Carrying pregnancies and raising kids where an ambulance is as hardly ever seen as sunset at dawn, particularly for those living in deprived parts of the Upper East Region, is best described as flirting with remote danger.
Health authorities in that region feverishly have been x-raying barriers standing in the way of maternal and infant well-being as calls to bridge ‘emergency referral divide’ seem to be nearing their peak. Converting a tricycle into an ambulance where there is none yet, they think, is a bit of an answer.
The Upper East Regional Health Directorate has launched what it describes as the “Sustainable Emergency Referral Care” (SERC). Tricycles, commonly referred to as ‘motorkings’, under this programme will serve as ambulances in deprived communities where there is none. The initiative, which falls under the Ghana Essential Health Intervention Programme (GEHIP) with supplementary funds from Comic Relief UK, seeks to prevent preventable deaths triggered by concrete barricades to emergency healthcare.
“The emergency referral care implementation pilot looks at addressing transport and communication challenges and this is supported by rapid response from health staff,” said the Regional Director of Health, Dr. John Koku Awoonor-Williams, during the launch at the directorate where twenty-four carriage tricycles, commonly referred to as ‘motorkings’, were presented to three districts— Bongo, Builsa North and Builsa South— for the programme.
“GEHIP first piloted the initiative in the Soe community of Bongo District in 2012 and preliminary evaluation showed that the initiative contributed to improving timely access to emergency care for patients particularly children under five years and pregnant women who need these services,” the Regional Director remarked, adding “I strongly hope that when an end evaluation is carried out to assess the impact of GEHIP, the findings will inform national policy in adopting some of the interventions including the SERC”.
Although it embraces all cases deserving of swift attention, many have welcomed the programme as reliable wheels for reducing child mortality rates and improving maternal health — two among the Millennium Development Goals to be attained globally by 2015.
For residents in Bongo, where pregnant women and children in critical conditions are carted on bicycles and donkey carts through terrible roads to health facilities, there is no better time than now for this intervention. Madam Margaret Kugre, Supervisor of the Maternity Ward of the Bongo District Hospital, told Savannahnews: “We [the hospital] have had two cases in which pregnant women, who had no means of transport, gave birth on the road whilst walking to this hospital. You can imagine what could have happened to them if there had been complications on the road.”
All along, emergency referrals in Bongo are only aided by pickups from sub-district level to the district level. The hospital’s old only pickup, which is used in carrying the Medical Superintendent about and in running administrative activities, has been the only ‘ambulance’ for the entire Bongo.
“The impact of not having an ambulance for the district is negative on the MDGs, particularly four and five,” said Mr. Tibambuya Cletus Apiu, Administrator of the Bongo District Hospital. “Although we are achieving some results from our efforts, we think that the results could have been higher if we had this resource [an ambulance],” he added.
GEHIP’s Coordinator, Mrs. Rofina Asuru, told this blogger each of the twenty-four tricycle-turned-ambulances was procured at about four thousand five hundred Ghana cedis (Gh¢4,500). Twelve of the vehicles, she said, are allotted to both Builsa North and Builsa South, whilst the rest will go to Bongo.
“Builsa North and Builsa South are to share only twelve of the vehicles since the MVP (Millennium Village Project) is already supporting them with a means for emergency referrals,” Mrs. Asuru explained.