The New Patriotic Party is demanding explanation from President John Dramani Mahama, over the cost of training 250 Ghanaians as medical doctors in Cuba.

The opposition party in a release on Monday, claimed information available to them indicated that the cost may have been inflated.

Read below the full statement issued by the NPP.

PRESS STATEMENT BY NPP CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE ON HEALTH

PRESIDENT MAHAMA MUST EXPLAIN INFLATED COST OF TRAINING OUR STUDENTS IN CUBA

The President, John Dramani Mahama, at last Tuesday’s presidential debate in Tamale showed why he cannot be trusted to protect the public purse or promote the interest of the good people of Ghana.

Just like the botched housing deals he negotiated with STX of Korea and GUMA of South Africa; the $88 million Embraer 190 jet, which comes with a staircase costing $1 million, a fuel tank at $8 million and hangar at $17m; in addressing his controversially costly decision of sending Ghanaians to Cuba for medical training, President Mahama has, once again, reaffirmed the kind of chronic recklessness he has employed in negotiating deals for and on behalf of Ghana.

The GH¢160 million agreement with the Cuban government, which was championed by the then Vice President John Mahama, includes the training of 250 Ghanaian students as doctors as well as funding for the services of the Cuban medical brigade. The President led and negotiated this deal with the Cuban government, which he announced to the country on October 23, 2011. It is worth noting, that figure was equivalent to US$96.5 million at the time it received cabinet approval last year.

We wish to inform the Ghanaian public that the cost of training one Namibian doctor in Cuba under an identical scheme is US$13,748.52 a year. Yet, under the deal struck by President Mahama, the cost of training such a Ghanaian student in Cuba is put at US$25,330.06 per annum. In fact, we are paying nearly twice what the Namibians are doing. The President must explain to Ghanaians why we are paying so much more than our southern African neighbours.

THE PRESIDENT LIED TO GHANAIANS
President Mahama at the IEA debate stated categorically that the Cuban deal to train a single Ghanaian doctor is costing that taxpayer just $5,000 a year, adding that “it is cheaper than training a doctor in Ghana.” That was a blatant lie and we will show why. According to the Ghana Medical Association, it would cost US$36,000 (GH¢72,000) to train a Ghanaian doctor for six years. The Cuban deal means one doctor is being trained at US$151,980 (GH¢303,960) for the entire six year period.

The question Ghanaians are asking is this: Mr President, did you crosscheck to satisfy yourself that the Cuban deal you committed the nation to was cheaper than the alternative of training doctors locally in Ghana?
The answer is a big no. Because if he did, with the benefit of all the facts before him, he couldn’t have made that false statement at the debate that the Cuban deal was cheaper. Unless, of course, he deliberately said so to deceive the people of Ghana.

What is the truth? The truth is that President John Dramani Mahama lied to all Ghanaians on live national television when he said it was costing Ghana “only” $5,000 a year to train a single student in Cuba. No good negotiator would have committed his nation to such a deal without satisfying himself of the cost of the obvious alternative. Such is the nature of the regular recklessness with which deals associated with this President has been done.

LEAKED CABINET MEMO
We have a copy of the cabinet memo signed by the then sector Minister of Health, Joseph Yieleh Chireh.

The memo, prepared before the recent massive fall in the cedi against major foreign currencies, states: “the budget for the basic training of doctors and of specialists works out to GH¢74,344,960 for the period of the Medical Cooperation” with “an amount of GH¢14,498,960” needed for the first year, 2012.

According to the Minister of Health, the cost of training each one of our Senior High School graduates sent to medical schools in Cuba amounts to GH¢50,660.12 (¢506.6 million) a year. This means that at the end of the six years, we would have spent US$151,980 or GH¢303,960 (¢3.0396 billion) on each of those students.

We are not saying it, the Cabinet memo says it. It continues: “For the 200 students that are proposed for training in Cuba, this will work out to GH¢10,132,024.00) for each year. For the six years of training, this works out to GH¢60,792,144.00. The cost of training a specialist in Cuba is about GH¢48,189.12 per annum per student. For the 50 proposed [specialists] for training, this works out to GH¢9,637,824 for four years”.

It was based on this memo that Vice President Mahama got the Finance Ministry to release money for this programme. This was his “pet project” so he cannot feign ignorance today. What is alarming is the fact that armed with all the information the President still went ahead to say publicly that training doctors in Ghana was more expensive.

We really don’t get the President. At his IEA encounter last month he, without prompting, defended his decision to give rlg, a model Ghanaian computer firm, the contract to supply laptops for education. He said, “even if it is more expensive it is better to give it to a Ghanaian company so we can build Ghanaian enterprises.”

