After a great morning at Nandom and a quick stop to fix a flat tire, I headed to the Lawra District Hospital, located a little less than two hours away.
Throughout most of this trip to Ghana, I have been thrilled at how far MedPLUS Connect has come in building key relationships and understanding the nuances of the Ghanaian system in which we operate. However, there are times—like my site visit to Lawra—that remind me of how far we still have to go. During the Carolina Challenge (a social entrepreneurship competition at UNC that provided start-up funds for MedPLUS) our “go to” example for irresponsible and unpractical medical donations was the story of walking into a rural hospital and seeing an infant incubator wrapped in plastic wrap in the corner while the hospital turned away patients because they didn’t have supplies as basic as gloves (or a way to even plug in the machine).
As part of the follow-up site visit to Lawra, I asked the storekeeper to walk me though the hospital wards so I could see the different pieces of equipment in use. At the maternity ward, I relived the infant incubator story, with the machine that we had shipped several months ago (wrapped in the anecdotal bubble wrap) sitting in obvious disuse.
The storekeeper came with me to ask the nurses why the infant incubator was not being used (we learned that they didn’t have the training to operate it) and then we all went to speak with the Medical Director about why the training (which he was coordinating with a district health official) hadn’t yet happened. On one hand, things in Ghana just move more slowly than I am accustomed to in the U.S., and sometimes working in Ghana requires accepting this new pace. However, it goes against our mission and model to have life-saving equipment not being used...which led to a good discussion about the importance of facilitating immediate trainings, or working with us to transfer the equipment to another health facility that has the necessary training/resources.
Touring the rest of the wards, I was excited to observe many pieces of medical equipment being used to treat patients, donated computers and printers being used by hospital admin staff, and hundreds of boxes of basic consumables gone from the room where they had been stored after delivery.
However, my experience at Lawra reaffirms the importance of following up with site visits after shipments have been sent, and having the time and relationships to ask questions and get answers!