The General Manager of Health Services Department of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Dr. Vitus Victor Anaab-Bisi, has revealed that no case of COVID-19 has been imported through ship or sea transportation and for that matter Ghana’s sea ports.
He attributed this success to rigorous efforts that have been instituted at the sea ports of Ghana by the Port Authority in collaboration with other partner stakeholders including the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service.
“When we had this pandemic, we didn’t even wait for the day WHO announced that it is a pandemic. We started our awareness program way back in January, together with port health to sensitize all stakeholders in the port community,” he said.
Dr. Anaab-Bisi’s revelation has become more essential considering the fact that ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the latter part of 2019, many have compared its devastating effect to the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic which is reported to have been introduced into the then Gold Coast by shipping and sea trade along the Southern Coast and overland across the Northern Frontier.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live panel discussion on Fighting COVID-19 at Ghana’s Ports and Celebrating the Frontline Health Workers, Dr. Anaab-Bisi revealed the various strategies that his outfit has undertaken, to ensure Ghana’s ports are safe from the importation and spread of the coronavirus to protect the port’s role as a major economic asset for the state.
“We had to spend to support Government and keep our staff, clients, and our business going. If we do not keep the ports safe, and the ports close down, Ghana will come to a halt,” he expressed.
He said the Port Authority put in place new strategies such as the mandatory health declaration forms that were introduced to ensure that seafarers who use Ghana’s ports were remotely monitored.
“What we did was that we designed a quick COVID-19 declaration form for all vessels. We distributed them to all shipping lines, and all clearing agents, so before a vessel will call our ports, they have to fill by answering critical questions concerning COVID-19 and provide feedback by email,” he disclosed.
Dr. Anaab said, the Management of the Port Authority, despite financial constraints, recognized the desperate times the country faced and played a key role in procuring all the needed equipment needed to augment the health services’ capacity to ensure the port’s clients, and operators within the port community are protected from the importation and spread of the coronavirus.
A Senior Medical Laboratory Officer at the GPHA Clinic, Gideon Lamptey on the same program, revealed that some frontline health workers at the port like himself, had to quickly adapt to the new situation in order to mediate between the crew of cargo vessels and the port community to ensure both parties are protected from the importation and spread of the coronavirus.
“We have instituted an emergency response team that includes doctors, nurses, pharmacist, laboratory scientists and we move to the various berths were the crew come to assist there. We had training from the harbour master and the professionals as to what to do and we have been applying since,” he said.
He revealed that his prior experience working in an Ebola treatment centre in Liberia, which posed a much bigger risk to his life, had contributed to grooming and disciplining him for the job at hand, and has been pleased to answer the call to help fight the coronavirus.
“Ebola is worse than COVID-19 in terms of the fatality rate. So, the experience killed the fear in me. I believe this training I had earlier especially also at Tema General Hospital where we had a case centre for Lassa fever. All these things put me in good stead to serve,” he recounted.
A Nursing Officer at the GPHA Clinic, Regina Afua Tedeku, also detailed the crucial role nurses have been playing in the fight against COVID-19 especially within Ghana’s port community.
“As nurses, we have been involved in intensive education of the public, the port community which is still ongoing. Also we let those who come to the clinic understand the reality of the virus so they take informed decision on how to protect themselves,” she said.
She advised that, considering the fact that priority in health service delivery currently is targeted towards COVID 19, and the high rate of transmission of the virus, it is important for clients to visit the clinic facility when it is absolutely necessary so that they don’t contract the disease.
“We are educating the general public that if you are not very sick, there is no need to come to the hospital, for example a slight headache that you might need rest or basic medication. If you just jump in and come to the clinic, you might come and pick the infection.”
Dr. Anaab said that this same advice should apply with patients with underlying chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, and added that such patients should make use of phone calls in order to access medical advice for medication.
“Indeed, we don’t advise people to walk in and out of the hospital like they used to do without urgent need. If they have any concern, they should rather call us and we are ready to fill the prescription forms for them to pick up.”
The various representatives of Ghana’s port health services department affirmed their commitment to continue to play their roles to help safeguard Ghana’s port community from the importation and spread of the coronavirus.