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General News of Sunday, 31 May 2020


High coronavirus cases force Korle-Bu to stop surgeries

Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital

There are several pain and deaths on the horizon, as the Anaesthesia Department of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, has since Tuesday 26, 2020, suspended urgent surgical cases as a result of a “surge in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Accra” with anaesthetics needed “urgently”.

The Department of Anaesthesia is responsible for numbing and putting patients to sleep as well as taking care of them in the immediate aftermath of surgery in the recovery ward or the Intensive care unit (ICU), but per an internal memo available to The Herald, from the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, reveals that the health facility is currently not conducting any surgical operations.

This is because, the specialist doctors called “Anaesthetists” who are responsible for administering drugs to patients to manage and control their pain ahead operations and surgical procedures have been move to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients in other hospitals, where numbers are skyrocketing.

The suspension, according to the internal memo from the head of Department to Director of Medical Affairs, is for all the specialized health workers in the unit, to go to the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC)and Ga East Municipal Hospital, to help take care of those living with the killer virus and are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospitals.

Interestingly, President Akufo-Addo is planning to lift restrictions imposed on the country, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

As at yesterday, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) website, had stated that out of 7, 303 confirmed cases, 2,412, people have recovered, while 34 people have died. The website did not mention the number of people who are in critical condition.

Parts of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital memo had said that “the Surge in severely ill COVID-19 patients in Accra, has increased and the number of functional ICU beds in UGMS and Ga East Municipal Hospital are all occupied.”

In this regard, the Head of the Anaesthesia Department explained that “there has been a request from the National Committee for more specialist Anaesthetists to cover the ICU in these hospitals”, adding “these are needed urgently”.

The document stated that, the “Anaesthesia cover for the urgent cases will stop immediately”, however, “Anaesthesia cover reverts to emergencies only from 27th May, 2020”.

The memo was copied to the Deputy Director of Medical Affairs, Head of Surgery, Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Head of Ophthamology, Head of Ear, Nose and Throat, Head of Orthopaedics, Patient Care Coordinator, Anaesthesia Dept and the Anaesthesia Dept.

Sources familiar with the situation have explained to The Herald that, urgent surgical cases are emergency surgical cases that can be delayed for a few days.

This paper was told that “in normal times, these cases will be done as quickly as possible, but they may be delayed, because the patient’s condition may require further optimisation before subjecting them to the stress of surgery. The other reason for delay, may be because there are more critical emergency surgical cases competing for space and so the “urgent” emergencies may have to wait”.

It was explained that, the memo suggests that, the number of anesthesiologists are being stretched thin because, a significant number of them are being requested by the National COVID committee to cover duties at the UGMC and Ga East Hospitals, as a result of an increasing number of critically ill COVID cases.

They, therefore, would not have enough personnel to provide anaesthesia service for all emergency surgeries as was the situation until now.

Since COVID-19 was first recorded in Ghana, elective surgeries (Planned non-emergency surgeries) in most tertiary institutions have been cancelled, to make way for critical emergencies and urgent emergencies.

It was pointed out that by this memo, the urgent emergency surgical cases, will have to wait even longer, even if their situations are such that they are optimised for surgery.

The difficulty with that is that, the prolonged delays, can have effects on their surgical outcomes.

Examples of the critical emergency cases include, bleeding broken limbs, testicular torsion, and bowel perforations, appendicitis and babies born with no anal passage among others.

Other examples of urgent emergencies include a broken thigh bone with no wounds, and bowel bleeding that has stopped after non-surgical treatment in the emergency room.

This implies that “all urgent surgical emergencies in Korle Bu cannot be operated from today until further notice”.

The sources questioned why COVID-19 cases are surging but the president wants to relax restrictions in order to have a new voter register.