Two medical doctors cater for over 15,000 prison inmates

Only two doctors are providing medical services to the over 15,000 inmates in the 46 prisons dotted across the country.

The two have been stationed at the Nsawam Medium Prisons in the Eastern Region and at the Senior Correctional Centre in Accra respectively.

The Medical Superintendent of the Nsawam Medium Prisons, DSP Dr. Lawrence Acheampong, made the revelation in an interview with Onua FM’s Yen Sempa hosted by Bright Kwasi Asempa on Monday.

He was reacting to the Ghana Medical Association who are alarmed by the health crisis in Ghana’s prisons.

The GMA identified overcrowding, drug abuse, poor diet and hygiene, infections and substandard healthcare in the prisons.

“We have only two medical doctors for prisoners in the country and we are calling on other doctors to come and assist us”, Dr. Acheampong appealed.

He explained that the Ghana Prisons Service has other health professionals who help us “but only two medical doctors are in charge of the 46 prisons which is not adequate”.

“Nsawam is the biggest prison in Ghana with over 3,500 inmates and I am there as the Medical Superintendent.  The other is in Accra, our correctional centre and the training school, but the clinic is at the prison’s Correctional Centre so he is there”.

He explained further, “we have been stationed in these areas but when the need arises for us to visit other parts, we do”.

Dr. Acheampong added, “we don’t carter for only prisoners. We cater for officers and their families and those living closer to the prisons and visitors. We have about 500 officers in Nsawam alone”.

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Logistical constraint

He said apart from the inadequate medical doctors, they face logistical constraint since the facilities in these prisons clinics are nothing to write home about.

“Our authorities are doing some restructuring. Our authorities have had some relief from the government. We have some arrangements with Korle-Bu who come periodically but the two doctors are not adequate so every doctor who wants to come and look after prisoners is welcomed”.

He added, “The logistics are not adequate. Unlike the ones in other hospitals because the international standards says health status in prisons should be like or equivalent to other hospitals”.

Common disease

Commenting on the diseases that are commonly reported at the various prisons, Dr. Acheampong saidone problem is issue of overcrowding. All the prisons are overcrowded with over 53% so we have skin infections”.

“We are in the tropics so we get cases of malaria. HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, hepatitis and other infectious diseases are all in the prisons”.

He explained that research has shown that prisoners are high risk of developing mental conditions.

“Risk of developing mental condition is 20% because the prison condition can lead to mental conditions”.

Mortality rate in prisons

On the number of death that are report annually, Dr. Acheampong said: “Nsawam death as at 2018 was 2 per 1000 inmates as against the previous year of 6 per 1000 and we are doing all we can through the restructuring to bring it to one per year”.

By Kweku Antwi-Otoo||Ghana