Editor’s note: The Mobile Medical Clinic in Ho is making a real difference. Not only is it providing heath care to people who have had no access, it is exceeding expectations. Here is a report from Robert Griffin, who spearheaded the Diocesan-Rotary project over the past few years.
In January of 2020, the Companion Diocese Committee of the Diocese of Fredericton agreed to provide a mobile clinic for the Diocese of Ho, Ghana.
The $278,000 project was funded by the Diocese of Fredericton, various parishes, many private donations, Rotary Clubs in District 7810 (New Brunswick and north-eastern Maine) and the Rotary Foundation. The Foundation contributed $185,000.
The clinic was constructed at Malley Industries in Dieppe. While they had built many ambulances and medical transport vehicles in the past, it was the first vehicle they had done of this nature — a mobile clinic — and they did an excellent job.
The clinic goes out every two weeks to a different village or region and operates similar to a MASH unit. The vehicle is the heart of the mobile hospital, while all services, exams, and procedures occur in tents or buildings in a village.
The clinic has a pharmacy, a vaccine refrigerator, a lab counter and storage units for the equipment and supplies.
A stretcher is used for some examinations and procedures. The vehicle has a roof rack for the tents, a winch to pull the vehicle out of mud if stuck, and a generator to operate the equipment.
Companion Diocese chair Robert Griffin travelled to Ho in September to do a final assessment of the project. He arrived at his hotel in Ho, Ghana, at 1 a.m. on Sept. 22, after a 36-hour journey from Fredericton.
Early the next morning he was ready to go, following Bishop Mathias, the Bishop of Ho, to Peki, a rural village about an hour and a half drive from Ho, to see the mobile clinic in action.
Bishop Mathias, who episcopal region encompasses the Volta and Oti Regions of Ghana, took three visitors from the UK who wanted to see the clinic, while Robert took two priests with him in his car.
A week prior to the clinic’s arrival in Peki, several people from the Diocese of Ho went to gain approval from the chief to have the clinic visit the village. Word spread that a doctor would be in the village, so many from surrounding villages came as well.
Griffin was imagining a doctor, a nurse, and a lab technician would go out with the mobile clinic to Peki. That was wildly inaccurate!
By the time the clinic arrived at Peki that morning, over 300 patients had come to see a doctor — the first to visit the village.
Many were elderly, some pregnant women, some mothers with children in their arms, and people suffering with many ailments, such as heart conditions, diabetes, various infections, arthritis and malaria.
An old abandoned building was used as well for the clinic, as it was raining. The two tents from the mobile clinic were set up, one for keeping a few people out of the rain while waiting, and one used for the pharmacy.
At times it was pouring rain, but everyone stood quietly in a queue, waiting their turn.
The Ho Teaching Hospital had in fact sent five doctors, eight nurses, three pharmacists, and three lab technicians, a priest for counselling, in addition to drivers, accountants, and assistants to maintain records and collect data — 32 people in all.
This was more people than the visitors to the mobile clinic visit could have imagined, but the overwhelming number of patients required that many health care providers. The five doctors saw the 300 patients in nine hours.
The nurses triaged people to direct them to the correct doctor, took a history from each patient, recorded the reason for the visit and collected health care cards—if the person had one.
The government of Ghana has adopted an almost free healthcare system, but people need to sign-up for the service and pay 30 Cedi a year — about $5 Canadian.
If the patient did not have a healthcare card, they were sent to a room where personal information was collected; then their picture was taken for their health card, so their doctor’s visit, any tests required, and any prescriptions needed could be paid by the government.
If patients did not have the funds to pay, the hospital paid for them, so they could be reimbursed for the care given.
Then they queued in the rain once again to see a doctor. Patients spent an average of 10 minutes with the doctor for an exam. Some were then queued for tests such as haematology analysis, urine analysis or lab tests on one of the two lab-quality microscopes. Then they returned to the doctor for diagnosis and a possible prescription.
From there, the patients would queue to see one of the pharmacists, where their prescriptions were filled. If the patient was unable to read, pictures were drawn on the boxed prescriptions — a moon to indicate taking it at night, or a sun to take in the morning.
The entire operation ran very smoothly, very orderly. No one complained they had to wait to see a doctor. No one complained as they stood in the rain.
They brought food with them to have lunch as they waited. People were so very grateful to have the clinic with its medical staff arrive in their village.
Several days later, Bishop Matthias and Robert met with the administrator and the director of finance of the Ho Teaching Hospital, which operates the mobile clinic, to discuss the sustainability of the clinic.
It is, in fact, more than covering its expenses. As well as covering the salaries for the team going out on the visits, it covers its own expenses — gas, maintenance, insurance, all supplies and pharmaceuticals. As well, an account has been established by the hospital for repairs and to replace the clinic in a few years.
Both Bishop Mathias and Robert left the meeting very confident the clinic is operating in the black, serving thousands of rural people in the Volta and Oti Regions, and it will be used even more in the future.
While in Ghana, Robert Griffin presented the hospital with a portable ultrasound for the clinic. It has the capability to show images, not only for obstetrics, but has a heart wand, a wand for broken bones, and one for various organs. This piece of equipment will enhance diagnostics on the clinic runs.
“The mobile clinic for Ho Ghana was a God-directed project,” says Robert. “Initially I thought it would be impossible to put the project together. However, with many partners and God’s blessing, the Bishop of Ho’s dream to have a mobile clinic for his Diocese has become a reality.”
Submitted by Robert Griffin, who lives and worships on Grand Manan.
1. Patients wait in a long line to see a doctor in a village outside Ho in Ghana.
2. Tents are used for seeing patients, while the van is used mostly for lab tests. The Diocese of Ho mobile medical clinic is seen in the background.
3. A man brings his father to see the doctor in his village of Peki, about 90 minutes drive from Ho.
4. Patients wait to get their prescriptions filled by pharmacists.
All photos courtesy of Robert Griffin.