THE crisis at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital seems to be taking a turn for the worse as work in one of its major units — the Department of Medicine — gradually grinds to a halt. For now the patients at the block are virtually helpless and it seems only fervent prayers, in addition to whatever treatment they are receiving, can heal them. This is because the department is in dire need of assistance, both in cash and in kind, to enable it to improve on its functions and render effective services. Among the many disorders that the department treats are renal failure, diabetes, obesity and hypertension, which are a risk factor for strokes, heart failure and heart attacks. The Head of the Department of Medicine, Prof Kwame Afram, disclosed to The Mirror that the woes of the department began when the old Medical Block went under renovation. He said although they moved into a new block, it was not big enough to accommodate the increasing number of patients. “ The current situation is such that we have some patients lying close to one another in the corridors. In addition, owing to the lack of beds, patients in the Emergency Ward are compelled to sit in plastic chairs to receive treatment. Indeed, some patients sleep in the plastic chairs overnight, which is an unfortunate situation, taking into consideration their conditions of health,” he said. A tour of the department showed patients who were suffering variously from stroke, diabetes and chronic renal failure living in appalling conditions, with the few nurses on duty struggling to cope with the situation. According to Professor Afram, as a result of poor facilities at the department, as well as the general impoverished condition in which the health personnel work, the department, which some time ago had a nurse strength of about 152, now had a meagre 80. The number of doctors, matrons and other staff had also reduced drastically. “So bad are the conditions that even the beds that are available are broken and are supported with wood to either raise or straighten them. In fact, leaking sinks are held together with plaster to maintain them. In truth, the Emergency Ward is in shambles, since the place looks congested and smells stuffy,” he stressed. To compound an already bad situation, the few nurses at the Emergency Ward, numbering about four, also frequently complained of sickness as a result of the incessant pressure they had to bear and the lack of adequate ventilation. “Owing to the closeness of the beds, both nurses and patients contract different diseases, such as colds, coughs and other related diseases. The environment is stuffy because there are no fans and air conditioners to ventilate the rooms,” Professor Afram said. Currently, the washroom facility and sleeping spaces are not enough to cater for the 2,800 patients on admission at the department. Professor Afram said formerly patients who suffered from heart failures and strokes were kept till they were well enough to walk and breathe, but owing to the inconveniences and pressure from relatives of the patients, the hospital authorities are compelled to discharge such patients after initial consultations. “ Can you imagine two patients sharing one drip stand?” he asked in bewilderment. During the tour, it was observed that the whole of the Department of Medicine had only one oxygen tube serving all the patients. Under the circumstances, oxygen, a vital component for reviving patients on admission, is rationed. Among other things which the department lacks are bed sheets, foam mattresses, pyjamas and computers. Professor J. O. Pobee, also of the Department of Medicine, told The Mirror that the department needed modern equipment to enable it to function effectively. He, therefore, appealed to NGOs, the government and the public to come to their aid, since it was a place anybody at all could get admitted to. He further made an appeal for the unit to be painted and tiles to be laid to give the place a refreshing look. In addition, Professor Pobee said there was the need to create separate consulting rooms for the various wards and a more convenient place for the doctors to have their privacy when attending to patients. He called on NGO's, churches and other bodies to also help them with bedspreads, mosquito nets, buckets, dustbins, armchairs and other things that go to make life more comfortable at the hospital.