Baptist Medical Centre – Ghana
The rural community of Nalerigu, northern Ghana, West Africa, is home to the Baptist Medical Center. 400-500 outpatients are seen in each clinic, and the hospital of 120 beds usually runs at over capacity. People coming to Baptist Medical Center are often impoverished. Some of the most common medical problems encountered are malaria, malnutrition, pneumonia, tropical ulcers, hypertension and anemia.
The medical staff of Baptist Medical Center consists of two to three full time American physicians. In addition, a number of other American physicians visit for short periods each year. English is the spoken language of Ghana. The Center also supports a public health ministry that sponsors rural clinics where villagers receive immunizations, health teaching, prenatal clinics and under five clinics.
Location & Community
Nalerigu is a small, traditional African town located near the city of Tamale in the northern part of Ghana, West Africa. The town is in an agrarian community and has a local market with limited shopping.
Become familiar with Ghana’s culture, history and economy by reviewing the Wikipedia Ghana Profile. Rich resources for Ghana health information include the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation IHME Ghana Country Profile and the World Health Organization Global Health Observatory Ghana Data.
International travelers should fly into Accra, the capital. The Ghana Baptist Mission operates a guesthouse in Accra where travelers can spend the night. An advanced reservation will be necessary. Someone from the hospital will normally meet you at the international airport in Accra. Travel to Nalerigu may be via road or air. There is a flight that runs on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. The trip from Tamale to Nalerigu is then two more hours by car. Alternatively, the 500-mile, bus trip from Accra to Nalerigu provides a unique opportunity to see the country up close, but takes about fourteen hours.
Please visit the Ghanaian embassy website appropriate for one’s nationality. Americans require a visa for entry into Ghana. The visa must be obtained in advance and cannot be granted at the airport. United States citizens may visit the Ghanaian embassy for visa application information: https://www.ghanaembassy.org. Application for a visitor visa should be made at least two months in advance. Physicians must obtain a medical license to practice in Ghana, a process that this normally uncomplicated but takes at least 3 months to complete.
Traveler’s Health & Safety
One should consult with their personal physician before traveling, and refer to the CDC Travel Website for the most up-to-date health information.
People coming to Baptist Medical Center are usually impoverished, subsistence farmers. Some of the most common medical problems encountered are malaria, malnutrtion, pneumonia, tropical ulcers, typhoid fever, inguinal hernias, pregnancy complications, schistosomiasis, hypertension and anemia.
English is the official language of Ghana. Medical students and residents will able to work in English, with translation available for the approximately twenty local languages that will be encountered.
Medical Care Services
Baptist Medical Center has capacity for 120 inpatients, is usually full, and occasionally runs as high as 150 percent capacity. At the height of malaria season there may be up to 60-70 kids in the 18-bed pediatric ward. An average of 400-500 outpatients are seen in each clinic, with three clinic days a week. The Center also provides a public health ministry that sponsors rural clinics where villagers receive immunizations, health teaching, prenatal clinics and under five clinics. The hospital ministry was started in 1958 by Dr. Georg Faile, Jr., with support of the International Mission Board, SBC.
HIV Care Services
Northern Ghana is increasingly afflicted by the growing HIV epidemic, a plague compounded by the remoteness and cultural mores of this region. In response, the Baptist Medical Center Public Health Department has developed and implemented a comprehensive HIV initiative that is fully supported by onsite Internet resources, HIV rapid testing, CD4 count monitoring, and a trained and dedicated staff.
The Public Health Department HIV staff have a keen interest in sharing their skills with outside learners and volunteers. These volunteers will participate in every aspect of this critical service, including voluntary HIV testing and counseling, antiretroviral HIV outpatient therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and management of opportunistic infections with the assistance of the nearby Baptist Medical Center staff.
Public Health Initiatives
Baptist Medical Center is also headquarters for the regional public health department, serving some 34,000 residents in 64 rural villages south of the medical center. Students are welcome to participate in the full range of service. Public health personnel are Ghanaian-trained nurses and community health workers who provide bed nets, prenatal care, well child care, vaccinations, HIV testing and counseling, and treatment and referral of more common diseases.
Outpatient HIV medication treatment is offered to appropriate patients at the public health department, with the support of CD4 and viral load monitoring. The public health program also monitors community health status, particularly collecting data regarding the primary communicable disease threats: tuberculosis, malaria, yaws (spirochete infection caused by Treponema pallidum pertenue), guinea worm, bacterial meningitis, cholera, and measles.
Healthcare Profession Staff
The medical staff of Baptist Medical Center consists of two to three long-term American staff physicians and one to two long-term Ghanaian physicians at any one time. In addition, a number of physicians from America and other nations visit for short periods each year.
Several American medical students and residents come to Baptist Medical Center each year. Clinical responsibilities will normally include outpatient clinic, inpatient care, obstetrics, pediatrics, and surgery. Visiting staff are encouraged to bring their own medical instruments. Students will normally take night call and be responsible for their own inpatients. Students are constantly under the guidance of a staff physician. Previous INMED Learners who served at this training site include these Graduates.
Student Lodging & Meals
Visitors are housed in the hospital guesthouse. They can purchase groceries in the nearby town of Tamale and make their own meals at the guesthouse. The kitchen has a microwave. A local cook is also available to prepare hot meals.
Wireless internet is available. Outages and slow speeds are common. National cell phone service is ubiquitous.
INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to donate to support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they will provide opportunities INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.
Behavior & Dress
Clothing for clinical work is similar to that worn in the United States. Men can wear jeans and polo shirts. No short parts or T-shirts. Long skirts and slacks may be worn by women. The hospital provides surgical scrubs.
What To Pack
Visitors should bring copies of any healthcare profession licenses, diplomas, or certifications. It is recommended to also pack a carry-on bag that has essentials items just in case one’s luggage becomes lost. Recent INMED students recommend:
- Pharmacopia book
- Stanford antibiotic guide
- Grainola bars
- Water bottle
- Small back pack
- Peanut butter
- Lots of skirts and tank tops
- Sleeveless shirts
- Flashlight and bats
- BP cuff
- Wrist watch
- Old running shoes
- Books, Bible
- Writing paper
- Bug spray
- Gifts to give the national hospital staff: T-shirts, popcorn
- A good camera
- Battery powered alarm clock
- Transistor radio