Avoid Stigmatising Lepers - Fr Campbell Urges Health Personnel

The Chairman of the Lepers Aid Committee, Very Rev. Fr Andrew Nii Lamptey Campbell, has called on the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to ensure that health training institutions, hospitals and other health facilities adequately train health personnel to avoid stigmatising leprosy patients to improve their health status.

That, he said, would ultimately ensure that nurses and doctors empathised with the patients and took care of them whenever the patients visited health facilities for medical care.

The measure would also help detect more active leprosy cases scattered in many communities in the country for proper care, he added.

In an interview with journalists at Weija yesterday shortly after the dedication of a refurbished mosque to serve the Muslim community at the Weija Leprosarium, Fr Campbell pointed out that it saddened his heart when nurses and doctors shied away from or shunned leprosy patients who visited health facilities for treatment.

He stressed that it was equally regrettable that others, because of their inadequate training, failed to detect and investigate patients who, at the early stages, might just have what he described as “patches” that could be treated urgently from the onset to prevent them from developing into fully blown leprosy.

The mosque was rehabilitated by Fr Campbell, with support from the Lepers Aid Committee.

The dedication ceremony also coincided with his 77th birthday and the ceremony attracted dignitaries, such as a member of the Council of State, Sam Okudzeto, and a highlife musician and television personality, Akosua Agyapong.

Fr Campbell said “nurses and doctors should not look on their work as just for wages; it is a vocation meant to love people and get closer to them".

He intimated that he had come across just a few instances when one or two doctors were devoted and dedicated to handling one particular patient who had developed other health challenges.

He observed that every year there were about 250 known active cases of leprosy detected in the country, stressing that more cases could be detected if health personnel were trained and taught not to avoid leprosy patients while discharging their duties.

He called for more support to enable him to establish a rehabilitation home and an events and sports complex as an income-generating venture to rake in more revenue to cater for the inmates of the leprosarium.

He noted that medication for the leprosy patients was becoming expensive, saying he spent about GH¢1,000 on one particular patient anytime he took him for medical care.

Fr Campbell appealed for assistance in providing adequate meals for the inmates at the leprosarium.

Religious tolerance

The Presidential Coordinator, Zongo and Inner-Cities Development Secretariat, Ben Abdallah Banda, who represented the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, and the National Chief Imam, Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, said for a Catholic priest to think of providing a mosque for the Muslim community at the leprosarium was a clear manifestation that there was religious tolerance in the country.

He said for peace to thrive in the country, there was the need for religious tolerance, among other factors.

Alhaji Banda thanked Fr Campbell for the initiative and announced that the Vice-President had donated GH¢10,000 to support the priest on his birthday and to encourage him to do more for lepers in the country.

Mr Okudzeto, for his part, said he had had fruitful relations with Fr Campbell over the years because he personally loved what the priest was doing and anytime the priest invited him to an event regarding lepers, he made sure that he cancelled all other engagements.