Realities of the Health System in Ghana : Close-Up Experience

So while I was incarcerated in Ridge Prison, sorry oh, I meant while I was admitted in Ridge Hospital, I experienced and observed what I thought was pretty amazing and what filled me with hope and pride.

It is not a teaching Hospital but there was a whole lot of teaching constantly going on.
I saw young nurses in their early 20s usually wearing green, always coming round to take my temperature, blood pressure and oxygen levels. They washed me, changed my bed, changed my dressing, my colostomy bag, kept up with my iv and my medications etc.

They were constantly polite and attentive.
There were times especially at night when the ward was very short staffed and if you were in distress, no matter how long you pressed the bell or shouted for a nurse, nobody would come. I remember one night I was in total distress and had to sleep in my pooh and blood and was in pain till Katharine came to me in the morning. Needless to say, she was livid and went to blast the nurse who was there. I kinda felt sorry for them because I knew how overstretched they had been. But after the blasting, I was treated with the utmost speed and care.

My sister Mansa called the young female nurses in green Mars bars because to her they were sweet and cute as they flitted about the wards from one bed to another.

The very first morning after my surgery, I groggily woke up to see what looked like several nurses in white all looking very tentative and nervous. There were two supervisors (male and female) asking them questions and observing them as they went round talking to patients.

I initially thought they were part of the Ridge Hospital staff and were in training, only to discover that they were from Valley View University and were on a Nursing Degree course.

So this is the little I found out about Nursing training in Ghana.
Nurses can do a 2 year Nursing Certificate which teaches all the Nursing basics and equips them with the skills to work competently in hospital.

After that they graduate to a 3 year Nursing Diploma which has more rigorous training.
Both Certificate and Diploma nurses tend to do all the mundane and difficult work in the wards and often complain about bad pay. Because of this they feel compelled to go on to do the 4 year Nursing Degree.

After all this training, about 9 years, you can imagine how knowledgeable and professional the Nurses on the wards are. If you had a Nursing Degree you got much more pay and respect.

The Senior nurses where constantly teaching the Junior nurses. “Come and see this”. “Have you ever seen or changed a colostomy bag before? Come and see how it is done”.
The teaching was constant. There was a lot of jovial banter between them as well as some conflict when the stress was on.

I remember one verbal cat fight between a Senior and Junior nurse which turned out to be a simple misunderstanding and lack of communication.There was a male nurse called Raheem who I bonded with. Man that guy really took care of me. Then there was another male nurse I call the DJ because his cell phone was constantly blaring out afro beat and he literally danced and sang while doing his work.

Those nurses worked their bloody socks off and they often seemed merciless and ruthless. Especially when I was in abject pain and needed any type of drug or medication to ease my pain, they would just say “Mr Ampomah it’s not time for your meds yet. Just hold on a little longer”. Damn that was the worst. They were immovable in their resolve to give me my meds at the right time no matter what I was going through.

There was some risqué banter as well but we won’t go there.
All in all the Nurses seemed to be a well organised and autonomous unit functioning within a wider network.
One Nursing Supervisor in particular was the epitome of calm coolness in the way she organised her Nursing team on the wards.

Then there were the Doctors and their teams.
I remember a Consultant, Dr Oboubi and his team. They came into ward 5, a team of about 15 Junior Doctors. I remember how he presided over them asking them what they knew about each inmate, sorry I meant patient, and what they would do given a particular medical challenge or scenario.

The Doctors were sometimes hesitant but always ready with sensible answers. His team were a serious group.
And then there was Dr Twumasi, the surgeon who operated on me. He is short and slight but his confidence and arrogance made him seem bigger than Shaquille O’neal. Katharine did not immediately take to him at all. He had a very brusque manner. But I liked him. He amused me with his cocky behaviour. He carried himself like a rockstar.
His Team was called the B Team and they were as confident as their Consultant.

They would come up with answers to any questions fired at them by Twumasi. One Nigerian Doctor in particular was all fired up. She was hot and ready with answers, suggestions and questions. She used to pass by almost on a daily basis to find out how I was doing. So did other members of the B team. Dr Omane was the Team lead of the Junior Drs. Tall and self assured and very smart. I felt very confident anytime he and the B Team passed by. Then Dr Kuntu Blankson who helped us to join the dots between General Surgery, Urology and Neurosurgery. He was such a big help. Dr Patricia Tamakloe a Junior B Team member would pass by and make sure everything was okay. She checked my meds and made new prescriptions. She would talk to me and find out more about me and what I did. She was generally very caring.

The B Team rocked.
I was really impressed though by another Consultant who came with a small team of 3 to examine Delight’s injury. He was a plastic surgeon. My goodness, this guy was super animated and passionate about teaching his team about skin grafting and what to watch out for. He emphasised every word. He sounded and literally acted like a pastor delivering a sermon to his 3 person congregation. I loved his passion for teaching and listening to him brought me to tears.

I was very emotional. All this teaching that was going on completely impressed me. We put down our medical system without realising what goes on behind the scenes.
I also learnt a bit about what it takes to be a Doctor in Ghana.After 6 years at Medical School, one does a 2 year Housemanship in a Hospital. You then become a licensed Medical Officer.Then you can get a residency where you specialise in whatever area you are passionate about. You do this for an average of 3 years depending on your chosen speciality.
Then you become a Consultant.

So by the time you become a Consultant you have been learning and practising for at least 11 to 12 years.
The training is in depth and very rigorous. The hours are long and it is demanding. The Doctors were easily there each day for up to 12 hours a day.

Just as with the nurses, there was a lot of banter between the Doctors.
Doctor and Nurse relationships were quite amicable at Ridge Hospital. There seemed to be a lot of mutual respect.
I also questioned these medics and found out where they came from, where they lived, about their family etc etc.

I gained a lot of deep respect and admiration for these special set of people, the medics of Ridge Hospital. It wasn’t always perfect and sometimes mistakes were made but boy oh boy the system they have going on there works well and they are highly professional.
I still keep in touch with some of them and I am full of gratitude for all that they have done for me.

Mr.Ampomah writes…….


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