Dr Patrick Odum Ansah, the Director of the Navrongo Health Research Centre (NHRC) in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality of the Upper East Region, says the Centre has diagnosed about 100 children with sickle cell disease in the area.
Children below the age of five were recruited after the Point of care testing for sickle cell using the Gazelle device which was launched last year, for easier and faster diagnosis of sickle cell disease in children.
He said following a successful pilot implementation of the diagnostic device in some selected health facilities in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality and the Kassena-Nankana West District, the NHRC launched a new App known as the ‘Vula Application’ to aid in timely management and referral of the disease.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) after the launch of the Application, Dr Ansah said the Centre had so far screened over 4,700 children below five years, and out of the number, “We have been able to diagnose over 100 children with sickle cell disease, which is very significant.”
He said the Centre was concerned about the health of the diagnosed children, and therefore considered how to get them treated if they ran into sickle cell crisis, and indicated that management of the NHRC got sponsorship from South Africa through Novartis, sponsors of the sickle cell project in the Centre to introduce the new App.
“They developed an App for us, so that when these sickle cell children attend clinics at the peripheries, and staff have difficulty in diagnosing and managing them, they will connect through the App to a Doctor in the hospital for consultation to be done, initial management advised, and if they are referred, they already have their details to fast-track their management,” he said.
The initiative, the NHRC Director said would reduce the number of people usually referred from the periphery to the hospital as there would be consultations online.
Dr Ansah said with prior knowledge about the condition of the sickle cell patient referred, there would be adequate preparations to receive the patient with timely interventions to reduce sickle cell related mortalities in the Centre’s catchment areas.
He said the App would be implemented in ten selected Health Centres and CHPS compounds as part of the sickle cell project, “So wherever this study is being done in the district, they will have access to the ‘Vula App’ to do the work.”
Dr Ansah said based on the success of the pilot programme and upon the advice of the Regional and Municipal Health Directorates, the Centre could scale the use of the App to other Districts.
He assured members of the public that the NHRC would do everything possible to minimise the menace of sickle cell and the misconception about the disease.
Dr Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, the Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service, said Dzotsi said if the pilot programme worked successfully in the selected Health Centres and CHPS compounds, it would be scaled-up to other parts of the Municipality and beyond.
“We are so fortunate that another very innovative App has been launched as a way to reduce referrals and improve on the quality of care to our clients,” he said, and expressed gratitude to Novartis for the support.
Mr Emmanuel Wedam, a Physician Assistant (PA) at the Navrongo Health Centre, one of the selected Health facilities for the implementation of the App, told the GNA that the App would minimise situations where patients misplaced referral letters given to them, as soft copies would be sent directly to the Specialist at the referral Centre.
Madam Jane Zaratu Sulemana, also a PA at the Kologo Health Centre, noted that even though the App would improve the referral system, network connectivity was a challenge at her facility, “For where I work, network is poor. If I want to sign in, it takes a long time. If that could be improved, it will help.”