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Tamale Hospital Still Suffering


2005-10-05 13:25:12
This article has been read 934 times.

On a sunny Monday afternoon, the mood in the Tamale Teaching hospital is not as bright. Nurses gather in the Main Theatre a day before surgery. Off-duty nurse, Mussah M. Alhassan, is in a heated discussion with his colleagues:
“When the ministry was here last month, the MPs came and took pictures, but the health minister didn’t come because he said he was tired,” Mr. Alhassan says hopelessly.

With a deep sigh, he continues, “And still nothing has happened. It’s the same thing. The funding should come from the government. They promise us a lot, so we want to take their word for it.”

His colleague, Hannah Baddeu interrupts. “Until we see big action, we don’t believe anything they say.”

This feeling is not exclusive to nurses in the Main Theatre. The lack of adequate facilities is adversely affecting the rest of the staff and patients at the hospital.

Twenty women are crammed into an overcrowded maternity ward. Many sit with their newborns on the ground on nothing but a thin mattress and an IV in their arm.

“I had to give birth on the floor,” one mother says sheepishly. “They didn’t have a bed for me.”

Maternity nurse, Beatrice Soliku bends down to change the woman’s IV, as her baby rests in her arms. “I have to squat like this,” she says. Sometimes my waist hurts so much; I can’t even eat my food. I’m so tired.”

The nurse continues to explain the dilemma. “But even if we had beds, we couldn’t fit them in this room because it’s too small.”

Lack of adequate beds is also the case in the Emergency Surgery Cubicle, on the second floor. One man lies on a small mattress in the middle of the room. His forehead is wrapped in a white bandage and his right eye is shut tight, encrusted in blood.

“He’s unconscious,” Nurse Rose Fordjour explains, looking down at him. “We have to put unconscious patients on the floor because bleeding in the brain can cause them to become delirious.”

The man’s brother sits full of worry, on a chair nearby.

“We’d rather he be on a bed,” the Emergency Surgical Nurse continues, “but we don’t have beds with sides on them to protect the patients from falling.”

Upon arrival at the hospital, the unconscious man’s brother was forced to carry him up the stairs because the hospital’s only elevator is broken. According to Nurse Fordjour, this can be very dangerous because moving the head likely worsens brain injuries.

Before resuming for her shift, Nurse Fordjour adds, “The staff motivation is very low because the funds aren’t there and the condition of the hospital is terrible. The hospital should give us incentives to stay here, like more money.”

The only functioning X-ray machine is also on the second floor, causing patients to get up the stairs by their own means.

Patients needing a more advanced X-ray must be transported by taxi to West End Hospital because the machine cannot X-ray spines and stomachs. Then, because patients begin their examination at Tamale Teaching Hospital, they are required to come back and resume treatment with their original doctor.

“It’s not comfortable for them. We have to put the stretcher in the back of a taxi,” X-ray technician, Samson Aweliyiba explains. “And the patients must pay the taxi driver 4,000 cedis each way.”

Inconveniences like these can cause patients’ family members to become weary. Lukman Ahmed, clutches his two year old son’s hand in the Pediatric Ward as he waits for the results of the boy’s sickle-cell anemia test. “As you can see, this place is filthy,” Mr. Ahmed says. He looks around the room as his sons sleeps on a wooden table, without mattress or a blanket.

Another child lies nearby on a similar table with an IV in his arm. His mother takes a deep breath. “They say he’s anemic. It’s not comfortable here. They can’t even get us a cushion.”

As the woman continues to explain her disappointment with the state of the hospital, Pediatric Nurse, Seweh Clerenda arrives and explains, “This table is used for folders, but we’re using it because there are too many patients and not enough beds.

“We need more beds, more nurses, more mattresses, and more cushions. Most rooms don’t have them.”

In the surgical ward across the hall, the machine used to sterilize their instruments is broken. The instruments now must be sent elsewhere to be cleaned. “If an emergency comes when we have no instruments, we cannot perform procedures,” she cries.

In the Main Theatre, the most crucial surgeries take place where staff has no choice but to use tank water for operations and hand-washing.

“Ideally you are supposed to scrub your hands with running water,” says Nurse Musah M. Alhassan. “We don’t even boil our water first.”

But on the second floor, Maria Mahama wants water to drink. She’s been waiting for her pelvis scan for six hours. Rows of women sit on benches waiting to be examined by the Northern Region’s only ultrasound machine.

In the casualty ward, Ernestina Appiah has been admitted for malaria and is so exhausted that she can barely move.

“They have nasty bathrooms,” she says from her hospital bed where a doctor’s voice permeates into the room over a loudspeaker. “There’s only one in this ward. You feel hot. I had to go home to wash because I couldn’t stand using their bathroom.

Some women who have water would rather carry buckets of water outside at dawn to wash.”

The noise from the loudspeaker doesn’t stop for twenty minutes. Appiah rolls her eyes. “The very day I was admitted, my head was bashing and they had the central radio on. I couldn’t tell them to put it off.”

Adam Zakaria, the mortuary attendant, is also having trouble getting his way. Two dead armed robbers have been taking up valuable space in the mortuary refrigerator for over a year. “We actually have six unidentified bodies,” he says wiping his brow. “The police were supposed to come and get them almost a year ago, but they still haven’t come. Now I have to go through the Regional Commander.”

The refrigerator has capacity for 6 corpses, but currently holds 10 bodies. Zakaria has no choice but to pile the bodies on top of each other. “We can get 18 bodies in there,” he says proudly.

“A technician came to fix it last week and look at the temperature,” he says, shaking his head about the other refrigerator. The red light reads 20 degrees Celsius, but according to Zakaria it has to be 20 degrees cooler, at 0.4 Celsius.

Covered from head to toe in a blue and orange robe, a dead woman lays on a stretcher beside the working fridge. Zakaria explains that he’s leaving the woman there because her family has yet to pay her hospital bills. “She can’t go,” he says.

Outside the mortuary, Zakaria points to three men and one woman sitting on the bench, staring at the ground. “There’s the family,” he says. He turns towards the mortuary and closes the door.

source: chronicle

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