26 Aug 2008

Mission to Ghana, August 2008. Jayne Coombs and Michael Stoma.

Once back home, after a short and intensive trip to Ghana, the whole thing seems like a dream. The photographs on our memory sticks remind us that it was all real.

The mission was frankly a great success. We were able to carry out all the things we wanted to do and we were able to find out lots of things we wanted to know in reference to our operations in the country. We even had the honour of being shown by a king/chief his kingdom. These kings are voted in to their post and remain there if their subjects are happy with them. This gentleman and king, Nene Tsatsu Pediator IV has been in the post for over 30 years. His background as a university professor and his years of experience have probably molded him into a humble, observant intelligent man with a good sense of humour. We saw first hand how he is admired by his people and we could see he was well aware of their problems and was looking for ways of solving them.

Our main objectives were:---

1)Do the ground work so as to be able to set up the physiotherapy centre in the Dangme East Ada Hospital.We have all the equipment we will need for this project as it has been kindly donated to us by the Jones family. We will have to ship it down to Tema (the main port in the country) and then truck it out to Ada about 180km away.

2)Evaluate the possibility of building a Women's Lodge with showers, bathrooms, kitchens and a play area for children, in the grounds of the hospital. Mothers come from many miles away to hospitalise their sick children, and then have to sleep outside or in the corridors as till now there was no place for them. Outside you will find, crocodiles (we saw one, small, but a crocodile) over 20 types of snakes, rats, spiders, and what is worse than all that, malaria transporting mosquitoes.

3) Deliver supplies to the laboratory (which we put installed last year), the hospital and to evaluate future medical projects.

4)Visit Drifting Angels Orphanage in Ho. We wanted to see if the tractor we had delivered was being used correctly and to evaluate the possibility of further collaborations.


1)The hospital allowed Jayne to choose the room she wanted for the physiotherapy department. We were taken to the largest physiotherapist centre in the country and we were greeted by the director speaking perfect Cuban. Tens of thousands of Africans from all nations have been educated in Cuba and have returned to their countries bringing with them expertise and a great social awareness. The centre offered to send graduate physiotherapists to our centre and have started the process to register Jayne in the country.

The medical director of the Dangme East Hospital is Dr.Philip Narh, he with the help of another doctor and a team of nurses attend a population of about 186000 souls.
Unfortunately a very high percentage of doctors that graduate in Africa emigrate to other countries as soon as they can so a very high percentage of the medical attention people receive in the continent is given by a wonderful army of highly trained and dedicated nurses.

Dr.Narh ascertained that we would have no problems bringing the container of supplies in to the country so long as all the supplies were for the hospital.

In January 2009 Jayne will return to Ghana to get the centre up and running and to train the team that will man it. In this country there is a high incidence of strokes, accidents, and back problems due mainly to very tough work conditions. Life expectancy is about 50 years. A physiotherapy centre has low running costs and these specialists take over when doctors have reached that point in that all they can do is give pain killers. Physiotherapists reduce the pain, stop the deterioration or at least slow it down and in the majority of cases, obtain an improvement in the quality of life of the patients. It is a very cost effective system of treating people.

2)Women's Lodge. We explained to Dr.Narh that we only had a week in which to make up our minds in reference to this project. So in just under a week we had meetings with, the hospital administrator, estate manager, accountant, head nurse, medical director, a local architect that drew up the plans for the buildings in 48hrs, meetings with builders, an interview on the local radio, and we formed a committee to supervise the project. All was pending on the final estimate and our decision was made shortly before leaving. Trainee builders would be used to cut down costs, bricks would be made by the builders and not bought, and every effort would be made by the hospital to control expenditure. The hospital asked us to help them establish an endoscopy department for a catchment area of 4.5 milion people. They understood that the more this Women's Lodge cost the further away they would be pushing the endoscopy project. We are honoured to have Nene Pediator, Professor Akpanglo(also a chief), Kofi Larweh (radio Ada director), the hospital estate manager Mr Mattew Narchidah and Dr.Narh on the committee.
During our last meeting Dr.Narh asked me if all this was real. He mentioned that lots of NGOs had come down and promised things that then had never materialised. I answered that we had told him we would help the hospital have a Biochemistry laboratory, and we set up a new one, sent down a team to train the hospital staff and since then we have kept them supplied with the chemicals they need. I had said we could send doctors, and we sent 2 dermatologists last year, I said we would deliver medicines and supplies and to date we have taken over over 5000€ of medicines and disposable goods, a lap top, books, and a doppler for pregnant women and vascular pathology. At this point he interrupted me asking me not to be offended and said that we were the first organisation to ever give something new, first hand, to the hospital. Just before our arrival a container had arrived form central Europe loaded in old medical gear including rusty beds, urine smelling mattresses and a broken dental chair which looked to weigh about 250kg. The 3rd world is becoming the garbage dump of the first world. The hospital will now have to send all this stuff many miles to the nearest scrap merchant. I must admit that the container had had some crutches and a walker or two which Jayne promptly bagged for her department and so we stuck Mediterranea stickers on all the bits and bobs she wanted. They will be put to good use.

3) We handed over 100kg of medical supplies to the hospital. KLM allows you 2 bags of 23kg each and a 12kg hand bag.

4)We visited the orphanage near Ho. The smaller children were awaiting us and sang songs and danced to celebrate our arrival. The older children were out in the fields helping with the harvest. The tractor we donated them was being used but not to its full potential as a they did not have a plough, so we gave them the funds to buy one as soon as possible. The tractor will now help in the productivity of the farm which will help with the financing of the orphanage.
The number of children is now 98 and there are over 20 senior citizens that go there during the day as a day nursing home. 80% of the children sleep on the floor. They were given some beds with foam mattresses but the little children wet the beds and the mattresses rotted so it is back on the floor for the children. A few plastic sheets would have sufficed.

The remarkable pensioner couple who started and run the orphanage have a tremendous responsibility and the stress must be very great for them. They are perpetually looking for ways to be able to pay all the bills. Costs are increasing all the time and load is greater as from now because some of the older children will have to go and stay in the capital so as to be near their university or training centres.
They want to build a little school for their children, that way they will save on school fees and at the same time they can have outside children coming to class which would provide some income for the orphanage. When they heard about our school projects in Ethiopia they were very interested as in the town where they are, there are quite a few street children that get no education. They liked the idea of feeding children so that the children come to class.

Just before we flew we had a call from them as we had asked for the estimate for building the school. It all came to 4500€.

The little boys wanted to show us how well they play football and the orphanage has been allowed to present its team to the local championships. The problem is they have no uniforms or boots.
They reminded me of my children when they used to say "Daddy look at me. Look what I can do!" asking for recognition and encouragement. All children are the same. My heart went out to them. In that moment really needed a father figure to watch and admire them, I would have liked to have given them more.

Before leaving we were informed that the construction of the Women's Lodge would be ready by the end of the year (since then an email has arrived stating that the construction begins on the 6th of September) and that the hospital would like to have an official inauguration of the new Physiotherapist unit and the Women's Lodge.

The guest house, food and our chauffeur driven car were all paid for by the hospital. We were very touched by this. This is the first time this has been done to members of Mediterranea.

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