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Opinions of Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Columnist: Minaaya Abakah-Woode

More than medicine at the Accra College of Medicine

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A pregnant woman experiencing complications, walks into the clinic to seek medical care but upon her entry, there was no one available to talk to or even listen to her. She felt devastated and disappointed as she could not get access to her fundamental basic human right, just because of who she is. This is the plight of many more and others like her who are hearing and speech impaired.

But health care is a basic amenity that everyone must have access to no matter the state they are in. According to Ghana’s constitution, health care is a fundamental human right and no one should be denied that.

However, these persons with hearing and speech impairment do not always get access to this basic amenity because the only language they can communicate in, is not spoken or understood by most health professionals, thus making them feel neglected. But! the flame of hope has been lit for these persons.

The Accra College of Medicine, the leading private and independent Medical College here in Ghana is the one with the torch of flame. Since their inception in 2014, the College has had Ghanaian sign language as part of the courses to be studied. This is a mandatory course for every student that comes to the College to study medicine.

As Mother Theresa once said “The greatest disease in the world today is not TB or Leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for…..” To be able to cure this disease, the Accra College of Medicine seeks to churn out great doctors with heart power who will provide immense service to not just some, but all facets of humanity. ACM doctors will be able to speak, understand and communicate with these persons who were once forgotten and felt neglected.

According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population or 466 million people have disabling hearing loss with 432 million people being adults and 34 million being children and has estimated that by 2050, over 900 million people or one in every ten people will have disabling hearing loss.

Speaking to the President of the College, Professor (Mrs) Afua Hesse, she said the idea came up just as the College was about to kick start because they had a dream. According to her “We as a College wanted to teach our students more than medicine; we want our doctors to be all-rounders as they render their services, not just to some people, but to be able to reach out to all especially those who have hearing and speech impairment”. This is the reason we made Ghanaian sign language a mandatory course for all students.

Sign language is a non-verbal communication method, used mostly by the hearing and speech impaired. It is a language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body. This is the only language hearing and speech impaired persons know and understand yet few people know or even understand it making their communication with others difficult especially with those that are meant to render services to them in fulfillment of their basic human rights.

It says that 60% of the disabling hearing loss at a young age, can be attributed to causes that are preventable. However, until this is achieved, the hearing and speech impairment persons need to be communicated with and treated just like every other person. As their numbers keep increasing, the need to communicate with and understand them becomes greater. Thus their language must be learnt and taught as well. This is what ACM is offering to students who share in their dream.

Speaking to some of the students, they expressed gratitude and appreciation to the College for the inclusion of Ghanaian sign language as part of their study courses.

According to them “It is really great as this has given us the opportunity to have an edge over other medical students who have not gotten such a privilege.”

The Accra College of Medicine seeks to provide world class medical education that is relevant, research oriented, tailored towards solving Ghana and Africa’s health problems, producing unique graduates who are committed to excellence and have heart power.
The journey has just began.