A Visit to The Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC)

The journey to RHSC began with catching the tube to King’s Cross to meet Programme Manager Joseph Dixon for our onward travel to Edinburgh. This was my first time traveling by train in UK and I really enjoyed the scenery of the countryside – the fields, the manicured hedges around the cattle and sheep pastures and the beautiful beaches. The weather was a complete deviation from what I had read about. It was very bright and sunny with temperatures around 30 degrees – quite unusual I was told. The beaches and parks were full of life as people enjoyed the rare good weather with outdoor activities. I was day-dreaming about Ghana but was awakened by the announcement ‘’your next stop is Edinburgh’’.

Joseph and I were welcomed at RSCH by Dr. Emma Johnson and her infectious smile. Introductions took place and then we had a meeting with Dr. Emma running us through a summary of the Twinning Partnership Programme born from a longstanding relationship between Lorna Renner and Tim Eden. Tales of the humble beginning of the partnership from inception talks at a meeting in 2009, followed by site inspection visits at Korle Bu in 2010 and the debut workshop later in 2010 were so inspirational. Fast forward to the current stage where the infrastructure and technical foundation has been laid for the transformation of childhood cancer treatment in Ghana.  Receiving first-hand information of the mutual benefits of trainings (bi-annual workshops and monthly online nurses training) was very encouraging. This is a clear demonstration of how major changes can happen with just a thought and the sharing of ideas by like-minded people.

It was a privilege to provide an update on the hard work of the teams at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and RSCH. The highlight of my presentation was juxtaposing the situation before the partnership with the current situation. The improvement has come from the dedicated teams of nurses who no longer go through rotation on wards – resulting in the retention of expertise on the paediatric oncology ward; the creation of the paediatric oncology Day Care Unit that has been the envy of other departments and the pride of the hospital administration and the provision of income generation activities to families through training in beading. The income generation activities provide both psychosocial support and training in skills that will help boost household income to improve life in families caring for children with cancer.

The trend of consistent improvements in the number of children receiving specialist care and the steady decline in treatment abandonment due to improved services at Korle Bu and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals since 2010 was a delightful point for discussion among the group. There is a quest for calculating survival rates, as the partnership has thrived beyond five years. Survival rates will be helpful in communication and advocacy regarding Twinning Partnerships as important models to facilitate health service improvements in developing countries. A guided tour at RSCH incited many thoughts about untapped opportunities to further deepen psychosocial support to children with cancer and their families in the painstaking journey of managing cancer in children. 

Following the visit to the hospital we went on a walk and sightseeing tour through the Meadow, the University of Edinburgh and the beautiful hand tiled road towards the Edinburgh Castle. The St. Gile Cathedral and other monuments of the city of Edinburgh will forever remain a cherished memory. The entire team at RHSC was present for a dinner that Dr. Emma prepared and each person had brought something special to contribute to dinner. We discussed many interesting topics and shared our experiences. The return from Edinburgh to London was smooth and sharing a table with a Chinese couple provided an opportunity for me to learn a sentence or two in Chinese!


About the author

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George Achempim

George is the Programme Coordinator for World Child Cancer in Ghana.