Alongside exploring Ghana, we are here to intern and work with a reproductive advocacy group, ARHR. Today, I took a break from my internship at Emerge to go interview the head maternity surgeon at a local hospital. A group last week went and interviewed a hospital in the Volta Region. The hospital is overpopulated and extremely run down. They serve more people then they have capacity for. We were able to get a first-hand look at the experience expectant mothers faced at the hospital.
After waiting nearly an hour – Ghanaians have a different concept of time – we were introduced to the head surgeon. We had a rough first impression as she ripped us apart for our appearance. (We were unaware we needed to dress up to go look at a hospital.) She was finally able to accept our presence and we got an interview and tour out of her.
We walked through the hospital, and instantly the amount of health violations was alarming. Unfinished buildings, lizards, and sick patients mixed with newborns were all around us. We moved towards the maternity area and were able to get a closer look.
Mothers and expectants lined the hospital waiting to be seen. There is no air conditioning and seating is limited. The “waiting area” is lines of benches in an open outdoor area next to a construction site. We moved along to the recently delivered ward where newborns and their mothers rest. After delivery, mothers share a single bed with three other mothers and their babies, that is six people per bed. There are no incubators; mothers are physically holding their newborns.
All the beds were occupied and we are told this is not even considered busy to them. As we moved down another hallway, we passed a baby that could not be more than 2-3 pounds just resting on its mothers lap. In America, the baby would be in an incubator under constant watch. In Ghana, that baby needs to wait in line for health services to be available.
We moved to the ward where mothers with complications were resting. These women have had seizures, or are experiencing other delivery problems. The nurse proceeded to tell us they have no water today. How do you do surgery without water? She also noted they often lose power. We ended our tour in the surgery and delivery ward where babies were being delivered as we stood there.
The woman giving us the tour noticed we were no longer smiling by the end of the tour. She said we all looked sad. It was an eye-opening experience. Half the time we were walking I felt like someone was going to pop out and say it was all a joke. This could not be reality. The facility was unsanitary and mothers waited in hallways for days when they should have been in beds. The day was flat out depressing. It is unbelievable the medical care people have in third world/developing countries. At the end of the tour she noted that “[They] do produce a good at the end of the day; a new life is made.”
The healthcare problems America face are nothing compared to the ones here. The amount I take for granted is unbelievable. I couldn’t even imagine delivering a baby at this hospital. The doctors and staff there are unbelievable. They truly make miracles happen with basically nothing. It was an eye-opening experience today.