From Issah Alhassan, Kumasi
A SOD-cutting ceremony has been performed for work to begin on the construction of an ultra-modern Blood and Sickle Cell centre at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi.
The project, which is estimated to cost US$13.66million dollars, is being financed with a Brazilian Government Grant, under the Brazil-Ghana Technical Co-operation Agreement in Sickle Cell Disease.
It will comprise Blood Transfusion Unit, a Sickle Cell Clinic and a Training Centre which will serve the northern part of the country in the provision of emergency services; such as accidents, surgery and other vital needs upon completion.
The 11000 capacity facility has been described as a major breakthrough in the fight against sickle cell disease in the country, and will also serve as the Centre of Excellence in the training of personnel in the West Africa sub-region.
Speaking at the ground-breaking occasion, the Minister of Health, Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor said the construction of the Blood and Sickle Cell Center would help meet the government’s plan to develop a Central Area Transfusion Center in Kumasi, as one of three in Ghana, and the long wish of people with sickle cell disease and their families. He said in addition to people with sickle cell and other blood diseases, many people in Ghana need the transfusion of blood products for surgery, injury and management of diseases such as cancer, hemophilia and others.
Dr. Kumbuor noted that the government of Ghana had embarked on a programme to reorganize and modernize transfusion services in the country and stressed that the project, upon completion, will serve the blood collection, modern processing and specific blood product needs of hospitals beyond Ashanti Region.
The Minister emphasized that another important focus of the centre would be Research and Training of young people from Ghana and the sub-Saharan region of Africa, in order to extend knowledge about blood disease and modern transfusion services.
He further mentioned the inauguration of a 12-member committee to oversee the Newborn Screening Programme being implemented by the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana as part of plans to diagnose new babies for the disease and adopt early preventive measures.
According to him, sickle cell disease is the most common serious genetic disease in many other parts of the world, especially in Africa and said in Ghana, one in 50 babies born is said to be having the sickle cell disease which means that 13000 babies will be born with sickle cell disease this year alone.
He, therefore, commended the government of Brazil and the Brazilian Ambassador to Ghana, His Excellency, Luis Fernando Serra for the construction of the project. “The people of Ghana are extremely grateful to the people and government of Brazil for their friendship and generosity for the Blood and Sickle Cell Centre,” Dr. Kumbuor added.
The Brazilian Ambassador to Ghana, Luis Fernando Serra on his part, said the construction of the project was the second major agreement between the government of Ghana and that of Brazil. He indicated that sickle cell is one of the most common diseases in his country and therefore appreciated the need for the government of Brazil to assist in the combat against the disease.
He said the government of Brazil agreed to provide funds for the establishment of the project after the President of Ghana, His Excellency John Evans Atta Mills, made a personal intervention to his counterpart, Lula Da Silva, during a visit to the country some few months back. The Chief Executive Officer of KATH, Prof. Ohene Adjei said research has proven that over 90 percent of all children born with sickle cell disease die before the age of 5, if their conditions are not diagnosed early and prophylactic treatment started in time.
Prof. Adjei noted that the new screening programme instituted by the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana, in conjunction with the KATH and other partners, had clearly proved that early diagnosis was critical in ensuring that patients lived a fulfilling and healthy life.
He further noted that the current facilities available for patients were not the best, stressing that project would give greater impetus to the national new-born screening drive and enhance the quality of life of sufferers through provision of the needed facilities for optimum provision of quality care to patients.
The President of Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana, Prof. Kwaku Ohene-Frimpong, who was very instrumental in getting the Brazilian government to fund the project, said the project would go a long way to compliment the efforts of the foundation in providing quality care for sickle cell patients.