The University of Ghana Medical Centre opened in July after the Ghana Medical Association called on the government to increase funding to hospitals to ease the lack of beds in the available medical centers. The facility will only be taking outpatient cases to start, specifically dermatology, ophthalmology, and ear, nose, and throat; they also offer laboratory and pharmacy services. The health ministry says the facility will be recruiting for other services and departments and opening them as they become filled.
Once the facility is fully operational, the facility will be providing sub-specialist training for things like organ transplants and advanced trauma care. It will also be the training facility for people who want to specialize.
First of its Kind
The facility was one of the last projects put into motion by President John Mahama in January 2017 and is the first of its kind in the region. Mahama funded the 650-bed facility with $217 million in loans from Israel, and it sat dormant for over 18 months before finally opening in July.
It was dormant because the Minister of Health and the University of Ghana could not agree upon who would be managing the facility. Several civil organizations put pressure on the government to open the facility, and as part of a social media campaign, Ghanaians signed an online petition demanding the facility be opened. Reginald Sekyi-Brown, a student studying pharmacy at the University of Ghana, began a #OpenUGMCNow campaign in protest of the dormant facility
To settle the disagreement, the government set up an interim board to manage the facility, so it could finally open. There were reports that the government would take over running the Centre since the disagreement between the University and the Health Minister held up the opening for so long.
A 70-year-old man died in his car in June after being turned away from six hospitals because they did not have room for him, which sparked anger among Parliament and led to a movement to put an end to the “no bed syndrome” once and for all. Following this death, the Health Minister ordered hospitals not to turn away patients because of a lack of beds, and the Surgical Medical Emergency Unit was forced to treat patients on floors and in plastic chairs in the waiting room since there were not enough beds for everyone.
Ishmael Opoku, son of the deceased man, said he took Anthony Opoku-Acheampong, his father, to the hospital because he was experiencing dizziness and a headache. The hospitals all turned him away without even administering first aid. At the last hospital they visited before his father died, his mother kneeled on the floor and pleaded a doctor to attend to her dying husband, and he was still turned away over lack of beds. The doctor just insisted there was nothing to he could do for him.
Not long after this, he died in his son’s car. The outrage over his death helped open the Centre, and many have shared the belief that if the Centre had been open, this man would not have died.