Monday, November 21, 2011

The UDS Medical School – A Redeemer To Hospitals In Northern Ghana

The existence of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) of the University for Development Studies (UDS) in the Northern Region is beginning to present enormous opportunities to the entire populace of Northern Ghana and the once seriously understaffed District and Regional Hospitals especially the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH), the only referral centre in the area.

It’s been 15 years now since the establishment of the School in the Northern Region and many people including lecturers who without any shroud of doubt say the school has brought considerable improvement to healthcare delivery at the TTH as well as other district hospitals where there are a small number of health personnel available to address the health needs of people.

The UDS Medical School like other medical schools in Ghana had been using traditional curriculum to train her medical students since it was established in 1996, but there had been a change over to the Problem Based Learning (PBL) methodology since September 2007. The rationale for this change over to PBL lies in the mission statement of the University, "A School of Medicine and Health Sciences Situated in Northern Ghana with a unique mandate to prepare health professional and scientists, with the right beliefs and attitudes to work in deprived rural communities, using the Problem Based Learning and the Community-Based Extension Service approaches. A crop, who can, and are apt to adapt to, initiate change and collaborate within interdisciplinary teams to contribute significantly to humane and cost effective healthcare".

The PBL allows for some interactive teaching and moulds a holistic medical student beginning from year one. The programme involves the use of several district hospitals and their consultants/specialists and exposes students as well as takes medical care to the rural communities.

A statement currently on the university’s website said “There are plans to partner with some institutions in Africa that use the PBL model in the training process and may involve students’ exchange in critical areas. Adjunct Professors from some of these and other institutions have already indicated their intention to be part of the UDS programme”.

Thus, with the TTH now serving as the centre for conducting clinical training for medical students of the UDS who hitherto travelled to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and University of Ghana Medical Schools in Kumasi and Accra respectively for their clinical training, it would also lend more supporting hands to help medical doctors there to carry out their duties more efficiently.

Also, the presence of quite a significant number of specialists’ ranging from urologist, obstetric gynaecologist, physician, neuro-surgeon, ophthalmologist, paediatric, psychiatrist and among others, has attracted many young medical doctors and other categories of health personnel to the institution to work and also acquire some expertise from these crop of professional doctors.

Currently, medical students from the UDS, KNUST, UG and some from Europe are doing their housemanship with the TTH and some district hospitals. As a result, this is steadily increasing the capacity of medical doctors and further reducing the patient to doctor ratio, culminating in improved healthcare delivery.

Additionally, nurses in the region who wanted to go back to school for further studies mostly outside the region can now enroll at the UDS Medical School to read degree in nursing while still working.

Thus, as Dr. Kolbilla David, an obstetric gynaecologist specialist reflects, “It’s worth mentioning that the existence of UDS medical school has brought improvement to health services delivery to the people of Northern Region most especially Tamale. As at 2006, maternal and infant mortality rates at TTH was 1,800 per 100,000 live births. But by the close of 2010, the figure dropped to 419 deaths per 100,000 live births”, he told The Advocate in an interview during the launch of the UDS MSA Annual Health Week Celebration at the TTH.

According to Dr. Kolbilla who is also a senior lecturer at the UDS Medical School, five years from now, he sees the TTH becoming a centre of excellence and cancerous cases which are among few cases that are still being referred to Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital for treatment would have been treated here (TTH) by then. “There are preparations underway to build the next radiology centre (cancer treatment centre) at the TTH. Also, very soon the UDS Medical School will start a postgraduate program in medicine”, he disclosed.

All these arrangements coupled with the increased in number of nurses and doctors as well as improvement in laboratory services place the TTH in the right path to deliver the most excellent medical services to the people in a few years to come, he stressed.

Presently, the TTH has about 70 midwives out of over 700 nurses and this is a boost to its efforts to improve healthcare.

Delivering a lecture on maternal mortality, Dr. Kolbilla attributed the consistent increase in maternal cases in the Northern Region to unnecessary delays that pregnant women continue to go through right from the home to the hospital, adding that postpartum haemorrhage, severe anaemia and particularly sepsis were now the leading causes of maternal deaths in the area.

He, like other speakers, did not also rule out the fact that the region has poor roads network, ill-equipped medical facilities in most districts, lack of critical health personnel and among others as factors which were further worsening the situation.

Under the theme “Reducing Maternal and Infant Mortality; The Role of Primary Healthcare”, the UDS Medical Students Association (MSA) Annual Health Week Celebration is one event that afford students the opportunity to take stock of activities over the previous year and also, renew their commitment to go into poor communities and districts in the Upper West, Upper East, Northern and sometimes the Brong Ahafo Regions – to embark on free medical outreach programs in line with their academic training requirement.

For instance in 2009, 96 women died in the Northern Region during childbirth, 91 in 2008 while 115 women died in 2007, according to the Ghana Health Service. But as the deadline (2015) for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 4 and 5) targets approaches, the situation becomes more worrying to all stakeholders in the health sector including the UDS MSA.

Goal four and five of the MDGs is aimed at reducing by two-thirds the ratio of under-five mortality rate and reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio. How each nation is working to attain these goals is very important and as the former UN Secretary-General Busumburu Kofi Annan once stated: “It is not in the UN that the MDGs will be achieved. They have to be achieved in each of its member states, by the joint efforts of their governments and people.”

It is not therefore surprising that the UDS MSA decided to pick the objectives of the MDGs 4 and 5 to form its campaign message as it celebrated its health week, a flagship programme of the group. With a select number of members coming from different health background such as medicine, nutrition and nursing totaling about 50, they further formed groups of 4 people and travelled to 12 districts in the Upper East, Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions to partner with district and regional hospitals to render various kinds of health services to hundreds of people within a one week period of stay in those areas.

Dr. Ken Sagoe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Tamale Teaching Hospital who officially launched the UDS MSA Annual Health Week urged the students to provide adequate support to the nurses, doctors and other health personnel when they go to the districts.

He noted that their success in the districts and communities would be determined by the testimonies that the people would give after they had finished with whatever they went there to do and returned to school.

Meanwhile, the President of the UDS MSA Khaliq Mohammed, expressed gratitude to authorities of the university for providing students with lecture halls at the TTH to enhance their clinical studies.

He however appealed to the authorities to endeavor to add hostel facilities to the lecture halls to save students frequent travel from town to the TTH to attend clinical lectures.

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