Monday, February 7, 2011

DANGER! East Gonja lacks health personnel

The Lives of over 147,000 people in the East Gonja District of the Northern Region are in serious jeopardy, as the people continue to rely on only one medical doctor for their health needs following the refusal of medical personnel to accept posting to the rural communities.

But successive governments and for that the Ministry of Health seem to always allow these insensitive, unpatriotic and godforsaken doctors to go unpunished.

Savannahnews has uncovered Dr. James Okyere-Sarkodie, Medical Superintendent, who is said to have been administering medical treatment to at least 250 patients each day, also doubles as Director of Health Services for the District and he is mostly compelled to attend to other important administrative duties outside the district.

The gathered that Dr. Okyere-Sarkodie is not only responsible for the Salaga Government Hospital where Out Patients attendance is over 250 daily, but all other satellite health centres in the district.

Meanwhile, the whole of the East Gonja District according to information gathered has only 29 professional nurses with 15 of them as mid-wives. However, to ensuring a very effective and efficient healthcare delivery, the District requires at least eight (8) medical doctors, six (6) laboratory technicians and about 168 nurses but only 29 are currently at post.

Unfortunately, Savannahnews realized that about 8 or 10 of the nurses currently working in the district are almost due for retirement.

This notwithstanding, what seems to have worsened the plight of the people is the poor nature of the Salaga Government Hospital which is the only referral centre for the people. The Hospital was build by the Colonial Master in 1911 and it has not received any meaningful rehabilitation.

Almost all facilities in the hospital have completely run down serving as death traps for both staff and patients.

Currently, the old Out Patients Department (OPD), the Laboratory, the eye centre, Children’s Ward and other departments have been closed down by the authorities to avoid any distasteful occurrence. As a result, the Hospital authorities have moved the Children’s Ward into the Female Ward where they both struggle for bed and space on daily basis, whiles the Laboratory is also relocated.

The Hospital is also faced with lack of beds, modern medical equipment and health professionals. Dishearteningly, about 60% of patients on admission including pregnant women and children as well as their families or attendants are compelled to sleep on bare floors inside and outside the wards.

The only Ambulance which was donated by UNICEF 10 years ago serving the over 180 communities in the district is currently not road worthy. Sadly also, the severe water crisis in Salaga, is also taking a serious toll on the hospital as it is now relying on rain waters that were harvested during the recent raining season.

In spite of all these challenges Savannahnews discovered that the few health personnel in the East Gonja District are performing creditably well and rendering good serving to the people.

Speaking in an interview with Savannahnews, the Medical Superintendent and District Director of Health Services, Dr. James Okyere-Sarkodie who was flanked by the Hospital Administrator, admitted almost all the issues picked up by the paper and the problems facing the health sector in the area.

He further admitted that the issue of inadequate staff or health personnel was the major headache for the health directorate and called on government to consider posting more personnel to the district.

According to him, the personnel in the various health centres in the district especially those at the Salaga Government Hospital were completely over stretched and had had no time to rest or go on leave.

The Medical Officer also called on government to provide decent residential accommodation for the personnel and means of transport to encourage others to accept posting to the district.

Commending them for their dedication and professional conducts in their respective line of duties, Dr. Okyere-Sarkodie disclosed that the District recorded only one maternal death between January and December 2010.

He however complained that most of the cases reported to the health centres in the district were all environmentally related, with Malaria accounting for over 50% of all the cases.

The Medical Superintendent therefore appealed to the Chiefs and people as well as the East Gonja District Assembly to intensify their campaign on sanitation.

When contacted by Savannahnews, the District Chief Executive (DCE) for East Gonja, Alhassan Mumuni flanked by his Coordinating Director, Mahama Mumuni and the Northern Regional Coordinator of the National Youth Employment Programme, Mohammed Adam Amin also admitted the problems of the hospital.

He however, disclosed that the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government had already identified the health problems in the East Gonja District and had earmarked a substantial amount of money to build a modern Government Hospital in Salaga.

According to him, the District Assembly had acquired a very big and decent land between Salaga and Kpembe for the construction of the new hospital with staff accommodation.

Hon Mumuni said in the interim, the Assembly had set aside some amount of money to renovate the children’s ward and other facilities in the hospital, so that the centre would still be useful after the completion of the new one.

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