President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has assured stakeholders in the provision of mental health care in the country that his administration is committed to making that aspect of health service a priority.
In his speech ahead of the official commissioning of “The Melody”, a new office complex of the department of psychiatry of the University of Ghana Medical School at Korle-Bu today, Tuesday 6 June 2023, President Akufo-Addo said his administration is on course with the provision of the needed infrastructure to support mental health care services in the country.
“Our journey to provide comprehensive and accessible health care for all is ongoing. Together, we can build a nation where mental health care is a priority and every Ghanaian receive the care and support, they deserve” President Akufo-Addo said.
“It is with some pride that I say that the NPP government has added some two psychiatric hospitals to the agenda 111 hospital projects. This two are to be built in the Ashanti and Northern Regions” Akufo-Addo added.
In his remarks, President Akufo-Addo observed that “in 2019, [Government] launched the legislative instrument (LI) for mental health which is establishes the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders including the government, private sector, and civil society”. The mental health authority President Akufo-Addo said is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the LI in order to ensure its effectiveness.
All these steps the President noted, are part of efforts aimed at improving mental health care delivery in the country. He further indicated that the recent decision to decriminalize suicide in the country will also go a long way to help in the process of mental help delivery.
“I am delighted to announce that on 31 March 2023, we took a significant step forward for mental health service delivery by decriminalizing suicide in Ghana. This progressive move will help remove stigma, improve access to care and improve outcomes for individual struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviours in the country” President Akufo-Addo remarked.
Touching on the building, “The Melody”, President Akufo pointed out that the “state-of-art facility will not only serve the University of Ghana medical school but also serves the larger Korle-Bu hospital community”.
“It houses a conference room, student lecturer hall, faculty research offices, a serene waiting area conducive to teaching and learning, trendy consulting rooms, therapy rooms, a treatment room, a pharmacy and an observation room.
“This building symbolises a beautiful partnership between public institutions and the private sector. It shows what can be achieved when the experts sit with the private sector and the private sector become aligned to its responsibilities and this partnership, then deepens government’s commitment to advancing mental health care in Ghana” President Akufo-Addo said.
“The melody, as this building is to be called, just by the way it looks ad by virtual of where it is situated, will decrease stigma towards patients and professionals who practice. It represents a beacon of hope, a sanctuary where individuals can seek help without fear of judgement, discrimination or social isolation” the President Added.
Vision / motivation to build
Immediate past head of the Psychiatry department of the University of Ghana, Professor Angela Ofori-Atta, who is credited with mobilizing funds for the construction of the ultramodern office complex for the department of psychiatry, in a brief address noted that she is delighted to witness the completion of the building project which was conceived some 20 years ago.
“For this building we raised funding from friends and family. From the Ken and Angie Ofori-Atta Foundation, from Kwesi Atuah of Life Forms Limited, from the Osei-Bonsu family, and from Keli Gadzekpo and family ventures” Professor Angela Ofori-Atta said.
The building is named “The Melody” in honour of the late mother of Professor Angela Ofori-Atta, Melody Millicent Danquah, the first female pilot in Ghana as well as in the south of the Saharan African, who lived with a mental health issue after falling into a deep clinical depression that made her barely able to function.
Department of psychiatry
The department of psychiatry started with the establishment of the medical school in 1962. Professor E FB foster who was the first African psychiatrist was then the director of the Accra psychiatric hospital and doubled as the first head of department.
The department of psychiatry at the time had no facility in the Korle-Bu teaching hospital where the medical school was sited and training of students was done at the psychiatric hospital. This continued till 2003 when it was relocated to Korle-Bu to be physically part of the rest of the Medical School.
The department functioned in training of medical students and also running an out-patient clinic with very few staff. The department however became a sub-budget management center (Sub BMC) in 2011 and also started operating as distinct sub management unit in the same year. The department continued to run only an outpatient clinic till 2013, when the hospital made a space available for a ward.
This was after several requests and meetings with the hospital management. Inpatient services however did not start till late 2014 ask the world needed to be furnished and staff recruited. It initially served as a detention ward as there were not enough nurses to run the three shifts. The first patient was detained to the ward on 23rd September, 2014.
The ward became fully functional in 2015 as more staff were recruited. The addictive disease unit which was initially part of the Department of Medicine sub-BMC was assigned to the psychiatry department in 2014. It was initially housed in an old wooden block with most household items broken. A request was therefore made in the latter part of 2014 for relocation of the addictive disease unit to a new location. Eventually after several months of follow-up a building was are located near the Deans guesthouse.
Though this building was better than the initial wooden structure, it was also in a deplorable state and needed renovation. The then head of department professor Angela Ofori-Atta made arrangements for the entire building to be renovated and giving a beautiful facelift in April 2019.
The department of psychiatry since its inception with the medical school has seen a lot of great leaders with the first head of department being professor E. F. B. foster who handed over to professor C. C. Adomako in 1980. Professor SNH Turkson became head of department in 1987. Professor Sammy Ohene joined the department in 1990 and became the head of department in 2005.
He was the sitting head of department when the in-patient ward was created. Professor Angela Ofori-Atta took over from Prof Ohene in 2019 as head of the psychiatry department. Professor Angela Ofori-Atta mobilized funds for the construction from ultra-modern office complex for the department of psychiatry Which also houses consulting rooms.
The first phase of this project was completed in early 2022 and the second phase is soon to be completed. Professor Angela Ofori-Atta handed over the headship of the department in late 2022 to Dr. Delali Fiagbe who is currently the head of department.