Patients of the Tamale Central Hospital who need to go under the surgeon’s knife may have to look elsewhere. This follows the decision of the hospital to freeze all surgeries.
The surgeries have been cancelled because the hospital has run out of the logistics necessary to keep its theatre running for the last three weeks.
“It is with deep regret that I write to inform you of the cancellation of all surgeries with effect from Thursday, 23rd December 2021. This decision has been necessitated by the shortage of essential supplies and water in the hospital,” a memo from the hospital’s specialist surgeon to its medical superintendent said.
According to the memo, the health facility had been coping with the shortage by asking patients to buy “almost all the consumables for their surgeries.” That decision had to be put on hold because of “negative media discussions”, the memo dated December 22, 2021, added.
Ordinarily, patients who cannot access medical care at the Tamale Central Hospital can opt for the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH), but this will not be the case this festive season.
The Fourth Estate’s sources at the TTH, the biggest referral hospital in the five regions of the north, say there is “a break in elective surgery and specialist outpatient department (OPD).”
The TTH, however, performs emergency surgeries.
The shortage of essential drugs in major hospitals in Tamale is not new. In March 2015, an acute essential drugs shortage hit the 800-bed Tamale Teaching Hospital, forcing the management to ask patients to buy their medications from outside.
The most recent case of the cancellation of surgeries at the Tamale Teaching Hospital was in July 2020. The hospital cancelled 900 surgeries in the first 12 weeks of the coronavirus outbreak in Ghana.
The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation reported that the hospital’s Head of the Department of Surgery, Professor Stephen Tabiri, attributed the decision to uncertainty over the nature of the novel virus, which had caused some anxiety among hospital management and staff.
It compelled the hospital to suspend non-emergency surgeries, including cancer surgeries.
He said some patients suffered as a result, but added that there was nothing the hospital could do under the circumstances.
“If you cancel a cancer surgery, you finish everything. If the patient is supposed to go for surgery and you cancel it, at the end of the twelve (12) weeks, the cancer will spread over the whole body and there is nothing you can do,” he explained.
Hospitals in the Tamale metropolis are also caught in the snag of the perennial water shortages. Residents in the Northern regional capital have been struggling with this for decades. The hospitals have not been spared.
The Ghana News Agency (GNA) reported in January 2007 that work came to a standstill at the Tamale Teaching Hospital between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. following an acute water shortage.
The Laboratory Department was the worst affected. Patients were either sent home or not attended to. Some patients had to send for water from home for bathing.
Similar water shortages were again experienced in 2014 and 2015. The major referral hospital had to rely on tanker services and the Ghana National Fire Service for water supplies.
It is for this reason that when President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cut the sod for the construction of the Tamale Water Supply Project in July 2020, the city erupted with jubilations.
The Tamale Water Supply Project is meant to expand the supply capacity of the Tamale Metropolitan area. It is aimed at improving the flexibility of water supply by building a new water supply system that will rely on the White Volta at Yapei. The system is expected to pump 29.7 million gallons per day to households and institutions.
“This will be, by far, the biggest water project in the five northern regions, and the second biggest in the history of our country,” President Akufo-Addo said.
But 18 months later, the project still remains a campaign promise. Not much has been done. The taps still cough air when opened.
While residents wait for the president’s promise to be fulfilled, patients awaiting surgery are running out of hope.
The Tamale Central Hospital has promised that “surgeries will resume as soon as supplies are provided.”
The question both patients and the management of the hospital cannot answer is, “How soon?”