Limerick students and hospital staff head to Africa to complete training programme for locals

David Hurley


David Hurley


Limerick students and hospital staff head to Africa to complete training programme for locals

Members of the delegation departed from Shannon Airport on Saturday | PICTURE: Alan Place

A TEAM of staff and students from the UL Hospitals Group and the University of Limerick has flown out to Ghana for the final phase of a joint effort to establish a pre-hospital emergency care training programme in the remote upper west region of the African nation.

Now in its third year, ‘Learning for Lives – Ghana’, has provided primary healthcare staff in the upper west and its capital Wa with crucial life-saving skills that will benefit the almost one-million strong population of the region.

The practitioners and academics in medicine, paramedics, physiotherapy, dietetics, nursing and midwifery departed from Shannon Airport on Saturday for the final phase of an ambitious commitment to provide training for 240 rural community health public service workers in three years.

In partnership with the national health service of Ghana staff and students from Limerick have travelled annually to Ghana since 2017, delivering skills training in general pre-hospital emergency care, and providing specialist instruction in sepsis, hand hygiene, and physiotherapy.

This year, an 11-strong multi-disciplinary delegation will finalise the training and include additional instruction in specialist areas of nutrition and neo-natal care. 

The initiative is the realisation of a key strategic objective by UL Hospitals Group to establish links with a developing country.

Initial exploratory work was led by UL Hospitals Group’s then chief academic officer, Prof Paul Finucane and Katie Sheehan, with crucial input from Dr Kelly Hadfield, founder of the Canadian-based NGO Ghana Medical Help, who was then in the second year of her studies at the Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) at UL.

“This unique collaboration improves the basic quality of healthcare for nearly one million people and has helped create the capacity at the community level for basic emergency care. Moreover, by focusing on establishing a cohort of effective local trainers, we have enabled the continuity of this training long after we return home,” said Dr Hadfield who recently graduated from the Graduate Entry Medical School at UHL.

Speaking about the trip, Katie Sheehan, operational director of nursing at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital and one of the first from ULHG to visit Ghana said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for staff here in Ireland to visit rural Ghana and to deliver much needed training. The train the trainer programme we have been delivering in Wa ensures that the training is sustainable. The team has become very multi-disciplinary over the past four years and we now have a strong varied team that is delivering seven different trainings this year. Wa is a special place and the medical, nursing and general staff there are so welcoming and have a thirst for learning. It is great to see that humanitarian volunteering is part of the UHL strategic plan. It gives us a chance to give a little back.“

Frank Keane, senior Fellow in paramedic studies at the GEMS commented: “Having been involved since the commencement of the emergency patient assessment programme, it has been wonderful to view the growth in confidence of over 240 community health public service (CHPS) workers from the Upper West region of Ghana.  Their increased ability to detect the acutely unwell patient will greatly enhance the general wellbeing of the communities they serve.  In year two, and again this year, a train the trainer programme will be delivered to provide resilience and sustainability for the programme into the future.”

The delegation includes Dr. Joe Kelly, emergency medicine consultant, UHL; Yvonne Young, assistant director of nursing & lead for sepsis, ULHG; Katie Sheehan, operational director of nursing, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital; Sheila Bowers, dietitian manager, ULHG; Mary Flahive, senior physiotherapist and practice tutor, UHL; Rosalie Stack, senior physiotherapist, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital; Mary Hannon, clinical nurse manager, UHL; Prof Roy Philip, consultant paediatrician & neonatologist; Rachel Keyes, neonatal nurse, UMHL; Frank Keane, senior fellow in paramedic studies at GEMS, UL and UL paramedics student Quintain Noonan.