Health News of Sunday, 23 June 2013


Korle Bu Burns Centre: A facility with many challenges

Reconstructive plastic and burns surgery is a very critical component of health care in our country today. It is a speciality of plastic surgery committed to the restoration of form and function of any body part.

Plastic surgeons routinely deal with burns, facial, limb, nerve, tendon and blood vessel injuries; skin cancers, birth anomalies; lymphoedema; and cosmetic problems.

Some burns need plastic surgery and reconstruction for the individual to be restored to normal life.

In our present situation where domestic and other fires have become anusual occurrence, there is the need to pay attention to the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, which is the only one in the country and one of the few in the sub-region.

Our reporter Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho finds out why the centre has been neglected and what can be done to save the situation.

Popularly referred to as the Burns Centre, it is confronted with a number of challenges. One of them is that a structure which was put up to facilitate the work of the centre has been abandoned since 2009. The result is that certain facilities which are supposed to be used are not available.


The centre was inaugurated in May 1997 by a retired Scottish plastic surgeon, Jack Mustarde.

The facility, which was built to accommodate 69 beds, provides services in reconstructive plastic surgery, deformities, ulcers, burns, cancers and various injuries and cosmetic problems for Ghanaians and other nationals in the sub-region.

With two theatres, the centre has seven units, which are the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Unit, Burns Unit, Ulcer Unit, Theatres and Recovery Wards, Executive Ward, Public Health Unit and

Out-Patient Department.

Last year, the centre catered for 7,443 out-patients, admitted 785 people and performed 1,184 operations. However, despite the numerous services that the centre provides, a multi-million dollar facility, which is 90 per cent complete, has been abandoned for the past four years.

Estimated at about $270,000 at the time of construction, it will house an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Out-Patient Department, a theatre, wards and offices, among others. It was funded under the government’s Capital Investment Plan for the health sector with support from some development partners.

The project was started in 2006 and was expected to be completed in 2009 but is yet to be completed and handed over to the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre.

Although the three-storey infrastructure for the centre is 90 per cent complete, it lacks basic amenities such as a lift, electricity and partitioning.

According to the Head of the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre, Dr Opoku Ware Ampomah, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital needs an estimated GH¢3 million and a lift in order to complete the project.

The equipment to be installed in the facility, according to Dr Ampomah, has already been captured in another project which is being undertaken by the government.

The unit in 2012 recorded 126 deaths as compared to 81 in 2011; 90 in 2010; 52 in 2009; 38 in 2008; 32 in 2007 and 27 in 2006.


In the first quarter of 2013, the centre recorded 23 deaths, spread as three from 37 admissions in January; nine from 26 admissions in February and 11 deaths in March out of 32 admissions.

From January 2011 to the first quarter of 2012, more than 850 burns were recorded with 328 of them requiring admissions and out of which 90 deaths were recorded.

A study in 2006 by the unit showed that hot liquids accounted for 67 per cent of burns at the centre; petroleum and gas caused 11 per cent; electricity caused 16 per cent, while open flame caused five per cent burnt cases.

A similar study in 2011, according to Dr Ampomah, showed that there was the need for more education on the emerging oil and gas industry. He added that hot liquid burns reduced to 45 per cent, while petroleum and gas burns increased to 30 per cent and a further 35 per cent in 2012.

Further research indicates that at least 75 per cent of all burn injuries were preventable.