By Bingorwura Sam Saibu Adam
The Government’s Agenda 111, I believe, includes the Savannah Regional Hospital. If media reports are to be believed, funding has been secured, architectural designs have been completed and land acquisition and other processes are at various stages of completion and yet a good many of us do not know where the Savannah Regional hospital is to be located.
Where the Regional Hospital should be located is a discussion we the people of the Savannah region must have. A robust debate that will enable us to select a location that is easily accessible to most of the residents of the Savannah region, taking into consideration centrality, population distribution, road network, cost efficiency and other socio-economic factors. This is what the debate is about.
I will begin the discussion by proposing the Fufulso area as the most suitable location for the hospital.
- A historical perspective – Yapei, which is only 16km from Fufulso, was where all the Gonja-wide meetings of 1923 and 1930 that define the Gonja Kingdom as we know it today were held. Yapei was chosen for these meetings by the British Colonial Administration because of its centrality vis-à-vis other parts of Gonjaland; and our chiefs agreed with them on that. If not for Yagbonwura Mahama (1912-1937 from Bole), the capital of Gonja would have been in the Yapei and not Damongo as we now have it. It was at the 1923 meeting that all the divisional (paramount) chiefs were made to pledge or re-pledge their allegiance and accept the Yagbonwura as the overlord of all Gonja; and it was at the 1930 meeting that the current Gonja constitution was promulgated.
The reasons why Fufulso rather Yapei is being proposed is because Yapei is too close to Tamale coupled with the fact that Fufulso is on the south bank of the White Volta which creates a natural and noticeable barrier between Tamale and Dagbon for that matter.
- Centrality – Fufulso is the most central town in the Savannah region with direct and indirect road links with most of the district capitals and other major population centres in the region. This makes it relatively easily accessible to most residents of the Savannah region
Savannah Region Fufulso, District capitals and outlying towns
Distances (Km), as per Google Distance Calculator. Distances of small and relatively unknown towns towns/villages not available)
Note: Salaga in the South East (206 km) and Bamboi in the South West (208 Km) are almost equidistant from Fufulso. Daboya to the North and Buipe to the South are 56km and 77km respectively
- Accessibility/Road Network
Fufulso is the most easily accessible town in the Savannah region. The Fulfulso-Sawla road goes through Busunu, Damongo and through most of the towns and villages all the way to Sawla; where it links up with the Western Corridor road; which goes through Bamboi and all the villages in between to Bole and then to Sawla to Tuna and yonder.
The Daboya-Mankragu road (99km) joins the Fufulso-Sawla highway at Busuna, a less than 20 minutes’ drive to the Fufulso junction. The proximity of Fufulso to Buipe, Damongo and Tamale, coupled with it being on the main highway linking Southern Ghana to the North (the N10), and then from Tamale to Salaga and to Mankango; makes the movement of most Savannah region residents seeking medical services much more convenient than any other town in the region.
The latest development in regard to road network, is the Bunjai-Fufulso road currently under construction. When completed, it will cut the distance and travel time from East Gonja, the most populous part of the Savannah region, to Fufulso by about 120km and 2 hours respectively. (it is estimated that the travel time from Salaga to Fufulso through Bunjai when the road is completed will be about 2 hours.
- Population Distribution
Equity and fairness demand that the Regional hospital should be located where it can easily be accessed by the majority of residents of the Savannah region. A projected population by district from the 2010 population census to 2020, using the 2010 estimated growth rate of 2.9% per annum (as no certified results/figures of the 2020 population census are yet available) shows that East Gonja (Salaga South and Salaga North districts) and the Central Gonja district make up 47.57% of the population of the Savannah region followed by Sawla/Tuna/Kalba with 21.27%.
