To effectively tackle an issue, you need to understand it; and it is impossible to understand an issue from afar. You need to see it firsthand, even live in its midst. This belief is ingrained into the core of Ghana Medical Help.
Ghana Medical Help emerged in July 2010 as an acute solution to alleviate the significant basic medical equipment needs in the Builsa District Hospital. Providing basic healthcare services for over 88,000 people, this is one of the five district hospitals in the most northern Region of Ghana, the Upper East Region. Upon living in a Builsa village community and shadowing the healthcare practices of this district hospital, it was extremely apparent that 1) there existed a very significant absence of medical equipment, 2) that the medical equipment present was extremely overused and has decreased in its accuracy, and 3) this lack of any or functional medical equipment resources significantly decreased the accuracy and efficiency of medical diagnoses and patient care. The ability to predict a serious medical condition and control and prevent emergency situations in particular were significantly affected by this lack, which severely compromised the life of any Ghanaian who experienced such emergency situations.
Particularly among pregnant women and young children, countless avoidable deaths frequently occurred as a result. One such case was a pregnant young woman who miscarried and, due to severe complications, desperately needed a central IV line. The department could not find a central IV line in their department or in any other. The woman died in less than 30 minutes. Mortalities such as these are concentrated annually in Ghana during July and August, the peak of the rainy season. At this time each year, the hospital has so much patient overflow that mattresses cover the floors of every ward, and all equipment becomes extremely overused. And despite filling each pediatric bed with three children, you can be sure that there is not one piece of pediatric equipment in the hospital. Many innocent lives would have been saved had the appropriate basic medical equipment been present and functional, such as IV lines, blood pressure cuffs, and pulse oximeters.
None of the deaths that were witnessed would have taken place if they were in even the simplest of hospitals in developed countries. Through communicating regularly with the Builsa District Hospital medical staff, a list of the eight most needed basic pieces of medical equipment was developed and became the focus of Ghana Medical Help. Eight months from September 2010 until April 2011 was then spent fundraising for donations of both the equipment itself and money to go towards purchasing the targeted equipment. The targeted equipment was shipped and delivered to the Builsa District Hospital in June 2011. One month later, follow-up research began being conducted at the ground level to assess the short term implications of GMH’s assistance on hospital accuracy and efficiency.
EXPANDING ACROSS THE COUNTRY
The enormous immediate and sustained impact produced by having reliable and accurate medical equipment present resulted in an ever-increasing number of partner hospitals that Ghana Medical Help provides medical aid for. Regardless of religious or political affiliation, we have since expanded to partner with all district hospitals of the Upper East Region and presently are conducting the baseline research to include the district hospitals of the Upper West Region.
Our strategy continues to work at community-based levels and focuses on the essential medical equipment needs specific to individual hospitals. Although the theme of being understaffed, underfunded, and under-equipped is constant across the UER, each district hospital had its own unique characteristics. In general, this is a variance in the medical resources absent, the human resources present, and their patient capacity. Acquiring an accurate picture of the characteristics specific to each hospital, including local cultural tendencies, is important for thoroughly understanding their medical equipment needs and formulating the list of targeted equipment that genuinely addresses their greatest needs.
In 2011, Ghana Medical Help began an important partnership with Ghana Health Services to help ease our in-country processes.