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Opinions of Sunday, 7 August 2011

Columnist: Adu, Joseph Ampomah

Ode to Dr. Kokou Awoonor-Williams

- Dr. John Awoonor-Williams, a legendary in the Ghana Health Service

“The writer considers this article incomplete without asking these rhetoric questions. If this man could bring all these massive infrastructure and innovations in health administration in less than half a decade, then what could have gone wrong all these years? Where were the leaders? When and how do we get them to continue when duty calls Dr. Awoonor to another station? This is food for thought.” My answer is simple we need more of such people. If Kokou who is a “kabonya” a foreigner as Northerners describe workers from the south who comes to work in the north can help improve the service there, then the question need to be asked about attitude of his predecessors.

The general perception in Ghana is that health care providers are not given their best and moral of health staff is low and this has impacted on the quality of care in the public sector. Majority of the trained staff are not willing to work in rural areas where their services are most needed. A study by World Bank economists stated that over half of doctors practicing in Inner cities of London, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Toronto, Paris, Marseilles and Hamburg were from sub-Saharan Africa. Young graduates and professionals seeking to establish themselves and build secure futures disregard calls to patriotism to return home. The havoc wreaked by the exodus is causing devastating blow to Ghana. While some attempt has been made to improve the wages and benefits for Medical Practices, we still cannot match what the advance economy can offer our Medical officers. The statistics on Doctor Patient ratio is so bad in rural, the dwindling budget allocation to health sector has created situation where workers get paid but no resources to execute health interventions and programs that will have improve the health status. We are in a situation where hospitals have no doctors to take care of the people. The country continues to lose 8 of every 10 doctors it has educated. Dr Kokou Awoonor-Williams could easily join the exodus due to his relationship with the Donor community and his experience and he is smarter than some Medical officers recruited by International Organization from

Ghana. It is therefore refreshing to hear or see some exemplary work by any health worker like him who has stuck in while his colleague goes for greener pastures. Please do not get me wrong, there are some workers in the health sector who gives their best with less resources allocated to them. I have taken this long paragraph from an article written by Samuel Akapule in Ghanaweb which chronicles achievement by Dr Kokour Awoonor-Williams in Upper West region. This typical of what Kokou stand for but what the writer fails to include has motivated me to write a supplementary article as my contribution. I am normally not one who do praise singing but I got know Dr. Kokou Awoonor-Williams as exemplary worker and miracle man when He was posted to Nkwanta District hospital. For those who do not know where Nkwanta is located. Before the 2008 creation of more district Old Nkwanta District being divided into Nkwanta North and South Districts. Nkwanta District which happens to be one of Ghana food Basket was like Siberia for work, a journey of less than 250 km took whole day to travel even with four wheel drive.

A good healthcare delivery manager must know that you need to understand the important definition. A health care system is the organization of people, institutions, and resources to deliver health care services to meet the health needs of target populations. Kokou has shown that he fully understand the definition. Kokou accepted posting to the place and within few months, the Nkwanta hospital which did not have even a theatre, a ward was transformed into one of the good hospital in the country. I saw my first thuraya satellite phone with Kokou because there was no means of communication in Nkwanta at that time. This is man who does not think in the Box. Their road was bad and getting resources to offer service was so difficult. The community was poor and could not afford to pay for health service. Patients come to the hospital with what they have, goats, yam or a hen as payment for health service. The hospital did not have theatre and there was no way to transport patients to Ho without the consequence of dead on arrival (DOA) so Kokou and his team have to improvise and perform operations without theatre. His efforts caught the attention of USAID which provided some logistics to him and made it possible for Kokou to build a theatre, a ward and Mothers quarters which I had a privilege to sleep in one when Dr. Afriyie the then Minister paid a visit to the hospital.

He was able to batter health services for commodities which communities use as payment. The hospital transports the goods to Accra when coming for logistics to sell and use the money to purchase logistics. His ingenuity help save life in the Nkwanta district. I have followed this Goodman from afar, I left the health service in 2006 but I knew then that one day this man’s efforts will be seen by others.

At the moment he may be enjoying work in the far away Upper East where health delivery has been below par with other regions.

Dr Kokou Awoonor-Williams, I am still waiting for the refund for the repair of the car which your driver in Nkwanta hospital hit and I have to rescue him to come home.

Joseph Ampomah Adu Deputy Country Director Technical SPS Bangladesh