Tema General Hospital needs a saviour
Tema, GNA – The former Minister of Health, Major Courage Quarshigah (RTD) once asked journalists and staff of the Central Medical Stores in Tema the popular question Ghanaians normally ask each other, that is, “how are you?”
Even though the expected reply of “we are fine” was chorused by those present, it was obvious that everybody was surprised that the former Minister decided to ask that question before making his remarks as they laughed after answering.
He explained that he enquired of their wellbeing to remind them that being in good health was one of the things Ghanaians cherished most as people could only be productive when the are healthy.
He stressed that a healthy mind could only function properly in a healthy body.
Like other metropolis in Ghana, Tema which is the industrial hub of the country faces numerous quality health delivery challenges despite efforts by successive governments to improve upon the sector.
Records at the Tema Metropolitan Health Directory showed that the metropolis has seven public health facilities and over 58 private health facilities.
The Tema General Hospital, which was built in 1954 to cater for workers who constructed the Tema Harbour, was later handed over to government for public use.
The geographical location of the hospital, its surrounding road network and commercial nature of the metropolis has made the hospital one of the busiest in the country as it serves surrounding towns and villages.
It is also the major referral point for all other clinics and hospitals in the metropolis and the first point of call for most of the numerous road traffic accidents especially those that happen on the motor way and other industrial accidents.
The catchments area of the hospital include the whole of the Tema metropolis, its surrounding towns and villages, Sakumono, Lashibi, Nungua, Dangme West and Dangme East districts.
Mrs Charity Sarpong, Medical Superintendent of the Hospital, told the Minister of Health, Dr George Sipa Yankey, during a working visit that her outfit was working hard to achieve its vision to be the leading healthcare provider in the Tema Metropolis and its environs.
Mrs Sarpong said the hospital accomplished its mission of promoting, protecting and ensuring the health and wellbeing of their clients and the community at large through the provision of comprehensive, affordable and quality 24-hour general and specialist healthcare services.
She said TGH has departments which include internal medicine, general surgery, paediatrics, theatre, obstetrics and gynaecological care as well as accident and emergency services among others.
Its specialised clinics and units are eye, dental, diabetic, sickle cell, and dermatology clinics with others being anaesthetic, chest, hypertensive and ENT clinics and Fevers Unit.
TGH supporting services are laboratory, blood bank, radiology, ultrasound scan, pharmacy and physiotherapy.
With the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) some few years back, attendance at the hospital has increased over the years with a record of a total of 207,329 at the Out-Patient Department (OPD) in 2008 compared with 180,914 in 2007.
With a 280-bed capacity in its 10 wards, a total of 19,685 patients were admitted by the hospital in 2008 out of which 13,800 and 5,885 were females and males respectively.
The Medical Superintendent mentioned lack of accommodation for staff, insufficient staff of all categories, poor infrastructure which has major structural defects such as cracks and major leakages in the roof as some of the challenges the hospital faced.
Other challenges are inadequate security personnel since most of the permanent security guards have retired leaving a few casuals. This has resulted in some patients absconding and assaults on both staff and clients by criminals.
Apart from shutting down its mortuary for public use two years ago due to its deplorable state, it also lacks a pathologist making autopsy and post-mortem difficult.
Another constraint is the failure of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to recognize the complexity of providing services in a metropolitan hospital like the TGH.
This has lead to the continuous payment of NHIS claims using district level tariffs which may compromise service provision in the hospital.
The various mutual schemes under the NHIS also delay in the re-imbursement of submitted claims making it difficult for the implementation of budgeted programmes and policies.
A tour of the hospital by the sector Minister showed that conditions at the OPD were not favourable for patients as the place is always dark and hot due to the low ceiling of the building.
In addition, detained and admitted patients receiving infusion of drips and blood have to sit down or lie on benches as a result of inadequate beds.
The department does not have a resting room for nurses while the office of the Senior Nursing Officer is located in the midst of the department’s toilets which have health implications.
The maternity ward also lacks enough beds. Two or three mothers with babies have to share one bed while those in labour sit on benches waiting for some of their colleagues to be discharged.
After the inspection, Dr Yankey expressed his disappointment and said the structures at the hospital are too old and inadequate noting that they had outlived their usefulness and must be given a major facelift to befit its status.
His ministry would tackle the major challenges of the hospital especially the maternity to help reduce maternal mortality in the country as well as source funds to build a modern mortuary and an accident centre.
Looking at the inadequate doctors at the hospital, the Minister further stated that his ministry would consider distributing medical doctors evenly to all the government hospitals as concentration has been on Korle Bu Teaching and Komfo Anokye hospitals.
The promises made by the Minister were received with joy by the hospital staff but some of them noted that such promises had been made in the past without being followed by actions.
What the hospital needs now is a saviour who would facilitate the much-needed major rehabilitation and expansion as the hospital has a vast land that is yet to be utilized.
The question to ask is; is the Minister going to be the much-awaited saviour? Or is he going to join those who have disappointed the hospital staff and the Tema community because they failed to fulfil their promises?