DODOWA, Ghana – When Kennedy Brightson asked for a transfer to Dodowa in the Dangme West district he had no idea what he was in for.
‘I didn’t even know where the district hospital was. I had never stepped foot here. I even got myself lost on the way’ said Brightson, the Medical Superintendent of Dangme West District Hospital.
Three years later, Dr. Brightson’s dedication to work and a drive to safeguard the lives of pregnant women has endeared him and his team to hundreds of women who have given birth in the green, hilly community 40 miles east of Accra.
‘My motivation is the joy of putting a smile on these women’s faces,’ said Brightson, who studied medicine in the Ukraine and has a post doctoral qualification in Maternal and Reproductive Health.
Behind his own infectious smile and hearty laugh lies an indomitable drive.
Maternal health is high on the agenda of the Ghana government which pledged along with other countries worldwide to the Millenium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent between 2009 to 2015. For Ghana this means bringing down deaths from its current level of 350 per 100,000 live births to 185 in the next two years.
Brightson says his personal involvement has been a decade long and tough journey. Following his medical training in the Ukraine, he returned to Ghana in 1997 where he began his residency at the country’s flagship Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
It was only after his appointment to head the maternity wing of a hospital in Maamobi, a densely populated, low-income neighborhood in Accra, that the country’s high rate of maternal deaths really struck home.
‘Coming from a humble background myself I identified with these pregnant women. I went to see them in their homes to educate them about maternal health,’ Brightson said.
In March 2010 Brightson requested a transfer to Dodowa armed with a zeal to continue the drive at his new location. But the hospital was severely lacking resources.
‘The theatre was unused and unprepared. We were doing zero surgeries,’ Brightson said.
Save a Woman, save a family
The most common causes of maternal mortality in Ghana are well known – haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour.
Most maternal deaths are avoidable if access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after is readily available.
Which is why Brightson urges all women to seek ante-natal care as soon as they realise they are pregnant.
Brightson attributes the hospital’s flourishing maternity and labor practice to an ‘incredible team’ who have supported as they literally carved out the tiny maternity and neonatal unit from one end of the corridor of the main hospital.
‘None of my theater nurses live in Dodowa or have cars so when there’s an emergency and I’m called in, I call them up and they get out of their beds and onto the road, no matter what time it is,’ Brightson said.
As word spread rapidly about Dangme West hospital’s success rate, attendance at the 50- bed facility soared, tripling within the last three years.
‘We saw over 42,000 patients in 2012 up from 13,000 in 2009,’ Brightson said.
The hospital has been hugely successful but three maternal fatalities in the last three years is still three too many, Brightson said.
After the deaths of the first two – due to loss of blood during delivery – the hospital strengthened its blood supply system.
‘ We have never lost a patient due to blood since,’ Brightson said.
The third fatality occurred as Brightson raced to the hospital after he was called in for an emergency.
‘My car broke down on the way. She passed away before I got here,’ Brightson said.
For Brightson and his team news of a new 120 -bed to replace their overstretched facility is an ‘answer to prayer.’
Dodowa is to be the first of six new district hospitals to be built under a contract signed between the Ministry Of Health and NMS Infrastructure Ltd in November 2012.
NMS Infrastructure seeks to deliver solutions for national social infrastructure projects in Healthcare, Education, Energy, Affordable Housing and Water & Sanitation.
The others will be built in Sekondi, Kumawu, Abetifi, Fomena, and Garu-Tempane.
A seventh hospital – The European Hospital in the Takoradi Metropolitan District – is also due to be upgraded and re-equipped by NMS Infrastructure under the same project.
Each hospital has been uniquely designed to custom fit its location by a by a team of experts from the UK and Ghana.
In addition to the typical components of a modern hospital, the new Dodowa facility will have a hostel for patients’ visitors and a complete centralized security and pharmaceutical system.
But it’s a modern surgical theatre that Brightson is most excited about.
‘Imagine how many more lives we can reach,’ Brightson said. ‘ If you save one woman, you save an entire family.’
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