Ghana has reached a crucial stage in its fight against coronavirus. The decisions we make about our seriousness in fighting the virus now, more than ever, will be the deciding factor between losing the battle or saving our lives.
After four months, we have two choices: find the discipline to comply with the protocols or lose the fight. You can stop reading now if you were expecting a feel-good article because the rest of what I’m about to say will disappoint you. But it has to be said.
Earlier this month, Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service informed us that:
“…we are doing an average of 400 cases a day and that is something we really need to take caution of and make sure we bring it down.”
We’ve gone from recording a few cases in our first few weeks in March to 400 cases each day in just four months. If that isn’t a reality check enough, I have more. Our overworked, underpaid, and under-resourced health workers have been hit hard. According to the Ghana Medical Association and other allied health associations, 779 health workers have contracted the virus. Of the 779, 190 are doctors, 410 are nurses and midwives, 23 are hospital pharmacists, and 156 are allied health workers. 9 health workers have so far lost their lives to the virus.
What this means is that if we keep going at the rate we are with the positive cases, limited resources, and health workers who are battling to survive, we are in for a rude awakening.
Before the coronavirus, our doctor-to-patient ratio was nothing to write home about (1 doctor to 10,000 patients). The recommended World Health Organization doctor to patient ratio is 1 doctor to 1000 patients. Not only do we have fewer health professionals, but these same heroes are also battling to save themselves from the virus.
I’m writing this piece in the third week of July, more than 25,000 Ghanaians have tested positive for the virus. The nation is not testing as aggressively as it once did so there is a possibility that the actual number of positive cases may be much higher than is being reported. We have sadly lost 139 precious lives to the virus.
We’ve lost the Rector of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, Prof Jacob Plange-Rhule, Mayor of Sekondi-Takoradi, Anthony Kobina Kurentsi Sam, we’ve lost the former General Secretary of the NPP, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, we’ve lost one of our renowned surgeons, Dr. Richard Kisser, we’ve lost the Medical Superintendent of the Kwadaso SDA hospital, Dr. Boateng, to coronavirus.
Families all across this country have lost mothers, fathers, children, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers and friends to this virus. And we are just four months in, we don’t know what lies ahead and cannot afford to let our guard down.
In less than one month, we’ve heard of high ranking members of government testing positive for the virus; the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, NHIA Boss, Dr. Lydia Dsane-Selby, NPP’s campaign manager, Peter Mac Manu, Former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo. The Chief Justice is self-isolating due to coronavirus concerns, even the President is currently in isolation due to exposure to some people who tested positive.
You would think that with all that is happening to those who have more resources to prevent contracting the virus, the rest of us would take more precautionary measures to safeguard our lives but no, we are roaming about with no sense of urgency.
We have grown numb to coronavirus, we are tired of following the protocols, we miss our old lives, we want a bit of normalcy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but we are at the tipping point and we are running out of resources, our medical professionals have been hit by the virus, and we still have no idea of what’s to come.
The way we have been relating to coronavirus lately is like the way that frog in the ‘boiling frog’ fable reacted to the water that was gradually boiling. Unlike other countries that saw the sudden and fatal effects of coronavirus, Ghana’s relationship with the virus has been very gradual, almost tender but still deadly.
The virus is increasingly disrupting our lives while we passively enjoy an illusion of normalcy that will be detrimental to our survival if not nipped in the bud.
We owe it to our health workers and future generations to regain consciousness of the threats of living through a pandemic. Without this realization, we will sail through our deaths without any sense of urgency.
All hope is not lost.
Most of us will end up asymptomatic if we get the virus. We must be intentional about our survival. Please do everything you can to fight that fatigue, we must comply with the protocols and make it out. When this is all over, we will tell a glorious story about surviving. We will tell our children about the year we learnt about patience; enduring while planning for a better tomorrow. We will share how we survived when everything was crumbling around us. It will be one crazy story to tell.
We must all be alive to tell it.
The writer, Dziffa Akua Ametam, is co-host of Citi TV’s Breakfast Daily program which airs between 7:30 and 10 am on weekdays.