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Opinions Wed, 29 Jun 2016

Effia-Nkwanta reflects our poor maintenance culture

As a news story, it was nothing out of the ordinary. It went like this: During the course of a surgical procedure on some three pregnant women – a more inventive or creative reporter would have written either “three women in labor” or “three expectant mothers” – the ceiling of the theater in what well appears to have been the performance of Caesarian Sections, or C-Sections, caved in and interrupted the entire critical procedure. The three women, we are told, had to be rushed to the nearby Kwesi Mintim Hospital for the operations to be successfully completed. The accident occurred at the Effia-Nkwanta Hospital in the twin-cities of the Sekondi-Takoradi, in the Western Region (See “One Dead as Theater Roof Caves in During Surgery at Effia-Nkwanta Hospital” MyJoyOnline.com 6/24/16).

It has gotten somewhat better, but as had rampantly been the case in the past, the caption writer or editor of the story got it a bit wrong – something, indeed, did cave in at the surgical theater, but it was not the roof; rather, it was part of the sectionalized ceiling that fell out of frame. This could have happened anywhere in the world, but far more likely in a Third-World country like Ghana where there is a generally poor culture of architectural and infrastructural maintenance. I can readily bet my proverbial bottom-dollar that it has been decades since the last major repairs were done on any of the buildings and/or wards at the Effia-Nkwanta Hospital. That Effia-Nkwanta is one of the major hospitals in the country, makes this clearly preventable accident all the more disturbing. But then, the situation is no better at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH or Korle-Bu, for short), the nation’s oldest and biggest hospital, the entire section of whose Intensive-Care Unit (ICU) was effectively shut down for the better part of a year, recently, while the rest of the nation’s flagship health center operated at full-throttle, with no arrangements, whatsoever, made with any other major hospitals to absorb or take over Korle-Bu’s ICU’s activities.

In the Effia-Nkwanta story, though, what piqued my interest was the caption of the same, which seemed to suggest that one of the expectant mothers being C-Sectioned had been killed by falling ceiling debris. It shortly turned out, upon further reading, that the allegedly deceased expectant mother, whose unborn child had also reportedly expired in the womb, may well have died of a ruptured uterus, Dr. Kwaku Ntodi, the Medical Director of the Effia-Nkwanta Hospital, was reported to have stated. The critical reader is, however, not certain about the validity of Dr. Ntodi’s statement, since it is quite possible that had surgical procedure not had to be interrupted, while the three expectant mothers were transferred to the Kwesi Mintim Hospital, the unnamed deceased patient may well have survived.

Ruptured uterus or not, the fact remains that ample critical operating time had occurred between transporting the three women from Effia-Nkwanta to Kwesi Mintim, and then getting surgical equipment properly set up and the doctors setting to work in medias res, all over again. The bumpy stress of our generally dilapidated roads could have caused significant damage to the very weak and vulnerable woman who is reported to have died on arrival at Kwesi Mintim. In a more politically and economically efficient country, some form of triage would have kicked in, with the most vulnerable patient being immediately airlifted. I may be grossly mistaken, but it well appears to me that there is a Ghana Airforce Base not far from where this most delicate of accidents allegedly occurred. I am well aware of this fact because both my late father and elder brother attended GSTS, which I was told several times shared a common bourn, or boundary, with the Takoradi Airforce Base.

If no emergency pact exists by which the services of the Takoradi Airforce could be readily accessed or solicited by any of these major area hospitals, then maybe it is worth putting this subject in the Daily Planners or the to-do diaries of both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Defense. Equally worth highlighting is the need for both the local and central governments to earmark substantial budgetary resources for public property maintenance. Merely traipsing the country and promising the establishment of more hospitals, as President Mahama was recently reported to have promised some Madina residents, does not get us very far as a nation, in terms of the imperative need for substantive quality-of-life upgrade.

Note: At the time of the preparation of this article for publication, another news story had appeared in which the Chief Administrator of the Effia-Nkwanta Hospital vehemently denied that any patient being operated upon at the hospital’s Ob-Gyn ward had died as a result of a ceiling cave-in. The hospital official had, however, acknowledged that the falling off of building parts and other debris were a common occurrence at Effia-Nkwanta, most of whose buildings were old and poorly maintained.

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Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame