Only 23 dermatologists in Ghana; Rabito plans a rescue

BY: Edmund Smith-Asante
Professor Edmund Delle
Professor Edmund Delle

Ghana currently has only 23 dermatologists serving the population of about 30 million, with about two nearing their retirement, the Chief Executive Officer of Rabito Clinic, Mrs Karen Andrea Sonia Hendrickson, has alluded.

She said for several years not much emphasis had been placed on the skin which is the largest organ, hence the scarcity of specialists in that area of medicine.

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She explained that to become a dermatologist one had to first become a medical doctor before specialising, adding that “the dermatology field has not received the same razzmatazz as other fields such as surgery, neurology or gynaecology.” 

She divulged to the Daily Graphic that to address the shortage of dermatologists in Ghana, Rabito Clinic’s founder, Dr Edmund Nminyem Delle, who is a Specialist Dermatologist, had made plans to establish the first university to train more dermatologists by the next 10 years or even five years if the plans pulled through without hitches.

“It won’t come under any university. It would be a post-graduate facility that is focused on dermatology because it is such a huge field and we are actively working on making this a reality but there are a lot of bureaucratic steps that we have to go through which we are working through now and then we will start growing our own dermatologists,” Mrs Hendrickson disclosed.


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University of Dermatology

“Right now we are in the process of putting together budgets and identifying which academics could be a part of the process and then there are the regulatory agencies we have to speak to but we are doing a lot of the background work now,” she indicated.

When established, the university would seek to address not only the shortfall of dermatologists in Ghana but also in the West African  sub-region which has a dearth of the professionals. Sierra Leone for instance does not have a dermatologist at the moment while Liberia has only one and Nigeria has between 150 and 200 serving that entire country.

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Currently, no medical institution in Ghana is teaching dermatology as a fully fledged discipline although some aspects are incorporated in the study of medicine as ‘a subset’. 

Mrs Hendrickson, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview last Thursday, said as a result of the situation Rabito Clinic also attended to patients from other countries in West Africa.

“Currently, six of the dermatologists are offering services at the Rabito Clinic which has 17 branches across the country and hopes to increase to 35 in the next five years, she said.

Almost all the dermatologists in Ghana now work in state health facilities such as the regional and district hospitals.

She stated that the provision of the services tied in with the clinic’s mission of developing well-trained and dedicated professional healthcare staff with specialisation in dermatology.

More branches

Rabito’s CEO said the plan to increase the number of branches was to afford patients the ease of access because some had to travel for very long distances to access healthcare, while some regions were so large that it was ideal to have more than one in such areas.

“We see healthcare as a human right so we need to be where the people need the care, so this is why we are looking at the country in a macro perspective,” she stated.

The most recent Rabito Clinic branch opened in Dansoman, Accra, on October 1, 2018 and when the Daily Graphic visited the oldest branch at Osu, also in Accra, Mrs Hendrickson said a town hall meeting was being held at Dansoman to educate patrons on the silent killer, hypertension, which incidentally was the ailment most reported at the clinics.

“When I looked at the statistics I was really shocked to see that the women were having higher levels of blood pressure in certain categories than the men. Between 40 years to 60 years the women are outdistancing the men in terms of having blood pressure at critical levels so that is one of the topics we are addressing at our free town hall meetings and giving free health screening right after that,” she said.

Rabito Clinic, which was established in 1974 and named after the founder’s career mentor, Professor Calegero Rabito, then Director of the Dermatological Clinic at the University of Padua, Italy, where he had his training, also offers general healthcare services as well as neurology and obstetrics and gynaecology services which are handled by specialists who have about 60 years experience between them and are on call on specific days.

The clinic also offers laboratory services in most of its branches.

According to Mrs Hendrickson, leading the pack of non-dermatology health issues treated by the Rabito clinics are malaria, cholera, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“On the dermatology side, the number one skin ailment we have is acne. We are constantly looking at the statistics and the trends so that we see what is happening,” she stated and added, however, that they also handled unusual cases occasionally.

Future plans

Apart from venturing into the training of more dermatologists, Rabito Clinic in the next 20 years hopes to continue providing quality healthcare for all, but with more technology to make it more accessible.

Mrs Hendrickson said she envisaged a fleet of mobile clinics “that drive to the remotest areas on a regular basis with not only qualified personnel but with medicines and education to do more preventive clinics rather than wait for problems to arise.”

The future plans of the clinic also include having laboratory facilities in all its branches and pharmacies that would stock special and efficacious skin medications that clients and patients could access easily.

There would also be a Cosmetology Fair in June 2019 in collaboration with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and other partners to highlight on the dangers of skin bleaching.

Rabito Foundation

The clinic also offers free treatment occasionally when resources allow and patients cannot afford but the CEO intimated that a foundation that had been created hoped to have access to grant funding “to allow us to better serve the whole category of those who just can’t afford the service in massive quantities.”

“We want to be more focused and be able to do this in a much more sustainable way because every time petrol or electricity goes up, it diminishes our ability to be able to provide low cost or free care for people who desperately need it and so we recognise that the Rabito Foundation is the way to go but we have to get proper funding for it,” she said.