Last May, Sr. Eithna Synnott received an email from Sr. Mary Rita O’Mahony in Ghana. The OLA Province in Ghana had recently opened a new convent in the rural village of Bepoase and the OLAs had been invited to take over the health centre there. The centre had originally started as a maternity clinic and then expanded to a general clinic before it was handed over to the OLA Sisters. Sr. Mary Rita reported that the clinic itself was in dire need of equipment, even the most basic items that a clinic needs to function but it appeared the clinic had very little money before. Assistance was required. Sr. Faustina Anakwa, a nurse by profession, was tasked with running the clinic. Several other villages around Bepoase depended on the clinic and there is not even one hospital in the whole Konongo-Mampong Diocese which covers an area of 11,000 square kilometres. Their need was great. A call went out. Ireland responded.
Pictured (from left): Linda, Christiana, midwife at Bepoase Clinic, Sr. Faustina and Grace.
Linda and Grace both teach in the local Catholic primary school.
Sr. Faustina Anakwa was one of three OLA Sisters who arrived in Bepoase on the 17 March, 2016 – the Feast Day of Saint Patrick – to start a new community in the rural heartland.
Speaking to OLA Mission Musings last week, Sr. Faustina described life in Bepoase, “ ‘Bepoase’ literally means ‘below the hills or mountains’. It is located in a hilly area of the Ashanti Region, with an elevation of 304 meters above sea level and is close by to a semi-deciduous forest.”
Sr. Faustina remarked that the Bepoase area had suffered greatly from deforestation and forests such as this one help to address the negative effects of deforestation, “According to history, Bepoase used to be a forest zone but due to human activities – felling of trees without re-planting – nature’s gift is almost gone.”
The population of Bepoase and its hinterlands continues to grow along with the kente industry, noted Sr. Faustina. “This population exceeds 14,000 people – including the catchment areas. We are sixty kilometres to the north east of the regional capital Kumasi – the second largest city in Ghana. It is a poor, rural community. The indigenous people are predominantly farmers and the youth are into traditional fabric weaving called ‘kente’. Kente is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and is native to the Ashanti area. It is the best known of all African textiles.”
Building a new clinic
Soon after arriving in Bepoase the Sisters became aware of the clinic in the village.
“We were asked to take over the administration of the ill-equipped local clinic which was in need of much refurbishment.”
The facility had been under the administration of another group. It was quite dilapidated. An old donated ambulance was grounded because of huge maintenance costs.
However, one of the most pressing needs they had last May when they took-over was for an ultra sound scanner – a fundamental piece of equipment for any clinic which helps with diagnostics and maternal health clinics.
Sr. Faustina explained:
“We run a 24 hour service. Two of us work at the clinic and the third Sister is in the school but we have other personnel in the clinic. The most common problems in this area are malaria, respiratory tract infection, anaemia, diarrhoea diseases, skin infections, urinary tract infections etc. We do refer our clients for some laboratory and other investigations outside, hence they prefer seeking care with the investigation at the same place for convenience sake. As a result, the average daily attendance over the last year was 49 people. We knew before we took over the clinic that equipment like an ultra sound machine would be critical to offering a more complete service.
“I made contact with Sr. Mary Rita O’Mahony on May 23rd. She in-turn contacted Sr. Eithna Synnott, a qualified medical doctor. In the space of a few weeks, enough money had been raised through her medical contacts and the faithful supporters of the OLA mite boxes in Ireland to fund an ultra sound machine.”
Installing the new ultra sound machine
Sr. Faustina spoke of the joy she witnessed in the clinic when the scanner arrived, while also thanking the donors and outlining the future goal for the fledgling clinic:
“After procurement, the ultra sound machine arrived on the 28th of December, 2016 and it was a joyful day for us all. Please do extend our sincere gratitude to the donors. Let them know the machine is going to serve its intended purpose. Our vision is to fully equip and refurbish the clinic so that the community and its surrounding villages will not have to travel large distances ever again to seek quality health care.”
Benefits of the scanner
The immediate benefits of the machine are very evident already, according to Sr. Faustina:
“Those attending our clinic no longer again have to travel out to other distant health facilities for scans. For example, an ultra sound scan is normally taken three times throughout a pregnancy but due to proximity and financial constraints some don’t do it at all.”
She went on to reference two teachers in the local Catholic primary school:
“Grace and Linda had taken the scan once before the arrival of our scanner. They had the opportunity to have the second scan with our machine. It has saved them cost and time.”
While the clinic requires more work and, in the words of Sr. Faustina, their ‘only Nissan Pick-up is 17 years old and weak’, she and the OLA community in Bepoase are much closer to realizing their dream of a high quality clinic for all in the community and surrounding villages – thanks in part to the help from Ireland.
The front entrance to Bepoase clinic
Members of staff at the clinic’s Outpatient Department