Twinning visit to Ghana – May 2015

Twinning partnerships between paediatric oncology units around the world are vital to the work World Child Cancer does and key to providing specialist training and expertise. This month was time for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, UK, to make the first of two trips this year to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana. Dr Mark Brougham and Dr Sharon Peoples volunteered their time from Edinburgh, with Professor Lorna Renner and Dr Catherine Segbefia providing their expertise from Ghana.  Liz Burns and Joe Dixon provided additional support from World Child Cancer UK.

The two days of training workshops were attended by over 45 doctors and nurses from around Ghana and concentrated on topics such as radiation therapy, brain tumours, and palliative care. Each 45 minute presentation was followed with an open discussion between all present. Not even the broken air-conditioning and 35 degree heat could put Mark and Sharon off their presentations!

As the second day began all who attended the previous day breathed easy as a new conference room with working air-conditioning was found! As well as delivering the main workshops, Sharon held an extra learning session to a small group of radiation oncologists, whilst Mark spoke to a number of nurses who have been attending a monthly online training group between the two hospitals.

Whilst Mark and Sharon busied themselves with the technical work, Liz and Joe attended a sustainability meeting with a number of stakeholders. On the agenda was the national cancer control strategy, strengthening advocacy and awareness raising efforts, and the need to include childhood cancer drugs on the National Health Insurance Scheme. Progress was made, with all who attended providing valuable input.

As the week progressed interviews were conducted with six hopeful candidates for a new in-country position. As the project has grown and with World Child Cancer receiving recent funding from the Department for International Development, the need for a full-time in-country staff member has become clear.

Friday saw the end of training workshops and the departure of Mark and Sharon. All their efforts were extremely well received by those who attended.

By Saturday it was time for Liz and Joe to head north of the capital to a quieter city called Kumasi. This is home to Konfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), the first of four satellite centres under the DFID project – the aim being to develop and manage a network of paediatric oncology units (Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra being the hub) across Ghana. The network will extend access to diagnosis, treatment and care across a greater geographical area. Although only a flying visit to KATH, patient and doctor case studies were collected, ward visits done, and monitoring and evaluation procedures strengthened.

Tuesday saw the end of another successful twinning visit, only made possible because of the dedicated staff members at each hospital. Their determination to improve the lives of children with cancer is inspiring.

This programme in Ghana is funded with UK Aid from the UK government.

About the author

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Liz Burns

Liz is the Head of Programmes at World Child Cancer and oversees our work globally.