GECS help in Ghanian Disaster

Ghana: Doctors received training from Irish surgeons just weeks before disaster

Four African countries are to benefit from a new medical fund of almost eight million euro through the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and others focusing on areas where Irish charities are already working.

Article published in on 18 January 2013.

Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria will receive support through the Medical Credit Fund for small and medium-sized care providers. The MCF is an initiative of PharmAccess, a Dutch not-for-profit organization which describes itself as ‘dedicated to improving health care in Africa’.

A recent disaster in Ghana’s capital city exposed the need for increased training for emergency care workers when a popular department store collapsed killing 14 people in November, with reports indicating another 69 people were eventually dragged from the rubble.

Many of the over-whelmed doctors in Accra had been trained by an Irish medical charity just a few weeks before.

Surgeons working in Tallaght, Mullingar Regional, and St James’ hospital among others travelled to Ghana for the first ‘African Conference on Emergency Medicine’. They delivered a three-day workshop, continuing work done by surgeons who volunteer with Dublin-based Global Emergency Care Skills (GECS).

Following the roof collapse, Dr Cian McDermott said: “This is a terrible tragedy for the people of Accra. Trauma is a leading cause of death in Africa. It is essential that all frontline healthcare workers receive intensive training in emergency trauma care.”

Describing emergency care in Ghana as “a young and emerging specialty”, Dr McDermott said it’s the healthcare system is evolving.

“Severe overcrowding and long waiting times are accepted as a routine occurrence with many patients with severe limb injuries boarding in the corridors making it impossible to assess any other patient due to exit block,’ he said of a large hospital in Ghana’s second city Kumasi.

Workshops were attended by medical staff from Accra’s main hospitals, as well as from six other African countries. The volunteers also ran training programmes for medics in Kumasi.

Training courses run by GECS since 2009 in African countries are free to attend. The charity has recently partnered with the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland to offer an online follow-up to training for participants. This work is being furthered by collaboration with the College of Surgeons in East, Central and Southern Africa.