On 5 July, the team travelled by minivan (this was the most COVID-19 secure way for us to travel) to the Upper East Region and paid a courtesy visit to the office of the regional director of the Ghana Health Service, to pass on our thanks for granting the team permission to conduct the audits.
We then headed to the Presbyterian Hospital in Bawku. At first, the hospital representative accompanying us was nervous about protecting the image of the facility. But after further explanation of the purpose of our assignment, the representative joined fully in the audit process, which consisted of:
On completion of the audit checklist at the first facility, the team assessed it using the scoring method in the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie accessibility manual. We then had another meeting with the management team to share the summary of the audit and give recommendations on how they could take action to address some basic measures without requiring any funds (for example, lowering signposts and rearranging beds to allow wheelchair users to move around freely).
Once this was complete, we moved on to the second hospital, in Bongo, and repeated the process.
After the audits were finished, the team urged the management of both facilities to take measures to ensure their service provision is accessible and non-discriminatory to all people with disabilities, including people with mental health conditions who are a particular focus of Ghana Somubi Dwumadie’s work. We wrote up a report and action plan for each facility to recommend other improvements that the management teams could make, including widening doorways, adding ramps and simplifying signs.
The team also impressed upon the management the need to ensure that current and future budgets for the hospitals would accommodate accessibility features, particularly when new blocks are built, and ensure that Ghana’s accessibility standards for built environments were met.
It was very encouraging to take part in the collaborative process of conducting the audits, and we assured the management teams at both hospitals that we’d continue to work with them to help them meet accessibility standards.
The next step for us is to continue conducting these audits in other primary health care settings. By doing this vital work, we’ll gradually make sure that as many public facilities as possible are accessible to people with disabilities.
The accessibility audits in these facilities will serve as a blueprint that all primary health care settings can use to improve access.
Peter Kwasi is the programme adviser for disability inclusion at Sightsavers, based in Ghana.