“How long we waiting?”, Lucy asks, as we sit under a small mango tree.
We are sitting outside the Cienfuegos Suglo Specialist Hospital, an obstetrics hospital in Tamale, Ghana and my patience is growing thin.
The hospital’s director, Dr. Barnabas B. Naa Gandau, is yet to arrive for the day and it’s already 3 p.m. .
We got here at 11 this morning. The head midwife, Hajia Fati Mahama, welcomed us to the nursing station and let us watch as they cleaned instruments and filled charts. But they won’t speak to us “on the record” until the hospital administrator arrived. Like most institutions in Ghana, we are side-lined by endless bureaucracy.
Lucy, my pupil, is impatient to leave while I try to stall. A nurse runs out after us, just in the nick of time.
“He will be here soon. You will see.”
As if it was summoned, a gleaming silver SUV pulls down the red, dirt road. It pulls into the makeshift garage, under a small gazebo awning.I leap to the SUV’s doors, to intercept Gandau.
Soon we are being ushered into his office with its sparkling floor and top of the line computer. As soon as we sit down, Gandau asks for our credentials. I stammer.
“How do I know you who you say you are?” Gandau asks, skeptically.
We write down our names and contact information on scraps of paper, as a form of shotgun business card.
I quickly start explaining our intent. We’re here to do a story on Ghanaian attitudes about labour and delivery.
I tell Gandua I’m a human rights journalist and his ears perk up.
He lists the steps to gaining access to the hospital. First we will need a letter of introduction, printed on the station’s letterhead. Then we will need to file a list of questions we want to ask. This could take weeks. I persist that we need to speak to the nurses now. Eventually, he acquiesces.
We interview nurses, new mothers and a few gurgling babies. We get insightful and interesting tape. Lucy and I are ecstatic.
We rush back to the station and as I’m uploading the mp3s, I quickly check my email. The subject reads “trial” and there is no text. It’s from Gandau at the hospital.I send a reply; thanking him for letting us visit the hospital, making sure my jhr signature is attached.
A few days later, I get the following email:
“Just visited ur [sic] website and realize u [sic] are doing great job. God Bless you all.
Stay [sic]Blesed. -Dr. Barnabas B. Naa Gandau”.
See pictures from the Cienfuegos Suglo Specialist Hospital.