Ghana Biomedical Innovation Summit
The first week of December 2022, the Northeastern University Department of Bioengineering in partnership with the non-profit 4GBI sponsored two Bioinnovation events in Ghana. On December 6, the Ghana Bioinnovation Workshop was held at the Kibi Presbyterian College of Education in Kyebi, Ghana. On December 8, The Ghana Bioinnovation Symposium was held at the AH Hotel in Accra. The two events attracted a total of over 300 attendees. Fact-finding visits of the Northeastern/4GBI team to rural health clinics, hospitals and Academic City University College supplemented these events.
Biomedical Innovation Workshop – December 6:
The purpose of the Workshop was to meet with nurses and midwives that work in rural healthcare clinics and with medical staff that work in District Hospitals in the larger towns of the region. Specifically, the Workshop was designed to foster conversations between healthcare providers and engineers, academics and entrepreneurs to create an understanding of the resources currently available in clinics and hospitals, and to discuss what strategies would be most beneficial to improving healthcare delivery in Ghana. Roughly 200 people attended the workshop.
The Welcome address was given by His Majesty Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin (the Okyenhene), sometimes referred to as the ‘king’ of the Eastern Region of Ghana – roughly analogous to the Governor of a state in the US but with more direct authority in many arenas. His address was followed by a ‘Statement of Purpose’ presented by Dr Lee Makowski. The perspective of the regional hospitals was given by Dr. Akoto Apaw, Medical Director, Regional Hospital, Koforidua; the District Hospitals by Dr. Richard Nii Dodoo, Medical Superintendent of Kyebi Hospital; and Divine Afua Dede Nartey, Health Service Administrator, Kyebi . A representative of the Registrar of the Health Facilities Regulatory Agency (HeFRA) presented the government view of the state of health care in rural Ghana, and the status and role of nursing and midwifery was presented by Eunice Kyerewaa Akwei, Public Health Nurse, Abuakwa South, Rodalyn Adda Kyei-Yamoah, Superintendent, Abuakwa South, and Alex Dartey Afrifa, Chief Nurse Anaesthetist, University of Cape Coast.
Most participants pointed out the shortage of basic infrastructural components (such as beds, IV poles, and instruments for assessing vital signs). However, they also spent considerable time expressing their frustrations with equipment that was poorly designed for the heat, dust and variable electrical supply of rural health clinics in West Africa. These issues dramatically shorten functional lifespan of instruments. There is essentially no training in maintenance or repair, no availability of relevant expertise and no resources to purchase spare parts. Non-functional equipment rapidly accumulates in equipment graveyards that are present in virtually all African medical facilities. There was general consensus that many of the instruments designed for clean, air-conditioned clinics of Europe or North America were not appropriate to the ambient conditions of clinics in rural Ghana. Afternoon panel discussions were followed by submission of written observations of the most urgent resource needs in rural healthcare clinics and suggestions about how these needs might be addressed by re-design of instrumentation tuned to western medical facilities.
December 8 Symposium:
The purpose of the Ghana Biomedical Innovation Symposium was to forge partnerships across health/academic/ business/government sectors to work together to improve the delivery of healthcare in Ghana. It was attended by approximately 120 sector leaders. The discussion was focused on the assertion by the Northeastern/4GBI team that many of the shortcomings of healthcare facilities in Ghana could be mitigated by the creation of a local biomedical device and instrument industry that would design, produce and distribute instrumentation tuned specifically to the needs of Western Africa. The advantages of that strategy were put forward by Dr. Makowski in his address. After the audience was welcomed by Osabarima Owusu Baafi Aboagye lll, Chief of Akyem Dwenase, Dr. Lee Makowski provided a statement of purpose. That was followed by a keynote address by Tina Naa Mensah, Deputy Minister of Health who provided strong support for the creation of a local biomedical device industry. Her address was followed by leaders in the various stakeholder sectors including the Government/Regulatory point of view by Dr. Philip Bannor – Registrar, Ghana Health Facilities Regulatory Agency; the health care point of view by Dr. Robert Djagblatey, Chief Anesthesiologist, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital; the academic point of view by Dr. Ben Honeynuga – Vice Chancellor, Ho Technical University; the engineering point of view by Dr. Fred McBagonluri – President, Academic City University College; entrepreneurial point of view by Dr. Anthony Basing CEO Incas Diagnostics. Dr. Bannor provided strong support for the initiative, indicating that the medical regulatory community within Ghana recognizes the urgent need for innovation in healthcare delivery and was ready to work with the initiative to guide novel devices through the regulatory process. Dr. Djagblatey provided an eloquent overview of the challenges of rural medicine. He argued that the shortage of biomedical engineers who were needed to maintain and repair equipment contributed to the short lifetimes of instruments and the inability of healthcare facilities to maintain them. These issues even impact Korle Bu, a 2000 bed teaching hospital in Accra (the third largest in Africa) where Dr. Djagblatey practices. Drs. Honeynuga and McBagonluri emphasized the need for better and more appropriate training of biomedical engineers and non-physician healthcare workers, emphasizing the need for experiential learning in undergraduate biomedical engineering curricula. Dr. Basing, CEO of ‘Inca Diagnostics’ a startup in Ghana now grown to over 150 employees provided a ‘success story’ that with diligent effort, research and innovation, it is possible to start a new company in Ghana that can successfully provide extensive diagnostic capabilities to local facilities and end-use customers. This is a proof of principle for the kind of commercial development that the Northeastern/4GBI team is advocating.
On Sunday, December 4th, the team was honored with an extended audience with His Majesty Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin at his Palace in Kyebi.
On Monday, the Northeastern/4GBI team toured the Kyebi Hospital and then visited the Chiefs and healthcare clinics of four villages in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Tours of village health clinics were, as required by protocol, preceded by meetings with the Chief of the each village, including Abumpe, Apedwa, Tomfe and Akyem Dwenase (villages in the Eastern Region of Ghana).
On Friday, the team visited Academic City University and met with the President and Provost, Dr. Fred McBagonluri. Dr. Makowski met with ~ 100 students where he gave a presentation of the opportunities in emerging in Biomedical Engineering and carried out a question-and-answer session. After touring the campus, Dr. McBagonluri introduced the team to the faculty and student body on the occasion of a leadership address by John Mahama, former President of Ghana.
The team visited ‘Makers Space’, a STEAM training facility that teaches electronics, programing and robotics to k-12 students to prepare them for university programs. The facility is run by Douglas Ayitey, former Bioengineering Laboratory Coordinator at the University of Ghana.
Other activities during the week-long visit included meetings with Dr. Philip Bannor, Registrar of the Ghana Health Facilities Regulatory Agency and Mr. Carl Ampah, UNESCO.
The Northeastern/4GBI Team:
- Lee Makowski, Chair, Department of Bioengineering, Northeastern University
- Sam Burd, Member, Industrial Advisory Board, Department of Bioengineering, Northeastern University
- Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye, Chief, Akram Dwenase
- Thelma Asare, Physician, Greater Baltimore Medical Center
- Francis Agyare, Agyare Law Group – Immigration Law
- Nana Akua Ako Boadu, Midwifery Officer
- Janet Odoom, Senior staff midwife
- Mary Obenewah Annor, Senior Staff Midwife
- Esther Odame, Staff Nurse
- Michael Boamah, Biomedical Scientist
- Kwasi Anane Asare, Driver
- Okyeame Boadu Tinyase, Linguist