"Lights Out"

Week one has sent us across Accra’s urban scape in taxi’s, trou-trou’s (small buses) and the occasional Tundra truck. The city is perched next to the ocean with fresh tilapia vendors on each corner back dropped by both squat vinyl-walled business and skyscrapers alike. Humidity and sun create an intense midday heat- a perfect time to stop and discuss meetings, notes and make phone calls over a plate of jolof rice.

Most stops have been to private hospitals, such as Accra Medical Center, Akai Labs, MDS Lancet, as well as Korle Bu, one of the largest government-funded teaching hospitals. These stops have proved valuable as we observe the capacity of each lab and learn about their limitations. “Lights Out” or frequent black outs seem to prevent a significant amount of productivity, especially with a recent decline in the capacity Ghana’s power plants. “Lights Out” can often come several times a week; forcing most equipment in the more well-equipped private hospitals to run on diesel-powered generators. Diesel itself is quite expensive as Ghana still depends on imported, refined oil. Many of these clinics, therefore, try to rely less on generators and shut down most of their equipment. These clinics are also often only available for those who can pay out-of-pocket or from a private insurance company; leaving those on the national health insurance to go to crowded public hospitals with much longer wait times and fewer resources for each patient. 

A full-scale generator used for "Lights Out" to run laboratory equipment

A full-scale generator used for "Lights Out" to run laboratory equipment

We also spent a day in Tema, the nearby industrial suburb of Accra. After investigating the Hospital Lane, Tema General and the Central Medical Store, we met Don Harms, who hails from the Detroit area. Don runs a successful social venture call Vytrak. They manufacture ‘tricycles’ similar to a Gator or small tractor, to help farmers, industry workers and medical suppliers transport their equipment across terrible road conditions. You can check out their initiative and their yellow ITV’s here: http://vytrak.com/

In our short few days here, we also discovered the small distance between Accra and Grand Rapids. Not only does part of our host family live in Grand Rapids (more pictures coming), but several other business associates have recognized the West Michigan city. Nearly home sweet home!