Written by David Gold, Tzedek Go Global participant. David is volunteering with THUHDEG and The Shakeenah Clinic. 

David Gold with children in Tamale

David Gold with children in Tamale

Over the past 2 weeks I have experienced healthcare in Ghana from many different perspectives; the clinician, the patient and a pseudo-relative.

As a medical student, let’s begin with the most obvious; the clinician’s perspective. I have sat in on outpatients clinics, witnessed the most amazing doctor do a fantastic ward rounds, with very little medicine, and seen him perform open surgery on patients under local anaesthesia. My mind has been blown. I love Dr Abdulai’s Shakeenah Clinic.

On my first day at the Shakeenah clinic I was absolutely amazed by the team, the work that they do is truly remarkable! The operations, the free access to healthcare for all and the work in mental health is truly inspiring. I hope that when I qualify I’m at least half the doctor any one of the Shakeenah Clinic staff members are! I saw diseases I thought were extinct, such as leprosy, and saw how simple and easy it is to treat one of the worlds deadliest diseases – malaria! I think its unbelievable that despite malaria treatment costing about £5 per person and mosquito nets costing 20GHS (around £3.50) that malaria is still such a huge problem worldwide.

It is true what we get told in med school – a good clinical history is all you need to make an accurate diagnosis. Testing here is very limited due to the cost and so unlike back home clinicians treat often without testing. However with such a low recurrence rate they must be doing something right!

Unfortunately I have also experienced the healthcare in Ghana from the patients perspective – I hurt my toe playing around in the swimming pool! Josh had also not been feeling very well so we went, along with Lucy, to the clinic that was recommended by Tzedek. It was exactly as I expected! Everyone was nice, helpful and very accommodating. 

When we walked into the doctors room he was playing a game on his computer – no big deal, “just passing the time”. I was seen to and was asked to go for an x-ray at Tamale Teaching Hospital. Lucy and I had heard mixed things about the hospital so were a little apprehensive about going. Josh was also seen and we were prescribed some drugs and sent on our way.

The reason this whole experience was quite so pleasant was due to one simple fact: we have insurance. This means that we can have all the tests that both doctors and patients back home take for granted – blood tests, x-rays, CT etc. The Shakeenah Clinic runs 100% on donations and the patients seen have no insurance! Whilst this means that they might not get the best test or drugs, it means that the clinicians working there are very skilled and honestly they are just grateful for whatever help we can give them! We are so lucky back home to have the NHS with all it’s resources. We take for granted what free health care looks like in different countries. Almost instant access to drugs, test, doctors and surgeries stop the type of diseases from occurring, and progressing, that likes of which I see on a daily basis at the Shakeenah Clinic.

Anyway, after visiting the clinic we decided to go for dinner and Josh was obviously in a serious amounts of pain. We decided that he needed to go to hospital so we bravely got a taxi to the hospital which is where I experienced being a pseudo-relative. When we arrived it looked like a normal hospital building. We walked into the emergency room and were pleasantly surprised! I have seen some A&E’s back home in a much worse state. We were told we were in the wrong department and sent to OPD. On our walk through the hospital I felt confident in the cleanliness – some parts were cleaner than hospitals back home! The care we received there was second to none and I would happily go there as a patient and as a clinician.

I have been in hospitals and clinics all over the world – UK, USA, South Africa, Thailand and now Ghana. Despite being a economically developing country, the facilities and care here are just as good as back home!