During my first two weeks shadowing doctors at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH, pictured above), I quickly learned that there is no such thing as an average day in a 1200-bed hospital that serves patients from all over Ghana. Each day, I watched doctors and nurses tackle challenge after challenge with thoughtfulness and creativity, for what may be a routine case in some parts of the world can be complicated at a hospital with limited resources. As one emergency room doctor at KATH told me, “things do not happen as you want them to happen.”
This is no fault of KATH’s employees; they are equipped with all the medical knowledge they need to help their patients. They just don’t always have access to the supplies and equipment required for certain assessments or procedures. For example, there is only one ultrasound machine in the entire emergency unit, which contains three different wards. To make matters worse, the machine is faulty. As a doctor rebooted it for the third time in an attempt to make it work properly, he asked me, “do you see how hard it is to work in this part of the world?”
In the face of limitations like this, KATH’s doctors and nurses are extremely innovative, resourceful, and adaptable. Need to draw blood but don’t have a tourniquet? Tie a rubber glove around the patient’s arm instead. Have yet another patient coming into an already overcrowded ward? Rearrange the beds and bring in some spare equipment to make a space for them. Come into work to find that the hospital’s labs and blood bank unexpectedly went on strike? Contact private labs to get the tests you need, or find alternate means of diagnosis. These are all scenarios I have encountered during just a few days spent at KATH. And amidst these challenges, KATH also follows through with its mission as a teaching hospital to provide excellent training to many medical and nursing students, including the four of us from Davidson. While I have no idea what new challenges the next few weeks will bring, I know I will continue to learn from and be impressed by the resourcefulness and creativity with which the doctors and nurses handle them.
Visit KATH’s website to learn about their history, mission, and vision.
Check out this article to read about Ghana’s medical system and various public health challenges in Ghana.