HFs. Zipline will employ 200 Ghanaians including Pharmacists, Engineers, Flight operators and many more essential and allied support staff. Again, it will not replace the existing supply chain but will only handle EMERGENCY STOCK OUT situations. The total service cost is $12.5 million dollars for the 4 year period covering all the 4 DCs that will service some 2,500 HFs across the country. At full throttle, the cost will be $88,000 per month.
THE DEMAND AND SUPPLY PROCESS
When a HF RUNS OUT of a resource ( or a product) , it will order an emergency delivery by a drone that will arrive within 40 minutes. There MUST be a request from the HF to a DC for a service before that service can be delivered via a drone. Note, it is expected that the HF MUST have the capacity to administer the product or resource before it makes the request. This is thus, a Request and supply system. ” You ask, we deliver”. So the question of, do we have the requisite personal to administer the product will not arrive. I painfully took you through the structure of GHS, so you can appreciate this. After the request, the DC will verify the request with higher Authority. Once cleared, the DC will alert the FCC, the drone center and its internal stores/ Logistics unit. The resource or product will then be packaged and the drone mounted and placed on its launching pad . With GPS of the facility activated, the drone will be launched and it is expected to reach its destination within 40 minutes. Remember all the GPS of the HFs have been mapped and inputted into the drone’s navigation system.
10 minutes before arrival, the requesting HF will be notified about the impending arrival of the drone. At a predetermined location in the facility, the designated official will go and pick the resource (s). On arrival, the package will be ejected off the drone via a parachute and drop off at the destination. The drone will then return to its DC and will be plucked off the skies onto a bouncy pad and decommissioned.
By: Wilberforce Asare