University of Ghana Medical Centre Ltd. is positioning itself to offer quaternary services. Dr. Darius Osei, CEO, discusses synergising healthcare, training and research.
“The presence of a training and research centre, together with clinical health services, is not a common model in Ghana and indeed the rest of West Africa.”
Research sits in between academia and clinical services, and University of Ghana Medical Centre Ltd. (UGMC) is distinguished in that it has all three located within the same premises.
“We intend to synergise healthcare, training and research for maximum impact and efficiency,” opens Dr. Darius Osei, CEO of UGMC.
The vision of the centre is to be distinguished in these three focal areas, with the UGMC Health Care Services Wing (HCSW) promoting favourable health outcomes through innovative, customer-centred, cost-effective and high-quality processes.
By demonstrating compassion, care, and courtesy to patients, as well as collaborating with all stakeholders, HCSW reflects the globally acclaimed Ghanaian spirit of hospitality that UGMC seeks to embody.
“UGMC is focused on delivering an excellent and unparalleled patient experience through a client-centric approach across all operational facets. We are passionately committed to the provision of patient and family-centred care to ensure better outcomes for our patients and their loved ones,” Dr. Osei emphasises.
“Our 1,000-bed HCSW has the biggest intensive care unit (ICU) in Ghana, the second-largest cardiothoracic centre in the country, and so far we have successfully conducted 12 open-heart surgeries.”
The UGMC Medical Training and Simulation Centre (MTSC), meanwhile, is a nationally recognised, multi-disciplinary academic centre committed to achieving excellence in medical education, through the use of high-quality, cutting-edge computer-based simulations.
MTSC allows pre-service health professionals to learn various skills in a realistic but risk-free environment before encountering real patients, and enables practicing health professionals to upgrade their ability to diagnose and manage various conditions. Non-health professionals can also acquire basic life support skills at MTSC, which can contribute significantly towards a patient’s survival.
Last but not least, the UGMC Medical and Scientific Research Centre (MSRC) aims to facilitate translational research that will discover new treatments, methods and procedures to improve health in Ghana, Africa, and across the world.
“We are committed to making medical research seamless, and MSRC serves as a central hub for local and internationally funded research projects. Areas of specific focus include cardiovascular genetics, maternal foetal medicine, infectious diseases, clinical trials, and more,” shares Dr. Osei.
Turnkey construction of UGMC commenced in 2013, and having been partially operational since July 2018, the second phase of the project was recently completed in December 2021.
The centre, whose client base reached almost 30,000 at the end of 2021, is magnificently nestled on the southernmost tip of the University of Ghana, the country’s premier university located in Legon, Accra, and close to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
Now fully open to the public on a referral and/or appointment basis, the completion of Phase II signifies the completion of all three UGMC focal areas, as the centre positions itself to offer quaternary services.
“Establishing a quaternary centre is a herculean task, and so as we gear ourselves towards the provision of quaternary services, we need to be resourced with the necessary infrastructure and equipment to be able to deliver more sub-specialised services,” Dr. Osei affirms.
It comes as UGMC plans to become one of the best destinations for medical tourism in the sub-region, by offering world-class patient care, training and research accessible to all.
“The issue of medical tourism has to be looked at from two points of view: that of the quest for quality care, and that of confidentiality for the individuals concerned,” explains Dr. Osei.
“We are therefore working on both fronts to ensure that the centre is a destination of choice, irrespective of the concerns of patients.
“By leveraging the right collaborations and partnerships, we intend to inspire hope and promote health through advanced clinical practices, education and research,” he continues.
UGMC’s world-class care was demonstrated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, when the centre was designated as one of the national COVID-19 treatment centres in Ghana by the Ministry of Health.
More than 700 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, including those who required intensive care, were successfully treated by UGMC. The centre also remotely managed over 4,000 suspected cases by partnering with the international non-governmental organisation, PharmAccess, to work on a digital health innovation called COVID-Connect.
TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION
The centre began operations in 2018 with a skeletal complement of 127 staff, however its numbers have progressively increased over the years.
Today, UGMC has 1,031 employees, predominantly comprising nurses, midwives, support staff, medical offers and other clinical personnel, as well as a number of specialists, consultants and management staff.
“A total of 43 health professionals have been sponsored by the centre to train in various specialty areas, as part of our strategy to develop our employees’ capacity towards quaternary healthcare provision,” Dr. Osei reveals.
“We also hold regular leadership training sessions for staff and provide incentives away from what is provided in mainstream public service.”
UGMC is relentless in its pursuit of developing the next generation of healthcare professionals. The centre has signed memoranda of understanding with other health training institutions that have expressed interest in having their undergraduate students trained at MTSC, including the University of Ghana Medical School, Pentecost University, Knutsford University College, and Entrance College of Health and Allied Science.
“MTSC has had a series of simulation training sessions for both health and non-health professionals within and outside UGMC. We have also started training pre-service health professionals and students from various institutions,” says Dr. Osei.
An increasing number of health workers in Ghana are interested in training programmes, thanks to allowances that are being paid by the government to those who show an interest in the industry.
Post-graduate training opportunities also abound for interested individuals, with the Ghanaian government taking care of tuition within two or three years upon completion of housemanship programmes.
“The healthcare industry is thriving in Ghana, and access to care has improved. In the near future, human capital is also going to improve and make the industry more interesting and exciting to be in,” Dr. Osei observes.
Though UGMC is a limited liability entity owned by government via a special purpose vehicle, all procurement processes are guided by the Public Procurement Act in addition to well laid-down structures as per the centre’s in-house supply chain standard operating policies and procedures.
“We have established relationships with multinationals noted for best practices and compliant to ISO standards, for the supply of sensitive and complex specialist equipment,” Dr. Osei informs us.
UGMC is very much interested in partnerships that will help with procurement, including the construction of a helipad located near the centre’s main security post, a radiotherapy centre for cancer treatment, a 50-bed infections disease centre, and the provision of accommodation for specialists and other critical staff.
Likewise, the centre wants to enter into more strategic collaborations, that will ensure UGMC’s vision of distinguishing itself in the provision of world-class patient care, training and research does not become diluted or abandoned.
“For the next couple of years, our priority is to ensure that all clinical departments are fully functioning,” Dr. Osei concludes.