This Wednesday, Dr.Ofori (the man who runs the microbiology lab at KATH) was explaining to me how everything in KATH is manual, specifically focusing on the lab equipment. All of the patient information, updates, test results, doing the testing, everything in KATH is done by the men and women who work there. In this day and age, with technology innovations and artificial intelligence preparing to run the world, this was a shock to me.
I understood that the resource allocations within KATHs budget would allow for certain instruments and not for others. On day one when we were touring the hospital, the hematology lab which is used to save lives every day was estimated to cost around $200,000. Davidson has a lab that estimates a little over $2 million and is sometimes used by professors and almost never by students. This distribution of wealth really forced me to reevaluate the space I was in and the space that I am in Kumasi. It also made me reflect more on the privilege I have to be at Davidson (but that’s for another day).
Back to Wednesday, Dr.Ofori told me that manual labor actually helped many members of KATH. He said it allowed the real science that usually is hidden behind machines to be seen and explored. In the labs, instead of media1 (used to grow bacteria) being provided as it is in the US, lab technicians must make theirs. He went through the process of making, storing, and using the media. He explained which chemicals KATH uses in the creation portion of the process. They use the brand Oxoid, because it was the chemical that was best equipped to survive in the humid environment (the chemical must resist the need to rehydrate from the air) as well as it was the most inexpensive.
When I was reflecting on my day, it got me thinking on how well KATH allocates its resources and how well the men and women who are employed their work with those allocations. When I was in the Pediatric Emergency Room, I saw oxygen humidifiers2. When the doctors ran out of these specific tools, they cut a sterile water bottle and formed it into this instrument. When you look at KATH, it does not seem to be the most sterile environment, but as I have seen in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, it of course has the ability to become one when necessary. For procedures which specifically need a sterile environment, doctors are provided with tools and gowns and other necessities wrapped in sterile packaging and the space is formed into a temporary sterile space. When saying this I understand the want to respond that all things need to be sterile, but that is simply not a sufficient option for the hospital and the resources and funds it has.
So what right, I am not writing this post to talk about KATH as a whole or to try to say it needs more money. I am trying to show people that the doctors at KATH know and can do more in environments that are less resourced than I believe most doctors. In order for the technicians in the lab to prep media they must be able to do calculations. These calculations are not super hard but illustrate that the basics are not lost. With constant prep and ability to handle samples and do the work in the lab, the technicians are learning more and appreciating the science behind the work. They don’t simply throw things into a machine and wait for the results but are present every step of the way. The doctors who are able to work around not having specific tools are going to be/already are more innovative and creative than doctors who have everything they will always need. I am unsure if many doctors could succeed to the level of KATH if they were in the same environment.