Ghana’s healthcare system back on track with new hospitals from Ellipse Projects and Adjaye Associates
Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a €55 million municipal trauma and accident hospital in the town of Obuasi earlier this month, which will add no less than 100 hospital beds to Obuasi's overall capacity. Built with financing secured via Deutsche Bank, this is just one of the multiple new initiatives transforming the face of Ghana's healthcare system.
Ghana's breakneck development of new medical facilities like the Obuasi hospital comes at an opportune time. While the country has lost a relatively small number of people to Covid-19, the immense additional pressure placed on health services throughout the pandemic has revealed substantial cracks in the public health system. The silver lining is that new healthcare initiatives across the country are making this a banner year for public health, not only improving care for Ghanaian civilians but creating the potential for health tourism from the rest of West Africa.
Turnkey hospitals from Ellipse Projects and Adjaye Associates
The wheels of progress on Ghanaian public healthcare may be turning rapidly, but it wasn't always that way. Work ground to a standstill on a crucial regional hospital in southern Bekwai in 2010, when Ghana's Ministry of Health ran out of funds. After years of deadlock, French infrastructure company Ellipse Projects intervened in 2018 to restructure the project's funding. €23 million in new financing allowed for the completion of the 120-bed facility, and the building now offers first aid, gynaecology, obstetrics, paediatrics, and surgery to the local population, amongst other services.
Last month, Ellipse Projects built on their earlier success, beginning construction on a 285-bed regional hospital in the eastern region of Koforidua that can eventually be increased to 600 in a second phase. The €70 million contract also includes a medical training center and staff accommodations. Although Covid delayed construction by a year, the new hospital is set to be delivered within 36 months, shoring up the area's standards of medical care and reducing the level of healthcare inequality between Ghana's provincial communities and the capital. According to President Akufo-Addo: "once fully completed, it will be fitted with the requisite teaching and learning facilities and will position the Eastern Region on the right side of the healthcare map of our country."
Another major initiative is also aiming to reverse Ghana's dearth of medical infrastructure in rural areas. As Ellipse Projects started work in Koforidua, construction also began on a design by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye in the town of Trebe, the first of 101 district hospital campuses to be constructed in coming years. In a bid to increase access at a lower cost, Adjaye Associates developed the concept of a single-story, low carbon, prefabricated 8,500 square meter structure with a price tag of just €17 million that can be replicated throughout the West African nation. Featuring an insulated shell to keep facilities cool and roofs that collect rainwater, each hospital is scheduled for delivery within 18 months from the start of construction. The project will employ approximately 20 Ghanaian architectural and engineering consulting firms as well as 300 local architects, masons, and carpenters.
Could Ghana become a regional health hub?
The steady rollout of these healthcare facilities is driving Ghana's progress towards the UN's third Sustainable Development Goal: "ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages." Moving forward, Ghana will be able to offer life-saving care to broad new sections of the national population, reduce the prevalence of endemic diseases such as malaria and HIV, and better prepare for future pandemics. The alleviation of health issues will have a direct impact on the country's finances, too, since research from the McKinsey Global Institute has determined that poor health decreases global GDP by 15% every year.
Beyond improving treatment access for Ghanaians, the new medical facilities could also attract visitors and financial capital from outside the country. At present, of the top medical tourism destinations in the world, South Africa is the only sub-Saharan African country to make the list, even though Africans spend approximately $6 billion on medical care abroad per year. Considering the continent's population will reach approximately 2.5 billion people by 2050, there is a major need for more African countries equipped to provide medical treatment to patients from regional neighbors.
President Akufo-Addo has stated himself that an increase in medical tourists could add $2 billion to Ghana's GDP by 2030, as well as creating over 50,000 jobs. To this end, the Ghanaian leader rolled out Agenda 111, the country's biggest public health policy to date, in mid-August, representing "the largest investment in healthcare infrastructure in the country since independence."
Ghana's foregrounding of healthcare funding is a strong start, but there is still much work to be done to allow access to all—not least because the country has pledged to provide universal health coverage by 2030. As the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Akufo-Addo's emphasis on expanding healthcare infrastructure sends a strong signal to the rest of the region as well.
(Devdiscourse's journalists were not involved in the production of this article. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)