A joint Emergency Preparedness and Response Taskforce from the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) and Ho Teaching Hospital (HTH), on March 16, briefed the press in Ho through the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) on the taskforce’s emergency preparedness plan for the area in the wake of the corona virus pandemic.
Speaking on the public awareness campaign entitled “Say No to Corona Virus in Ho: Know How to Protect Yourself,” Mrs. Maria Gwira, Director of Public Affairs at UHAS, explained that in preparing the emergency preparedness and response plan, the taskforce formed four subgroups — the Clinical, Laboratory, Education and Training, as well as Publicity and Advocacy subgroups — to develop a comprehensive strategy for ensuring the safety of the University population and its surrounding community.
Mrs. Gwira, who is a trained journalist and a specialist in development communication, said the taskforce had “put a lot of work into a detailed strategic plan covering the four areas” and that, although the University has had to send students home in compliance with a Presidential directive, the team will not be derailed from its goal of educating the wider community. She said, although the initial campaign had been targeted at the internal publics of the University, the current rate of progression of the virus necessitates the “expansion of the campaign to encompass everyone.” She therefore invited the local GJA Chapter to join forces with the taskforce to disseminate information to educate the masses.
Dr. Emily Boakye-Yiadom, a Laboratory Physician/Microbiologist at HTH and a UHAS Lecturer, said the Hospital has received some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and continues to train and hold simulation exercises on emergency preparedness. She also assured the press that as at time of this press conference, there were no confirmed cases of infection at Ho Teaching Hospital, contrary to rumours. Rather, people posing as high-risk patients have visited the Hospital under direction of Management, as part of scheduled simulation exercises meant to assess staff readiness and compliance with laid-down triage and treatment protocols. There are several sessions of this exercise pending.
She said that although the Clinical and Laboratory subgroups are trained and capable of carrying out tests on people who may show signs of the infection, they are yet to designate a specific, licensed laboratory facility to carry out such testing, therefore any identified potential case will be referred to the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research. Dr. Boakye-Yiadom said HTH is utilizing its public address system at the OPD to sensitize people who visit the hospital, and to encourage proper handwashing.
Mr. Anthony-Bells Kafui Kanyi, GJA Volta Chair, called on journalists to help dispel rumours of the pandemic and to double-check facts while “exercising decorum in their reportage.” He pleaded with the taskforce to be proactive and timely with its response and for its members to avail themselves for questioning, as needed, to help build society’s confidence in the institutions. He also encouraged media practitioners to help sustain the campaign to rid the nation of the pandemic.