Ghana’s emergency medical drone delivery service is to save cost by eliminating expensive emergency trips to pick up product, and avoiding wasteful overstocking of products at health facilities.
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), said the drones to be run by the Ghana Health Services and the Ministry of Health, will give Ghana the most advanced health care supply chain on the planet.
“Ghana's Ministry of Health is launching the largest and most advanced medical drone delivery network in the world,” Dr Nsiah Asare told journalists, at a press briefing at the Parliament House in Accra on Tuesday.
The project, under the supervisions of the Office of the Vice President, initially was to take off last April 2018, but has been rescheduled for early 2019.
“By early 2019, we will be joining Rwanda in using drones to deliver critical medical products. “Blood products, medical cargo, emergency vaccines, life-saving and other essential medicines on demand will be sent to every part of the country regardless of the terrain or road infrastructure,” Dr Nsiah Asare said.
“The drones will operate 24 hours a day from four distribution centres. The first distribution centre will be located near Suhum, and the sites for the remaining three will be finalized by the GHS subsequently, but are expected to cover much of the country,” the Director General added.
He said the distribution centres will stock 184 lifesaving and essential medical supplies, including emergency blood and oxytocin to save women's lives in childbirth and postpartum haemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal death.
The Director General said the drone service will also cover emergency medicines for surgeries, severe infections, antivenins and anti-rabies, diabetic emergencies, extremely high blood pressure emergencies and “ when one of the of the 2,500 health facilities covered by the new service stocks out of a product, it will order an emergency delivery by drone that will arrive in 30-40 minutes.
“The drones will not replace the existing supply chain. They will specialize in handling emergency stock-out situations,” Dr Nsiah-Asare assured, adding that “this revolutionary healthcare service will help save lives, decrease waste in the system and increase healthcare access for more than 14 million people nationwide.
Zipline, a California-based automated logistics company, which helped launch the world’s first national drone delivery service in Rwanda in October of 2016, will operate the drones, and will employ more than 200 Ghanaians, including pharmacists, engineers, flight operation officers, among others.
Zipline would build a training centre in Ghana to support all of Zipline’s Anglophone West African operations, and this will make Ghana the hub for drone innovation in both Africa and the world.
The contract is a Service Agreement and Zipline with a four year term and MoH will have the option to cancel the service, if it is unsatisfied with the required detailed performance requirements, such as range, payload, and number of flights per day.
Each distribution centre will include at least 20 drones, launch and recovery equipment, state-of-the-art medical refrigeration equipment, computerized order management systems. Each will be staffed by up to 50 Ghanaian employees.
Zipline must operate drone flights from the distribution centres on a 24/7 basis to deliver medical products on request to health facilities within an 80 km service radius.
Zipline would guarantee a capacity of 150 flights per day. This means that the four distribution centers will be able to make up to 600 emergency deliveries per day total and the cost of the service at full operations is $88,000 per distribution centre