Spare a thought for Korle Bu

Mon, 15 Feb 2016 Source: Samuel Alesu-Dordzi

There are a lot of times that I am so unsure as to what to write about. The decision to write a particular piece is usually complex, but other times it comes easily because of a personal connection with the story.

A story of such nature caught my attention this week. And it has to do with the state of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. The teaching hospital known all across West Africa as a leading healthcare institution is in a way being turned on its head.

Unfortunately, it is becoming like most institutions that we have in this country. It begins on a high note and later declines badly till it becomes a pale shadow of itself.

At the heart of the story is the difficulty that some specialists at the hospital are having with the continued closure of the intensive care unit of the hospital for close to two years.

The implication of this has been grave for many, as they would have to wait forever in order to have the appropriate surgical procedure. In some circumstances, those who need the medical procedure never get to have it at all. The story continued to bemoan the acute lack of equipment by the hospital authorities.

Anytime I hear a story concerning the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, I feel a certain sense of betrayal - by whoever is and has been at the helm of the hospital. For a long time, Korle Bu was the only place I have ever known, aside Korle-Gonno and its surrounding areas.

Korle Bu was more than a hospital to not only me but also most of my friends. It was where we lived. It was a thoroughfare through which we went to school.

It was in some instances a playground for us. Often we would play football and other senseless games that till this very day beat my imagination.

Its roads were sanctuaries whenever we were evading punishment. Korle Bu was a place where we hunted fruits such as blackberries (velvet tamarinds) and surprisingly cocoa. It was also a place of history.

The Latin inscriptions - the inscription of the years in roman numerals - the colonial architecture interspersed with pagodas, gave the scenery a certain air of assurance.

The towering image of Sir Gordon Guggisberg was an object of thrill and a lot of his achievements came alive through basic education (Social Studies) up to university.

It was a conglomeration of the best and brightest assembled from different backgrounds for the purpose of saving human lives and advancing the cause of medicine and health practice.

By far, it should have been a teaching and research institute in the true sense of the word. It should have taken the cardiothoracic centre, which was the first of its kind for a long while into something that we could look at and immediately pat ourselves on the back for moving over and beyond what its founders intended it to be.

Its researchers and staff members should at the very least, once in a while, be heard speaking on some innovation that they have introduced in making medicine and health practice easier and better.

It should in truth be a hotbed for innovation and excellence in medical practice.

I am always amazed at the kind of things that I hear teaching hospitals and research institutions elsewhere do. And I ask myself if we are not qualified to do the same thing in our country. The answer is obvious. We are able to do so. Unfortunately, I have to qualify my answer by adding under the “right conditions’’ to it

Anytime Korle Bu is in the news; it is usually about one negative issue or the other. It is sometimes about the workers ganging and protesting about the chief executive officer (CEO) or the board of the hospital. Where it is not about the board, it is about a strike action that is either being threatened or underway.

Of course, these are facts of life; and so long as individuals are at the helm of affairs, there would be dissatisfaction and human resource-related matters to be dealt with.

But that should not be the full story: Korle Bu has to rise to the point where its image is enviable amongst the host of hospitals in this country and beyond. It has become a byword for neglect and poor maintenance.

Tales of pregnant women without beds, persons who need medical care but cannot find the appropriate expertise in the country and workers always crying out for one salary increment after the other has to end at some point - and it must be now. Responsibility should be taken on all sides to ensure that this becomes history.

There is a lot of good that can come from us as individuals and as a nation. We just have to be willing to make it happen.

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Columnist: Samuel Alesu-Dordzi