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Ghana confers National award to Indian doctor Uma Sen

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Accra (Ghana): Indian doctor Uma Sen, who spent her entire career working in Ghana, was on Friday conferred its prestigious award – Member of the Order of the Volta (MV) – by President John Mahama in recognition of her “patriotic and humanitarian services to the people of this country in the field of health care”.

The citation read: “At the regional hospital, you devoted your full time to duty and brought smiles to many women who hitherto, suffered from infertility and could not have babies of their own. You saved many lives at the Regional Hospital, Ho. Ut is on record that you always responded positively to night and weekend calls even when you were not on duty.”

In spite of the fact that she had dedicated her whole life serving Ghanaians, she was not able to get a resident permit until IANS took up her case two years ago when she was in retirement. Ghana Health Service’s regional director, Joseph Teye Nuertey, had then told IANS that “this woman deserve to be properly honoured by the country”.

Sen’s story is a remarkable one. Originally from India’s eastern West Bengal state, she arrived in Ghana in 1969 and has been in the west African country since then, spending her entire working life working at various hospitals before ending up at the Volta Regional Hospital at Ho.

Popularly called “Mama” or grandmother, Dr Sen who is now 82, worked as a specialist gynaecologist but because she could not put up a house of her own, she ended up being looked after by the staff of the hospital because she did not marry.

Recruited by the health ministry in 1969, she worked at the Ashanti-Mampong Mission Maternity Hospital in the Ashanti Region till 1970, at the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga from 1970 to 1972 and then from 1973 at the Volta Regional Hospital, where she retired in 1999.

“She was re-engaged on contract by the Volta Regional Hospital and paid from the hospital’s internally generated fund. Throughout her working life, in the ministry of health, she exhibited a high level of professional competencies in medicine to the administration of both her colleagues and clients,” a letter on file at the Regional Health Directorate said.

Neurtey said Sen trained many doctors in obstetrics and gynaecology, some of whom are professors in the various fields of medicine in the country.

In addition, “Dr Uma Sen never married, she spent her life working in Ghana and has rendered meritorious services to the people of Ghana. It is our opinion that Dr Uma Sen should be honoured by the ministry of health and Ghana Health Service to serve as a motivation of foreign nationals working in the country.

“Dr Uma Sen has no intention of going back to her country of birth, and should, therefore, be appropriately settled in the country, preferably in the Volta Region where she has many friends,” the letter said.

After her medical studies at the University of Calcutta in 1953, she worked at the Tata Main Hospital at Jamshedpur from 1953 to 1962 and then went to London to work at various hospitals including Middlesborough General Hospital in Yorkshire and later at the Southend General Hospital.

It was after that she took the decision to come to Ghana. “Through my friend, Smority Biswas, who had visited Ghana before knew a bit of the country, I expressed the interest and she worked out my employment for me and I came to Ghana,” said Sen.

She was well prepared for the trip because she arrived in Ghana in a ship with a car that she had bought. “I drove myself from the Takoradi Harbour to Ashanti-Mampong by myself and just fell in love with the people instantly because they treated me as one of their own.”

Sen said that since arriving in Ghana, she got busy with work and forget about enjoying her life. “I just worked and worked, sometimes, I even forget to have my meals, but I do not regret coming because it has been a great experience for me.”(IANS)

(Francis Kokutse)

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Drones in Ghana Makes On-Demand Medical Emergency Deliveries

The drones fly autonomously, can carry 1.8 kilos of cargo, can cruise at 110 kilometers an hour and have an all-weather round-trip range of 160 kilometers

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Flight operator Josephine Fianu checks over a Zipline drone before sending it out for a delivery from the Omenako drone center, in Ghana. (S. Knott/VOA)

At New Tafo Hospital, health care workers watch the sky, listening for a distinct buzzing noise they have grown used to in the past month. In seconds, a small drone comes into view and quickly drops a package before it returns to its base.

Ghana’s drone service, launched in April, makes on-demand emergency deliveries of 148 different vaccines, blood products and lifesaving medications to health facilities in the country, 24 hours a day.

New Tafo, a government hospital about two hours north of the Ghanaian capital, Accra, was the first hospital to use the service, brought to Ghana by Silicon Valley company Zipline. Medical superintendent Kobena Wriedu said the hospital had received at least 25 drone deliveries in the past month, with a handful coming in emergency situations. The service is much faster than deliveries made by road, especially in Ghana, were road networks are poor.

Critical supply source

“There was this child who was on my ward who was virtually O Rh negative,” a blood type that’s difficult to get, Wriedu said. “We had to fall on Zipline. They were able to deliver it. … Sometimes, we need fresh frozen plasma for bleeding cases that we encounter, and the delivery is done in a very short time to save lives. So, many lives have been saved within the period of the one month that the medical drone service was launched in Ghana.”

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Ghana’s first drone delivery center is in the country’s Eastern Region. Drones can deliver within 80 km of the center. (S. Knott/VOA)

The products come from the country’s first Zipline drone center at Omenako, which is about 40 minutes by pothole-riddled road to the hospital — or 12 minutes by drone. By the end of the year, an additional three centers are set to be opened across Ghana. Combined, they will provide deliveries to 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people, making up to 600 delivery flights a day on behalf of the Ghanaian government, under a contract worth $12.5 million over four years.

Taking orders, preparing flights

The center in Omenako where the drones come from has a cold storage facility for the blood and medicines to be stored. Workers watch the screens as orders come through and quickly fill the orders and assemble and launch the drones. They get the orders from health care workers like George Appiah Boadu at the New Tafo Hospital, who places them by text message. For him, access to blood products has been particularly useful.

“We have pregnant women who also come in,” Boadu said. “For instance, if we have an ectopic case and for this patient the only option for us is to get to the [operating] theater … if you don’t have blood available, you risk losing her life.” So the drone technology has been a lifesaver, he said.

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Zipline flight operator Josephine Fianu gets a drone ready for takeoff from the Omenako drone center. So far, four health centers are using the service in Ghana. (S. Knott/VOA)

The drones fly autonomously, can carry 1.8 kilos of cargo, can cruise at 110 kilometers an hour and have an all-weather round-trip range of 160 kilometers. They look like small propeller planes. A drone will zoom above the hospital, release its package attached to a red parachute, then zip back to the base without landing at the hospital.

The launch in Ghana marked Zipline’s expansion in Africa. It started operating in Rwanda in October 2016 and now delivers more than 65 percent of Rwanda’s blood supply outside the capital, Kigali. The service helped transform the country’s medical supply chain.

Rainy season ahead

Ghana’s services are still in the early stages, with only four health facilities using it so far. The Omenako center’s fulfillment operations coordinator, Samuel Akuffo, said the service would prove its worth as Ghana starts to see heavy rain for the rainy season. The drones can fly in all weather conditions, and over roads that vehicles might not be able to pass in heavy rain.

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“During this rainy season some of the roads to some of the health centers are very bad,” Akuffo said. “When some of the roads get very muddy and very difficult to ply, most of the facilities find it difficult having to go and look for a particular medication or blood. … It also makes it difficult for their supplies to reach them, so most of the supplies are either postponed or they don’t even go and get the product at all.” (VOA)