- Other Considerations – Water, Electricity & Telecommunication etc.
a. Water – One Dr. Giebel, a very accomplished Surgeon and a Health facilities (Hospitals) Development Expert and Administrator, I worked with many years ago in establishing an 80-Bed ultra-modern hospital for a mining community overseas, said this ‘I can manage a hospital without electricity but not without water’. Water is ‘a must have’ for the effective functioning and operation of a modern hospital anywhere in the world. Fufulso is close to a reliable and unpolluted source of water that can be tapped to supply the proposed Savannah Regional hospital. It is less than 10km to the White Volta. Water Supply to the Hospital at Fufulso is also likely to be more economical than any other town that may be under consideration in the Savannah region.
b. Electricity & Telecommunications- The proximity of Fufulso to Buipe which has better developed power and telecommunication infrastructure, next only to Tamale in Northern Ghana, which can easily be tapped and extended to Fufulso at a much lower cost than anywhere else in the Savannah region should be a major consideration. Buipe has a 9mw power substation capable of supplying power for industrial use and for a major health facility such as the Savannah Regional Hopsital. Coupled with this is the proximity of Fufulso to the transmission and distribution towers of most of the major mobile telephone networks in the country such as MTN, Vodafone, Tigo/Airtel; which makes reliable connectivity to the major telephone networks in the country a lot easier. This cannot be said of most of the towns in the Savannah region.
c. Proximity to the National Highway Accidents & Emergency Hospital – A Savannah Regional Hospital based in Fufulso and the National Highway Accidents and Emergency Hospital close to Buipe will complement each other in a significant way to save lives, not only of the people of the Savannah region but the lives of the many Ghanaians who ply the highway (the N10).
- Availability of Land
- Fufulso has a wide expanse of land suitable for the development of a modern Regional Hospital. It has a low population density, about 15 persons per km² in a few villages mostly in the hinterland; thus making the cost of compensation and land acquisition low.
The land is relatively flat, about 400 ft. above sea level. It is mostly laterite with outcrops of rock suitable for quarries dotted here and there; and with a typical savannah-like vegetal cover. All these make earth works for construction of buildings and roads easier and cheaper. I believe the desire and enthusiasm of the chiefs and people of the area to make land available for the Savannah Regional Hospital will be overwhelming.
Invitation to share views
He who sleeps on his rights should forever hold thy peace
Why must we have this discussion?
- The Savannah region is new with few known established structures for non-institutional actors like me and many others to make contributions, evaluate and provide input on major government projects such as the proposed Savannah regional hospital. With the caliber of people from this region that I have seen on some of the Savannah region media platforms, when given the opportunity, will be able to contribute significantly and meaningfully towards the development of the region by bringing their varied knowledge and experiences to bear on the various facets of regional programs and projects such as the Savannah regional hospital.
- The decentralized governance system currently in operation in Ghana has the District Assembly as the nucleus of development planning, budgeting, etc. The Regional Coordinating Councils, as the name suggest, only coordinate the programs and activities of the District Assemblies often with little or no input; and pass them on to the Central Government. They are just conveyor belts. There are therefore no adequate built-in capacities at the Regional level to plan and execute major regional projects and programs. Most major regional projects such as the Regional Hospital are conceived and implemented from Accra with little or no consultation or input from the regions. It is therefore imperative that we the people of the region deliberate and bring to the Government’s attention important issues that should be taken into consideration when arriving at decisions that have great impact on the lives of our people.
- Decisions such as the location of the Regional Hospital are usually made by Civil Servants in their air-conditioned offices in Accra. Some of these officers have little or no knowledge and understanding, not to talk of personal interest, of issues of the local environment. Some of their decisions are often based on spurious and at times skewed feasibility study reports intended to satisfy some particular interest. A robust debate by the people concerned, devoid of politics and is fact-based with well thought-through ideas that results in recommendations to the decision makers are more likely to influence decision making that will inure to the benefit of the majority of the people.
- Silence should not be an option, particularly if one has a view as to where the hospital should be located to benefit a significant majority of the people of the Savannah region. Please note that if less than the ideal or right place is chosen for whatever reason, we will all have to live with it forever – what a costly, unwarranted and unfortunate mistake that will be.
Therefore, if you choose to sleep on your right to make your views heard, forever hold thy peace.
As part of this discussion I will propose the setting up of a committee by the Regional Coordination Council in consultation with the Gonjaland Youth Association and the Gonja Traditional Council to deliberate on views expressed, seek expert opinion and follow best practice and make recommendations to be considered, approved and forwarded to the appropriate authorities.
13th September, 2021