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One of the world’s prolific writers Chinua Achebe in 1958 authored a novel with an African touch christened ‘Things Fall Apart’. Things are actually falling apart in various spheres of life in this country, ever since Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah ‘Oyedeayee’ (First President of Ghana) left the scene. His visionary projects have been left over the years to deteriorate to the bewilderment of later day saint like me. It is very mind boggling to learn that things are falling apart at the Tema General Hospital (Tema Ghana). Some doctors are said to have called it quit following what they described as unbearable workload and dilapidated facilities at the once vibrant and efficient health post strategically built in the industrial city.
Established in the 1950s as the only health centre to take care of workers at the port city, the Tema General Hospital has diligently served its purpose and was among the best hospitals in the country in its hay days after the two main teaching hospitals. It is responsible not only for patients from the city but it serves as the referral centre for other health posts in the South-Eastern part of Greater Accra and provides emergency services to accident victims from industries and the Tema motorway. It was the health sanctuary for sick residents of Ada, Dodowa, Ashaiman, Teshie-Nungua and beyong. Unfortunately, services at the harbour city’s number one health refuge have been deteriorating about a decade ago with the coming in of some private health facilities.
Referred to as the Tema Korle-bu by some residents, the hospital has been left to be overwhelmed by increase in population, lack of maintenance, administrative challenges and lack of proactive state intervention.
Today Tema Korle-bu is unable to provide timely, efficient and reliable services to people who call at the hospital as its facilities have been overstretched, crippled, broken down and we are, this week collecting the remnants as demonstrated in the actions of the authorities, turning lactating and expectant women, who need urgent services away. The situation is so startling that the management of the hospital has sent correspondence to polyclinics at Ashaiman, Tema Newtown and other clinics in the city to inform them about the shortage of doctors at the Maternity Department of the Hospital.
It is disheartening, to fold our arms for the age old unaddressed brain drain to hit hard at the hospital. It is equally unbelievable that personnel manning state agencies like the Ghana Health Service, with their two hands on their heads in despair, watched doctors at the hospital packed their stethoscopes and prescription forms and are out of the facility. The question that lingers in one’s mind, as one broods over the happenings, is whether the Doctors who decided to leave the hospital would ever work in Ghana? Would the challenges experienced in Tema General Hospital be absent in their new areas of operation? What happened to their hypocritical oath?
Most of the doctors at the hospital left on grounds of poor salary and unbearable work load. The doctors are reported to have stated that they have left because “they are burnt out’, weary, and can’t take it anymore.
Cataloguing the numerous challenges militating against the effective operation of the hospital, the administrator, Elizabeth Dogbey said the lack of accommodation and frequent water shortage also greatly undermine the work of the doctors.
Ironically, the hospital is one of the institutions in Tema that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has secured with vast stretch of lands which can be used to construct bungalows to house the doctors and the nurses.
The mice and rat infested mortuary has been down for months due to inadequate and malfunctioning frigdes. Aside these the small size of the morgue has lead to the dumping of dead bodies on the bare floor and on some wooden structures.
One would have thought that having suffered the vicissitude of this life there will be some dignity extended to people after they are dead but the situation at the Tema General hospital is appalling as corpse are reportedly being biting by mice. A new mortuary needs to be put up to provide some level of dignity to the departed souls.
Available statistics indicate that the hospital records over 700 births daily, over nine thousand deliveries annually and about 800 cases at the OPD every day. The Maternity ward which receives new borns is inundated with challenges making it difficult for quality work.
Reports say there is only one surgical facility for Caesarean session. As a result expectant mothers in labour who need to be operated upon wait in queues. Lives of countless number of babies and women are said to have been sacrificed on the altar of inadequate surgical doctors and ill functioning equipment coupled with unpardonably bad attitude of anesthetists who sometimes get women paralyzed for life for wrongful injection. How long can we continue to wait for citizens to be paying dearly with their lives through negligence, improper planning and ineptitude?
The least said about the Fevers Unit where people living with HIV and AIDS are dumped, the better as the unit is one of the worst places at the hospital.
Is the internationally recognized patient charter in operation in Ghana? Who and who are policing the charter on behalf of the sick? To some it is breath wasting to repeat, the attitude of some nurses at the hospital as patients who need to be psychologically calmed with hospitable words are rather scold and yelled at.
Industries and companies operating in the Tema metropolis have also over the years reneged on their social responsibility toward the hospital even though it takes care of their workers. The Health Ministry and the Ghana Health Service cannot escape the blame for the sordid state of affairs. The current doctor-patient ratio at the Tema General Hospital and other state health centers is making healthcare delivery very burdensome for doctors. Why do we make the training of doctors and other health personnel so cumbersome and a preserve for the rich?
Management of the hospital is said to be walking a tightrope to get the problem solved. But there is no clear time line when the situation would improve.
If a hospital like the Tema General Hospital could be caught in this life-and-death storm, only God knows what the rural and community health centres are going through.
The state needs to make a timely intervention to arrest the situation. Many are those who cannot afford the cost of health care at the private clinics even with the National Health Insurance Scheme. Recently the Greater Accra Regional Minister visited the facility to ascertain the state of dilapidation. It’s our hope that what he saw will help him better sell the sickness of the hospital to the government for prompt intervention. Some observers have prescribed better incentives for the doctors, especially junior doctors, as a solution to the crisis at the Tema General Hospital.
As we celebrate the Volta Regional Hospital for wining the best hospital honours this year in Ghana, we should be reminded of the cry for help from the hundreds of health centres across the country. The greatest wealth in this life, is health. That unborn child must not die. The pregnant woman must live. The accident victim must be attended to. Tema General Hospital needs the help of all to stand on its feet to shoulder our sicknesses.
By Dominic Hlordzi,
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