The Catholic Hospital in Battor in the North Tongu District of the Volta is synonymous with cervical cancer prevention in Ghana. The hospital which began cervical cancer screening in the 1970s, in 2017 opened Ghana’s first Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Center (CCPTC).
Only a few days ago on June 13 this year, the hospital made the headlines again for leading the successful development and launch of three mobile applications ( CCPTC Mobile Colposcopy app, CCPTC Cervical Ablative Treatment app and the CCPTC Colposcopy Report Sheet app) designed for the screening, tracking and treatment of cervical cancer. The launch was performed by Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Kwabena Frempong-Boateng. Present at the ceremony was the Deputy Director General of Ghana Health Service, Dr. Gloria Quansah-Asare and other dignitaries.
This latest milestone chalked by the hospital attracted several commendations from health experts and stakeholders present, including the Director of Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the Ghana Health Service Dr. Koku Awoonor, who also heads Phoenix Resource Center Global Aid Ghana (PRCGA), a non-governmental, non-profit organization, which in the past made multiple donations of medical equipment to the Battor Catholic Hospital Cervical Cancer Screening program.
Making his remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Awoonor noted that the determination and achievement of the Battor Catholic Hospital in many areas of health care especially cervical cancer screening has been remarkable and deserves national attention for taking on the fight to prevent and save women from the disease. He said with an effective primary health care system such as the CHPS program in Ghana, the country could do a lot in cervical cancer prevention “if we could train enough health staff and integrate the service, so that nurses at the community level could carry out screening for cervical cancer for all women and track them for treatment and vaccination”.
He observed that for many years, Battor Catholic Hospital has never ceased to get attention with its innovations and consistent hard work in maternal and child health especially cervical cancer prevention. “Those of us who have the chance to come here over and over again to see the good work that you are doing are proud and want to continue to commend you. I also believe that what you have been able to achieve over the years in the midst of challenges tells us as a nation that with a little determination and focus we can do some of these things and we can save a lot of women from dying”.
Dr. Awoonor disclosed that Ghana like many developing countries now faces a double burden of disease as the prevalence of risk factors for non-communicable or chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases and cancers increase. The situation he said, calls for a change of focus from only on infectious disease perspectives and approaches for a health system that would be able to address the full arrange of health threats in both communicable and non-communicable diseases. The Ghana Health Service is therefore seeking to realign its primary health system to integrate communicable disease control in the [CHPS] primary health care system. This will involve the reorientation and training of Community Health Officers (CHOs) who work at the lowest level of care to give opportunity to women in every part of the country to have access to cervical cancer screening and related services.
Launching the innovative application, the Honorable Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation challenged staff and management of the hospital to continue to aspire to come out with creative ways to improve and expand the work of the hospital. Professor Frempong-Boateng stated that technology and innovation are two key drivers of development hence the hospital’s efforts in developing the applications to support service delivery were highly commendable. He further commended the Head of the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Center Dr. Kofi Effah and his dedicated team of staff and ICT partners led by Dr. Olayiwola David Olatayo for coming out with the innovation.
The Deputy Director General of the Ghana Health Service Dr. Gloria Quansah-Asare joined the Hon. Minister to commend the hospital authorities for their strong collaboration with the Ghana Health Service and their contribution to health care delivery in the country. She urged them not to rest on their achievements but rather be challenged by the greater need of the population they serve and do even more. Dr. Quansah-Asare went further to pledge the support of the Ghana Health Service to the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Center and the Battor Catholic Hospital in general.
Head of the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Center Dr. Kofi Effah narrated the history of the hospital and said the Battor Catholic Hospital and the team of staff at the Cervical Cancer Unit continues to draw inspiration from the pioneering role of Sis Dr. Edgitha Georges, a German doctor who first came to Battor in 1971, and who later went back to Germany to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and came back to work at Battor for several years. She was later joined by a Ghanaian Obstetrician Gynaecologist Dr. Forkuah in 1976. The determination and hard work of the two founding doctors of the Cervical Cancer Unit and others who came to work later and help train new cadre for the unit is what continues to drive them to do more to expand access to cervical cancer screening, treatment, and vaccination for many women. According Dr. Effah, the dream of the Center is to help train as many health professionals as possible to take cervical cancer services to every part of Ghana and beyond to save lives.
Taking turns to address the people, the Hospital Administrator, Mr. Donatus Adaletey and the Medical Superintendent Dr. Hayford Atuguba provided background to the operations of the hospital. German Catholic Nuns founded the Battor Catholic Hospital in 1975 following a request to the Catholic Church by the Chief of the community. The hospital currently has staff strength of over 390 made up of 21 doctors, 52 nurses, 21 midwives and other categories of staff. The hospital is strategically located serving three regions namely Greater Accra, Volta and Eastern Region of which 60% of clients come from Greater Accra, 30% from the Volta Region and 10% from the Eastern Region.
The Medical Superintendent of the Hospital Dr. Hayford Atuguba used the opportunity to appeal for support to provide accommodation for staff and hostel facilities for trainees as well as vehicles and essential medical supplies for supporting the hospital’s outreach services.
In Ghana, Cervical Cancer remains the highest type of cancers affecting women. Over 8 million women and girls aged 15 to 44 years are at a risk of contracting the disease. Presently, the country’s national immunization program, the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) does not cover Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the virus which causes the disease and cervical cancer screening and treatment services are not available in most health facilities across the country. There are however private and few public cervical cancer screening and vaccination centers in some big cities but their services are neither widely accessible nor affordable to the majority of the women population at risk.