Dr Irene Wulf, Medical Director, FOCOS Hospital

Anesthesiologist and Medical Director of the Foundation for Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS) Hospital has narrated a heart-wrenching account of how Covid-19 has dealt a big blow to Ghana’s premier and the internationally acclaimed state of the art specialized health facility located at Pantang.

Dr. Irene Wulf told JoyNews Emefa Atiamoah-Eli there are over 3000 patients on the waiting list needing financial support to receive various levels of medical attention, among which she said are very critical ones.

She lamented, “patients, parents come in daily in a lot of tears, a lot of tears – some of them are anxiously waiting for their phones to ring and to be invited over to begin their treatment – It is not an easy situation at all”. 

The hospital has suffered an 87% reduction in donations required to treat patients in need of critical medical care. With the threats of Covid-19 and imposition of restrictions, the hospital’s annual in-person fund raising gala had to be held virtually.

Sadly, after spending little resources on publicity and planning, the virtual event suffered poor patronage. The facility managers have since been left with the burden of having to continue depending on the benevolence of philanthropists who are already fatigued by constant donations.

“You make so many announcements and spend so much time planning and the numbers that click on are not too exciting,” Dr Wulf regretted.

A sure way out of the woods, she observed, is for people to give voluntarily “without being asked – we must make it a habit to give,” she implored.

The Medical Director also encouraged people to walk in to their facility any time or even place a telephone call to them. Then, they will be available to account for every donation received.

Established in 2007, FOCOS has largely survived on donations from across the globe and philanthropists who have invested regularly in the care and treatment of the less privileged.

With a passionate vision to help the world to stand tall, the Spine and orthopaedics hospital has treated 50,000 patients the world over, of which a greater number are children.

Like any other service providing organisation, the Covid-19 pandemic did not spear FOCOS a feel of its havoc. There’s a significant disparity in the increasing number of patients requiring attention at the facility and the number of treatment administered at the moment. The situation has had toll even on the staff. 

Dr Wulf recounts “contrary to what people think that health personnel don’t care about their patients, we are human; these patients, we have been with them always,…they step in the car park and when they see you, some of them literally run to give you a hug – they have become family, they have become your children. If the situation deteriorates and you can’t help – it’s disheartening, it’s very sad’’. With tears welled in her eyes, she continued; ‘’there are times you need to pick up yourself (as medical officer) and keep going because of those waiting for you on bed’’..

As the hospital races against time to save as many patients as possible, Dr. Irene Wulf reveals, often the deformities would get worse as the heart and lungs get affected as a result of the delayed intervention.

In such situations, the condition may be irreversible if treatment delays, which may lead to the patients ‘’losing their chance of help and that leads to unfortunate deaths’’. She encourages donors and would-be helpers that no contribution is too small, especially giving the critical nature of some of the cases on the waiting list.

Two patients who have successfully undergone their treatment added their voices to the call by the Medical Director for the general public to come to the aid of the hospital and patients. Karen Nyarko, 26, says she is now confident in public and has been able to realize her dreams of becoming a School Facilitator after GNPC came to her aid following her mum’s death. Dorcas Ampofo, 32, is now a mother of four-month-old Kimberly after GHOne assisted her to solicit funds for her medical bills at FOCOS.

The stories of Karen and Dorcas attest the fact that, there’s hope for persons with defective spine and orthopedics conditions if they get help in time. Visit focoshospital.org for more. Managers’ assure, all COVID-19 preventive measures have been put in place to ensure patient safety. ‘Every patient who walks in here for any medical attention provides us with COVID-19 test result before we begin treatment’’, Dr. Wuld assured. Your walk into FOCOS hospital at Panthan might just be the miracle a patient may be waiting for.

It’s, however, heartwarming to note that amid the pandemic, the hospital has been innovative in the delivery and expansion of its services to, among other measures, meet the increasing demand of patients and the general public. According to the Medical Director, these, in several ways, are also to ease the toll the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the hospital’s budget and operations. The introduction of endoscopy services at the facility is in tandem with many initiatives being employed by FOCOS to maintain its place in the healthcare delivery space in Ghana.