Prayer camps not hospitals

BY: Daily Graphic

AS of 2020, there were as many as 1,016 prayer camps in the country, according to the Mental Health Authority (MHA) report for that year.

Unfortunately, the large number of prayer camps is not an indication of the increased spirituality of Ghanaians, as most of the camps have now either become extensions to health facilities or actual hospitals.

Instead of seeking professional health care for various ailments, be they mental, psychological and maternal healthrelated, families have taken their relatives instead to these camps, dotted all over the country because they have somehow been made to believe that their sicknesses are rather spiritual.

We are not by any way suggesting that there are no problems that border on spirituality, which need prayers to have them solved.

However, our worry is the fact that instead of staying the course as prayer centres, the camps have become the first port of call for most people instead of the hospitals and health centres, to the detriment of the Universal Health Coverage that the government has been espousing.

Many mentally challenged persons roam our streets, while preventable and needless deaths have occurred at the camps because they have neglected the basic science of diseases and their causes and have conveniently ascribed everything to evil spirits and forces because of monetary gains.

We believe that seeking help from prayer camps for various health conditions must rather be the exception than the norm as it is presently. We fail to appreciate the fact that it is the same creator we run to at the prayer camps who has given knowledge to man (doctors and nurses) to treat all manner of diseases in the hospitals.

Due to the massive revolution in medicine and health care, there are treatments for most diseases; the only problem now is that most people wait till it is too late to treat the diseases or conditions before they seek help from health professionals, by which time the diseases would have become terminal.

For instance, placental separation, also known as abruptio placentae, which some pregnant women present at prayer camps, requires bed rest or a Caesarean Section (CS) to forestall fatality, depending on the degree of placental separation and how close the baby is to full term.

The Daily Graphic believes that drastic steps must be taken by the government to halt the use of the camps as health centres for especially pregnant women and mentally challenged persons who are the most abused in those camps. Apart from the prayer camps being unhygienic and not conducive to any healthy treatment, victims are often chained in the open without basics such as food, water and clean clothing and the abdomen of pregnant women pressed consistently, while they are given concoctions to drink, with the claim that they will facilitate delivery or treat ante or post-natal complications.

If care is not taken, this phenomenon will contribute signifi cantly to the country’s inability to attain the Sustainable Development Goal Three (SDG3) by 2030, just as Ghana failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals Four and Five (MDG 4&5) in 2015.

To streamline health delivery, the government must pass a law to ban prayer camps from interfering in maternal and mental healthcare delivery in the country.

The Medical and Dental Council should improve its oversight responsibility and sanction quack medics who practise under the cover of prayer camps.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection also has a role to play, as the right to health care is a fundamental human right.

We also urge the MHA to establish a visiting committee to monitor the activities of traditional and faith-based healing centres, otherwise known as prayer camps in the country to prevent the camps from engaging in practices that undermine the rights of persons with mental health conditions under their care.

It is time to establish and resource a mental health fund and we call on the MHA to lead nationwide consultations to devise innovative strategies to raise financial support to resource the fund and increase support for mental health care at workplaces to improve treatment gaps.