By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
Reports of the death of a patient at the Dominase Seventh-Day Adventist Hospital, that may well turn out to be the first medically confirmed case of the presence of the Ebola virus in the country, ought to give our medcal community and the government great cause for concern (See “Doctor Worried Over Ghana’s Poor Ebola Preparedness” MyJoyOnline.com 9/24/14).
The unnamed patient is reported to have hailed from Pusiga, in the Upper-East Region. That township is not very far from both Burkina Faso and Togo; and it is also not clear whether the deceased victim had either carried the virus into the country or might have contracted the same from a visitor or a recent migrant to the Pusiga district. We must also quickly point out the fact that Pusiga is also the hometown of the legendary New Patriotic Party (NPP) parliamentary chancellor, Ms. Hawa Yakubu, of blessed memory.
For the Medical Superintendent of the Dominase SDA Hospital, what is even more disturbing is the fact that it took the death of the aforesaid patient and several emergency calls to district and regional medical authorities before an Infra-Red Ebola-Virus-detecting thermometer was shipped to the hospital, which is located in the Bekwai district of the Asante Region. And then, according to Dr. Prince Kwakye-Afriyie, this basic Ebola-detection equipment arrived too late to save the life of the suspected first victim of this most deadly disease in the country.
What flabbergasts many among the leading members of the country’s medical community is the fact that while the presence of this deadly virus in the West African sub-region has been known for quite sometime now, it was only within the past couple of weeks, or so, that the government announced that it was in receipt of approximately 10,000 PPE (or Personal Protective Equipment) meant for supply to the various hospitals and health centers around the country. And as of this writing, distribution arrangements had yet to be fully executed. Laboratory tests are still being carried out on sample tissues taken from the deceased patient at the Dominase SDA Hospital. And the latter process is expected to take some time, perhaps several days or even weeks.
According to Mr. Anthony Goodman, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, the distribution of the Ebola virus’ protective gear would be done on the basis of triage, with hospitals and health facilities determined to be in direst need of such equipment being afforded priority. Whatever the case may be, it is quite obvious that much more needs to be done to speed up the distribution process. And, of course, it is naturally expected that more PPEs will need to be promptly imported into the country by the government.
The imminent and formidable threat posed by the Ebola epidemic in the West African sub-region, ought to serve as a wakeup call to the various governments on the imperative need to staunchly encourage and fund cutting-edge scientific research. The days when Africans had to depend on the charity of our erstwhile colonial overlords ought to fast become a thing of the past.
In the final analysis, what needs to be underscored the most is the fact that both the epidemics of Ebola and Cholera are the direct result of the abjectly poor and woefully unacceptable levels of environmental hygiene in the West African sub-region and, indeed, the entire continent at large. This is also the time for African politicians to wisely spend much less of hard-earned taxpayer monetary and other capital resources and, instead, focus more on the rapid and systematic upgrading of environmental hygiene, as well as sociocultural and economic development.