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Apr. 13 (GIN) – In a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, a teaching hospital and other medical groups, Ghana has launched its first-ever training program in emergency medicine and nursing.

Some 15 specialist-emergency physicians, trained in the program, are already working in hospitals in the Ashanti, Greater Accra and Northern regions. Some 35 trained nurses have been posted to facilities across eight regions in the country.

The project emerged in response to the Accra Sports Stadium disaster of May 9, 2001 at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium. Two popular teams were scheduled to play and trouble was anticipated. After the home side scored two late goals, the losing team’s fans began tossing plastic seats and bottles onto the pitch. Police responded by throwing tear gas into the crowd, sparking a stampede which led to the deaths from compressive asphyxia of 127 people.

Some gates were locked, preventing escape. The medical staff at the stadium had already gone home. “It was the longest and darkest night in Africa soccer history,” wrote Kent Mensah in

Authorities were blamed in an official inquiry with over-reacting, reckless behavior and indiscriminate firing of plastic bullets and tear gas. Six officers were accused of dishonesty and failure to take quick action.

A hearing on the incident failed to find any guilty parties but Ghanaians remember the disaster on May 9 each year. A monument “I Am My Brother’s Keeper”, mounted at the stadium, recalls the 127 lives that were lost.

In response to public pressure, a national Accident and Emergency Center was built in Kumasi. The Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons approached the Dept of Emergency Medicine at Michigan University and a partnership was developed.

Prior to this new program, most emergency care centers were staffed by medical officers with no formal training in Emergency Medicine. There were “casualty departments” in the larger hospitals but staffing was inadequate and relatively junior. Ambulance services are confined to regional capitals and are virtually non-existent in rural areas.

The training will “improve the provision of emergency medical care in Ghana through innovative and sustainable physician, nursing, and medical student training programs,” Michigan University wrote on its website. “These programs will increase the number of qualified emergency health care workers retained over time in areas where they are most needed. “

Funding for the project comes from the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center which is reported to be investing 130 million dollars in emergency medicine capacity across the continent.    

Fifty 50 emergency nursing trainees are expected to complete their training by 2016, with 20 emergency medical technicians having been trained in triaging, resuscitation and acute care management. w/pix teaching emergency medicine at Komofo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi

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