The RPSB Unit at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana

The Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Unit, Korle Bu

The major achievement of ReSurge Africa founder Jack Mustarde was the building of this first Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Unit in West Africa, as part of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana. The Unit is run by the Ghana ministry of Health under director Opoku Ware Ampomah. It is a fully-fledged Reconstructive Surgery Unit, trained and supported by the Charity, and already offering support in the establishment of other reconstructive surgery units in West Africa.

First opened in 1997, the RPSB Unit has rapidly become very busy, as more and more people become aware of its existence. Many patients self-refer, by just turning up in the morning and waiting, sometimes for many hours, until they are seen. Many have travelled long distances. Approximately 3000 patients are seen at the outpatient clinics annually and over 1,000 patients undergo operative treatment each year. (Link to the RPSB Unit own website).

Initially the Unit was furnished with serviceable, redundant equipment brought over from the UK by ReSurge Africa. Over the past few years however, this has been replaced by new equipment, much of it purchased by the Charity. The two operating theatres in the RPSB Unit have been completely refurnished with new operating tables, lighting systems, diathermy units and monitoring equipment. New surgical instruments have been purchased together with a large sterilizing unit. New modern sluice rooms have been created and equipped and two wound dressing rooms used for in-patients have been completely refurbished and supplied with specialised trolleys and shower units which enable the patients’ wounds to be cleaned easily and efficiently.

RPSB Staff

The staff of the Unit work very much as a team, headed by Mr Opoku Ware Ampomah MB.ChB, FWACS, MRCS(Glasg), FRCS(Plast). Mr Ampomah is a Consultant reconstructive plastic surgeon who spent two years training in the UK at Canniesburn hospital in Glasgow. During that time passed his Fellowship in Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, one of very few to have attained this degree in the whole of Africa. With a particular interest in burns, but with widespread specialised skills, he is a revitalising enthusiast who shares his progressive thoughts and energies with his colleagues, encouraging everyone to work hard and to strive for the best possible results.

Mr Ampomah takes over this role as Director from Mr Albert Bedford Paintsil (MB ChB (Ghana), FWACS, who has built the Unit steadily over the past eight years from its early foundations. Mr Paintsil is a skilled reconstructive surgeon who spent four years training in the UK with the support of this Charity. Surgical trainees at the teaching hospital benefit greatly from Mr Paintsil's breadth of experience, and he regularly sets up training courses and workshops for surgeons from across the region.

Both Mr Paintsil and Mr Ampomah are trustees of the Charity, bringing much needed information and wise counsel to the decision making processes there and in the centre.

Albert Paintsil succeeded the first Director of the centre, Dr Fabian Mork, who kept on working in the centre despite deteriorating health, until his untimely death in February 2010. Mr Mork spent two years, 1994 and 1995 training in Canniesburn hospital, in Scotland and made many friends there. Having helped to establish the service and having been the founder of the centre, he is sadly missed for his gentle good humour and his devotion to the patients under his care.

Tony Laing graduated in Medicine in the UK and continued his post graduate training there for twenty years before returning to his homeland to take up the position of consultant reconstructive plastic surgeon in the centre in 1997. Extensive experience allows him the authority to act as the 'grandfather' of the service.

Dr Lambert Obbeng is senior plastic surgery registrar in the Unit, he has successfully attained the first part of his surgical exams and will sit the final West African College of Surgeons exam in 2012.  He is a dedicated plastic surgery trainee and clearly enjoys learning about new ways to improve his patient care. Dr Obbeng is the next Korle Bu Surgeon to receive support with his training from the Charity; in 2012 once he has his WACS qualification, funding is in place to support Dr Obbeng for a year of intensive post-graduate training in reconstructive surgery in South Africa.

With this nucleus of talent, there comes an essential supporting cast of nurses, led by Matron Elizabeth Opoku and her deputy Mercy, looking after the smooth running of the centre, supported by Ethel and her team in theatre and the ward sisters and staff.

Physiotherapy

An efficient physiotherapy room has recently been established and the Unit’s first therapy appointee Alberta Amissah Rockson who spent six months in Glasgow sharpening her essential therapy skills. It would be pointless to carry out hand surgery (a very important aspect of reconstructive surgery) without skilled physiotherapy follow-up.

Korle Bu Teaching Hospital

Korle Bu Teaching Hospital is the largest Teaching Hospital in Ghana. It has most specialties represented, with rather well equipped radiology departments, Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Units and a very up-to-date Surgical Skills Laboratory, which is unique in Sub Saharan Africa and has been brought up to date and maintained by Ethicon Ltd. In this laboratory it is possible for surgeons to train in endoscopic surgery and hopefully from the Reconstructive Surgery Aspect, Microvascular surgery. Ethicon has a long history of sponsoring microsurgical practical courses and it is hope that such a course will become a regular feature in Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

In addition to doctors, there is a nursing school at the hospital and a physiotherapy school. One of the problems about attracting nurses to work at the hospital has been the high cost of accommodation in Accra. The Charity built a block of flats for the sole use of nursing staff working at the Centre, which has gone a long way towards alleviating that problem.


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