Today the department of obstetrics and gynaecology in Catholic Hospital, Battor performed ten (10) surgeries for uterine fibroids. Five (5) of them were myomectomies and the other 5 total abdominal hysterectomies. We started operating at 7:29am. We finished the last surgery at 3:47pm. The surgeries were performed, led by 4 medical doctors – two specialist obstetrician gynaecologists (Members of the Ghana College of Surgeons), a Resident in Family Medicine (on district rotation in Battor), and a medical officer (groomed from when he came to Battor as a Senior House Officer about two years ago).
This may seem impossible in many institutions in Ghana. In Battor, this is routine. I have seen this done week in, week out in the almost 19 years I have been in Battor. In fact, I have seen 16 of these major surgeries done in a day in Battor. This was in the time of the German nun/gynaecologist Sister Dr. Edgitha Gorges who spent over 40 years in Battor. It was amazing the culture, the work ethic the founding Germans and those who came later established in Battor. I fell in love with the culture in Battor and I have been unable to leave. As far as we know, Catholic Hospital, Battor does more elective gynaecologic surgeries than any hospital in Ghana.
The last Germans (including Sister Dr. Edgitha Gorges) left Battor finally for Germany in August 2012. Maintaining the culture has not been easy but there has been good work by many individuals like the administrator, Mr. Donatus Adaletey, previous medical superintendents and the current medical superintendent, Dr. Hayford Atuguba, nurse managers, head of the preoperative nurses, Ms. Gifty Dompreh, Anaesthetist Mr. Charles Atitso and many others working silently but very hard, including the nurses who manage the patients on the wards after the surgeries. This has ensured that the culture established several decades ago has remained in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology (and perhaps even been pushed higher).
How difficult has it been to maintain this culture? Many new workers in the hospital did not meet the Germans. Some have complained about the work being too difficult. Some left the hospital. Some doctors did not come to the hospital because they wouldn’t get time to do ‘private practice’ to make more money for themselves.
I remember a chat I had with Dr. Atuguba, specialist obstetrician gynaecologist and current medical superintendent on this. Part of the secret was this ‘profound’ statement: “Even if we have 11 major surgeries for our two theatre days (Wednesday and Thursday), we shall put 10 surgeries for Wednesday because when some people get used to 5 surgeries in a day, it will be difficult to ask them to do 6 surgeries. They will complain.”
Eight (8) years and counting. How long will the culture remain and how difficult is it to get the next generation to take this up? Without support to get health workers, for example, to continue with the work, Battor is a ticking time bomb. Many people are not even aware of the sacrifices people have made to get this going.
As the saying goes, “A society that does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for.” I just hope the heroes and heroines in Battor do not give up. I am using this piece to let them know that I appreciate them. I know that there are other people who also appreciate them.