- For the bodies in charge of health in our country to plan strategically, they must have strategic thinkers. Strategic thinkers do not just progress up public sector rank and file and then become heads of departments. They are head hunted, assessed, groomed,..
Something momentous happened in health last month. Most of its importance was covered by the inevitable ordinariness of a group of foreign doctors doing outreach surgery in the name of a non governmental foundation. I was on the inside however, and saw perspectives that would not be immediately obvious.
Like being able to look in the face of a person who had just had surgery on his/her back worth at least ten thousand dollars, and say its done, you can go, and you do not need to pay anything. On the neurosurgical side, there were at least 11 persons like this. On the orthopaedic and general surgery sides, there were even more people like that. And this was just in my hospital. More surgeries were done in other hospitals.
The project took off slowly, gained momentum, and concluded successfully. There were hiccups, problems, snags. There was frustration, despair, heart stopping moments, but no one gave up and something was achieved in the long run. In the end, the patients went home, and visiting doctors returned to their countries. There were no big problems solved, but a seed has been sown. It has been demonstrated, that it is possible for a few young people of Ghanaian descent living in the diaspora, to conceive an idea, collaborate with foreign and local partners, and get some people better, without the involvement of well known health partners that our country’s health agenda has been dictated by.
As we offloaded, and used the equipment and consumables shipped ahead of the teams’ arrival, I was struck by how huge the gap was. How far the health system in my country had been left behind. As the staff in my hospital struggled to cope with the pace of the energetic foreign teams, it was obvious that there was a difference in approaches between the two paradigms. Heads clashed, as it became obvious that modern medicine is really about using the time to achieve good, rather than allowing time to pass by so good can manifest itself.
So it was not about how many cases could be done as efficiently as possible, it was how much extra burden these visitors were bringing, and how to find the energy to cope with extra work that no-one was going to pay for. It was understandable, at least in my hospital. There is only so much that overworked staff can do. Sometimes, overwork is not just the quantum of work that has to be done, but a product of the lack of strategic planning, that splits responsibilities and distributes them according to capacity and ability, so that targets are met by the team as a whole, and are not individual burdens.
For the bodies in charge of health in our country to plan strategically, they must have strategic thinkers. Strategic thinkers do not just progress up public sector rank and file and then become heads of departments. They are head hunted, assessed, groomed, given targets and then monitored for performance. If the bodies in charge of health run on minimal staff, minimal IT infrastructure, and have no budget for recruiting strategic thinkers, it is impossible for Ghanaian healthcare to develop. If the leadership for our health care governing bodies are hand picked more because of political prowess than strategic achievement pedigree, then we should not be surprised if healthcare development is nonexistent.
How do we expect healthcare to develop, like banking, or telecommunication, or oil and gas, when the youngest financial analyst in a typical bank is paid more than a public sector head of department in health care? On the other hand, how do we expect to attract top sector companies/talent into the country for mega industry, when we cannot give any assurance that there is support for any big managing director who gets a heart attack?
The young people who made the Brain Project, and the Restoring Hope outreach happen, reassure me that all is not lost. Health care development will happen in Ghana only if the brave move. Only if the people decide that what we have is no longer acceptable. Only if the people with the capacity and the ability collaborate and achieve something that is so impactful, that the public sector movers and shakers have no choice but to try to catch up with.
Then the progress will actually begin.
Life is a long series of memorable moments punctuating passing time. Teddy samples some of his poignant ones. Here and there, memorializing otherwise fleeting experiences. Find more of his writing at Amazon