Mr Isaac Kodwo Nkansah, a 30-year-old man, has been driving a taxi for the past three years. He is not the usual taxi driver we come across every day. He is on a mission to save pregnant women at Breman Brakwa and its environs in the Central Region.
How did it start for him?
Before the Project Fives Alive! of the National Catholic Health Service launched the referral component of the project in 2012, access to quick transport for pregnant women and mothers was a major challenge. A baseline data showed that only 20 per cent of pregnant women and mothers had access to community transport. A Quality Improvement team comprising the Ghana Private Road Transport Union ( GPRTU) executive, taxi drivers, licensed chemical sellers, health workers, traditional birth attendants and spiritualists tested various ideas to address the transportation challenges. Some of the ideas tested included the distribution of phone numbers of drivers to pregnant women, mothers and prayer camps to aid the referral process. Most drivers who pledged their support to help the referral process in the area have stopped picking pregnant women to nearby facilities.
Picking of pregnant women at night
Mr Nkansah transports pregnant women, sometimes late at night, on deteriorated roads linking the villages to nearby health facilities. He is currently stationed at the Breman Brakwa taxi rank and on the average, he picks 10 pregnant women to health facilities in a month. When asked how the pregnant women got to know him, he explained, “I pick women from the “diaspora” or hinterlands to Brakwa market on Thursdays so they usually take my telephone number. I also receive calls from the Brakwa Health Centre to send emergency cases to Our Lady of Grace Hospital at Asikuma if the district ambulance is not available”.
James Mensah, a spiritualist at the Ebenezer Prayer Camp at Mantey, calls Nkansah to convey pregnant women from his camp to the Brakwa Health Centre.
Mr Nkansah said he often received calls late at night and had to drive to villages such as Asarekwaa, Ogonoso, Awarebagu, Eshiem, Apaawa, Ofabin, Kwakuboa, Ohenekrom, Mantey and Mahogo unaccompanied.
He recounted how he received a call to pick a pregnant woman from Apaawa to Our Lady of Grace Hospital at Asikuma at night and developed a fault at Fosuansa. He reached out to other drivers to assist but they couldn’t help. He had to calm the pregnant woman who was in labour down, while fixing the taxi. The faulty taxi delayed them but they were able to reach the hospital. According to Nkansah, two women had given birth in his taxi which has the inscription, “Blood of Jesus”.
Most of his colleagues mock him for picking pregnant women. They ask if his taxi is an ambulance. “Sometimes, pregnant women in labour can scare me a lot because they have been referred to a larger facility. Most of them are of the view something bad will befall them or they will never return but I usually assure them that the health centre doesn’t have enough equipment to take care of them that is why they have been referred to receive greater care.”
Madam Janet Debrah, a midwife at the Brakwa Health Centre, lamented, “when we refer cases to our Lady of Grace Hospital at Asikuma, Mr Nkansah has to sometimes help with the registration of the clients or take them to the laboratory or the ultrasound unit since most of them have not been to that facility before. He only returns to Brakwa after he is certain that the women are safe. After doing all these, most of the women can’t afford to pay even for the cost of fuel and that affects his daily sales. Some women do not even say thank you after they can’t pay. Mr Nkansah says he cannot chase such women for money but strongly believes that he is serving his community and beyond and does not allow such challenges to upset him.
Madam Josephine Duodu the Assembly Member for Abrodiase Wrufoum, Breman Brakwa, commended Nkansah saying, “we need more patriotic citizens such as Nkansah in our communities to save the lives of mothers and children. However, Nkansah’s taxi is getting old and it is my prayer that a kind-hearted individual or an organisation will buy a new taxi for him to continue his good work”.