We’re committed to making sure we’re doing good medical work at each of our sites. However, things don’t always run as smoothly as we would like. We also promised to be transparent with our volunteers so they always know what’s going with us and the organizations we support, and are open to a little bit of constructive criticism. So here we are upholding that promise. We chatted with one of our medical volunteers, Rosie, who has volunteered three times with our Ghana medical programme to ask her what she thinks needs improvement to our medical clinic, and here’s what we learned.
Problems in the Village
The most common issues facing Ghanaians, especially children, are malaria, malnourishment, seizures, and treatment of open wounds. It is believed that the seizures are a result of malnourishment, inflicted by consuming either too much or too little sodium in one’s diet. The staff at the clinic is quite knowledgeable on how to handle these issues. However, these seem to be the only issues they are knowledgeable on. Since these are the ailments that clinic workers have been trained to treat, these are what they treat patients for, regardless of their actual ailment. This leads to ineffective treatment of certain patients.
One of the biggest issues facing the clinic is community members’s hesitancy to go to the clinic. This a result of multiple factors, two of the largest being high prices of treatment and negative cultural attitude towards illness. Both of this issues will be discussed more in-depth soon, but to confront this problem, the clinic has begun going into town to try and reach out to community members. Moving into the communities and making healthcare more accessible may encourage more people to seek out medical attention when it’s needed.
Many people in Ghana get sick and remain sick due to a general lack of education regarding healthcare. Most people are not taught what symptoms to look for when they become sick, so they do not realize what is actually wrong with them. They can also misjudge or misinterpret things that are more serious than they may appear. For example, there was a young boy that Rosie worked with that got a terrible case of Malaria that was diagnosed much later than it should have been. Why? Because the boy was new to the orphanage and people thought he was just sulking, so they did not bring him into the clinic. Making people aware of symptoms will help them better spot illnesses and seek out medical care for themselves and others.
In addition to raising awareness of symptoms and signs of illness, many residents are not aware of basic preventative measures that could help stop illness before it starts. Anything from teaching children how to properly use malaria nets and giving them the right equipment to set them up, to teaching people how to properly dress minor wounds to avoid infection can prevent a huge number of illnesses and potentially deaths. This education needs to be shared not only with children, but with parents as well.
The clinic is often used by volunteers at the orphanage and school. Medical volunteers will bring sick children there to get medicine or more serious medical attention. Unfortunately, sometimes the workers at the clinic will take advantage of the volunteers and overcharge them for services. They also have been raising prices in general recently, discouraging many people from going.
In addition to unequal pricing, there is often also unequal treatment of patients due to varying degrees of resources and training. Different nurses and doctors come equipped with different skills and different tools, meaning the treatment one resident receives may be completely different than the treatment someone else with the same affliction receives.
In addition to a lack of education about illness, many residents of Ghana also have negative cultural attitudes in regards to illness or poor health. Admitting illness can often be construed as a sign of weakness in Ghanaian society, preventing people from seeking medical care when they very often need it. They have a much more lax attitude towards illness and injury, meaning they often don’t come in until symptoms are life threatening and could have been treated much sooner when they were less serious.
So this seems like quite a few problems, doesn’t it? Luckily, our medical volunteers have given us great feedback on ways they think healthcare in Ghana can improve. First of all, the mobile clinics mentioned earlier seem to be quite beneficial to residents of Senya-Beraku. Sending medical care to the people rather than waiting for them to come in on their own makes it easier to be aware of the issues facing most residents, gives doctors and nurses the ability to catch troubles early on, and helps serve people who may not be aware of their illness. It also helps healthcare professionals become more aware of what the issues are so they can receive proper training and obtain proper equipment to treat patients.
They have also emphasized the importance of education in regards to healthcare, and making sure people are aware of not only the symptoms of illness but how to prevent becoming sick in the first place. Education is key in all areas of healthcare, from basic hygiene to sexual health awareness, and it would be extremely beneficial to provide this kind of education for the citizens of Senya-Beraku. Developing some type of programme that would provide this education is crucial to improving healthcare in Ghana.
It would also be beneficial for healthcare professionals to better explain treatments to their patients. Currently, many doctors and nurses work without explaining to the patient what they are doing or why. By explaining their work, teaching their patients the effects of their work, and teaching them preventative care, their work could have a much more lasting and impactful effect. With this also comes teaching people that it is alright to seek out help if they need it. As mentioned earlier, there is an overriding attitude in Ghana that being sick or injured is a sign of weakness. By teaching people the realities of sickness and encouraging people to seek help if and when they need it, doctors and nurses will be able to treat people as soon as possible, greatly increasing chances of recovery or even survival.
For now, we will do our best to ensure that the citizens of Senya-Beraku are provided with the best healthcare available. We will continue sending passionate, able volunteers to Ghana to work on continuously improving the clinic and overall medical care in the area. From this we will be able to continue to better healthcare in Ghana.
To be a part of this change, check out our medical programmes in Ghana.