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25.01.2011 Feature Article

The mess at Accra Psychiatric Hospital

Mr. Ebo QuansahMr. Ebo Quansah

TV3 succeeded in drawing tears from the old and tired eyes yesterday morning. It was not as if there is any funeral anywhere. The conditions under which patients of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital are kept was relayed to our sitting rooms yesterday morning, and it told much about the life of lies we have been leading as a society.

As a people, Ghanaians would not mind spending any amount possible to please visiting dignitaries, while our backyard rots. The $48,000 wrist watch to Michelle Obama is a reference point.

That the Accra Psychiatric Hospital is over populated is no more news. That fact has been communicated to us anytime cameras are allowed into that edifice opposite the Catholic Cathedral at Adabraka in Accra.

The Cathedral and the hospital have at least one thing in common. Both institutions have been charged with preparing those who congregate there for a better life. But while Dr. Kwasi Osei and his over-worked staff have little resources at hand to get the over-populated mentally handicapped to respond to treatment and return to society, Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle has abundant resources, including remittances from the Vatican, to mould characters to respond to the needs of the next world.

It is not by accident that when the bell tolls at the Cathedral, the faithful respond orderly in their best attire and give very handsome offertory for the upkeep of the serene atmosphere and the cleanliness which, according to the sages, is next to Godliness.

On the contrary, inmates of the building opposite, have nowhere to lay their heads. Many end up sleeping in the very place they ease themselves. It tells much about the kind of society we are building for ourselves, that those who end up there are congregated like people in a concentration camp.

The sight relayed on television yesterday morning, was appalling to state the least. Ventilation, from the pictures relayed to our sitting rooms in the morning, was in short supply. Human life apparently counts for little at the Psychiatric Hospital.

At the Children's Ward, inmates urinate and ease themselves in what also serves as the bedroom. Nana Oye Luther, Executive Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative was dump-founded after watching the script.

She asked Parliament to get involved in the activities of the hospital and asked Ghanaians not to accept those conditions. She gave the President of the Republic an ultimatum. It is difficult to appreciate how Nana Oye could bring the President to book if the situation fails to improve in the next two months that she has given.

The President paid a well-televised visit to the Psychiatric Hospital last year, and promised to work towards easing the problems, beginning with the provision of water. A bore-hole was provided to draw water from the well. But beyond that, there has been no information about how the President's visit has positively impacted on conditions of the nation's leading centre for psychiatric care.

Ordinarily, there should be not much by way of an alarm, if the President should be reminded of his pledge given to the doctors, nurses and inmates of the hospital. But this President and his administration have exhibited the tendency to give promises. We shall do this or that, has been a Presidential refrain since Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills took occupancy of Government House. It looks like the administration is permanently on the campaign trail.

The Accra Psychiatric Hospital stinks. And it is not only the main hospital in Accra that is at risk. At Pantang and the Ankaful  in Cape Coast, the conditions are just appalling. These conditions do nothing to improve the image of this nation as a Middle Income nation, even if we got there while we all slept.

One would like to believe that in taking into consideration factors that aid a nation's development, the condition under which the people live would be seriously considered. I am unable to vouch for Dr. Grace Bediako on this one. Did she or did she not factor the state of public institutions in ranking this nation among the likes of Singapore, Malaysia and Korea, on the league of Middle Income earners?

If she did not, then I would like to ask for a re-valuation of all aspects of our lives as conditions for determining the status of this nation, declared independent of British colonial rule on Wednesday, March 6, 1957.

It is not only the condition of our psychiatric institutions that faults this nation on our march out of poverty and degradation. In high schools across the country, school kids are instructed by the Ghana Education Service to feed students on GH¢1.20 a day. At a time 'kooko' alone without 'koose' cost as much as GH 0:50p, it is a tall order to stretch GH¢1.20 to cover the feeding cost of a person in a day.

Thanks to escalating prices, occasioned by outrageous petroleum price increases, head of public institutions are growing grey over the ability to feed students under their care. In some institutions, especially, in the coastal belt, kenkey is the order of service.

We have a Head of State who keeps promising. We will do this or we will do that. One would like to believe that on being told that the pledge to the psychiatric hospital is still awaiting implementation, the consciences of the President and his aides would be pricked to do something pretty soon.

Writing on promises, reminds me of a new road under construction to link Otuam, the President's hometown with the main Accra-Cape Coast Road. I got a call from Kobina Ade Coker, Greater Accra Chairman of the National Democratic Congress the other day, victoriously announcing that a new road is being constructed to link the President's home-town.

Apparently, the new road owes its existence to the criticism of the President from my humble self that the Head of State had not done much for the people of Otuam and Ekumfi, since assuming office.

The only snag about the new road is that it is a complete departure from the old route, meaning that a number of communities served by the old route will miss out on the ability to commute properly.

The old route starts form Essuehyia, through to Asaman. Gyabenkwaa, Agyamkwaa to Otuam. There are other link roads to other communities. What is of interest too is that the new road begins in a bush after Ansteadze, the last Gomoa town.

With the campaign for the 2012 Presidential Elections almost with us, there is a race against time for the President to be seen catering for his people. At Otuam and other communities in the Ekumfi Traditional Area, the President has not come in for any good mention.

One woman at Ekumfi Ekrawfo has an interesting description of the performance of President John Evans Atta Mills in Fanti. 'Atta Nara Onye Whee Mma Hen. Onye Fokumara Tetara!'

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle, © 2011

This author has authored 1024 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: GhanaianChronicle

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