So how come it is cheaper to train doctors here and yet the President will neglect our medical schools to spend more money to send some students abroad rather than investing that money to expand the capacity of our medical schools and train even more students? Our medical schools insist that with the needed funds they can train a lot more students than they are doing now.

WHY ARE NAMIBIANS PAYING FAR LESS?
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have evidence to show that Ghana has been severely shortchanged by this deal. A similar controversy with the training of medical students in Cuba occurred in Namibia where the cost was condemned as too high. But, the Namibian rate is even far cheaper than what President John Mahama did for Ghana.

This similar medical co-operation deal negotiated by the Namibian government with Cuba for the training of 100 doctors leaves no doubt how President Mahama has recklessly treated our resources and the taxpayer’s money.

On the 2nd of October, the government of Namibia announced that the Namibian taxpayer will fork out N$70 million (US$8,029,754.84) to finance the training of 100 doctors in Cuba over six years. Under the agreement, Namibia has to pay N$705,000 (US$80,871.10) to train one doctor in Cuba for the six years.
(http://m.allafrica.com/stories/201210020497.html/?maneref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dnamibia%2Btrains%2Bdoctors%2Bin%2Bcuba%26hl%3Den%26oq%3Dnamibia%2Btrains%2Bdoctors%2Bin%2Bcuba%26gs_l%3Dmobile-heirloom-hp.12…150.3402.0.6040.15.11.0.0.0.0.568.2313.3-1j3j1.5.0…0.0…1c.1.yr9w6W1DO5w)

In Ghana, however, we are being forced by this NDC government to pay US$152,000. This is almost twice what the Namibians are paying and even begrudgingly!

Again, comparing the two deals, the cost of training one Namibian doctor in Cuba would cost US$13,748.52 or GH¢26,957.03 and the cost of doing the same thing for a Ghanaian student in Cuba is US$25,330.06 or GH¢50,660.12 per annum. This figure may even be more now for us, considering the drop in the local currency.

President Mahama must explain to Ghanaians why we are paying much more than the Namibians are. Or is it just the case that in President John Dramani Mahama, Ghana has a very bad negotiator? That’s why we maintain that the President cannot be trusted to protect the public purse.

WHAT IT COSTS TO TRAIN DOCTORS IN GHANA
At the University of Ghana Medical School, foreign students pay US$10,000 per year. Graduate students pay US$12,000. Fee paying Ghanaians pay US$6000. At the School of Medical Sciences, KNUST, foreign students pay US$7,000 and fee-paying Ghanaians pay US$2,500. Whichever way you look at this, it is much cheaper to train our people at home where they can get better tuition because there is no language barrier among other things.

WHAT THE NPP WILL DO DIFFERENTLY
The NPP has a solid track record in the health delivery sector. In our 8 years in office, we, for example, increased intake for Diploma Nurses, from 968 in 2000 to 7,068 in 2008. Community Health Nursing intake increased from 500 to 2,214 in 2008. To improve SKILL-MIX in the nursing profession, the health care assistant training program was established and a number of Health Assistant Training Institutions were also put up across the country. Intake into such institutions increased from 477 in 2006 to 2,541 in 2008. This did not happen by accident.

In line with the vision of the Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Akufo-Addo, the priority of the next NPP government when, God willing, we win the December elections will be to train our doctors locally.

The NPP finds the shortage of doctors in the health delivery systems disturbing. The average doctor/patient ratio of 1: 10,000 in Ghana is far below the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), whose figure is pegged at 1:5,000.

To meet present requirements Ghana needs 48,000 doctors and with the three medical schools producing less than 400 doctors in a year it will take at least 100 years to meet present standards. There is the need to expand existing medical schools and also establish new ones.

We will expand existing medical schools and also establish a national institute for biomedical sciences where medical students will have their basic sciences courses. At the same time, regional hospitals will be equipped to enable them provide clinical training for graduates from the National Biomedical Institute.

In addition, we will construct new Regional and Specialist Hospitals and upgrade all existing Regional Hospitals and accredit them to take on more students in clinical training. We shall fund local postgraduate medical and other health staff training to build the requisite and qualified staff to handle all faculties.

We will rather invest in our medical schools to train a lot more doctors here in Ghana. It is also important to scale up the training of Physician Assistants (PA) who will take up some of the load from the routine of doctors.

Also, the private sector will be encouraged to establish health training institutions, including medical schools.

Let us vote out the NDC to protect the public purse and keep our nation healthy. Let us vote for the NPP, Change Now! Move Ghana Forward!

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