gye nyame mobile clinicoverview

For over eight years, the Gye Nyame mobile clinic has been delivering professional
psychiatric services and providing surgical treatments to children and adults in the
Western and Ashanti regions of Ghana.

Ghana, which is located in sub-Saharan West Africa where the climate is tropical, is a developing country with more than 25 million inhabitants. The country is democratic and the political situation is stable. Seventy per cent of the population lives in rural areas where access to medical care is limited.

Managed on a wholly voluntary basis, Gye Nyame mobile clinic – which is the brainchild of two committed medical doctors, Dr. Ori Shwarzman and Dr. Britta Budde-Schwartzman – has (at the time of writing) treated over 40,000 Ghanaians.

Good news travels fast. Over a relatively short time, the success of the mobile clinic has developed into other, equally life changing, medical projects aimed at improving the health and quality of life for Ghana’s people.

A communication center has been established to provide virtual access to medical resources and professionals globally in a range of medical disciplines. In 2014, work started on the establishment of a psychiatric unit and a pediatric surgery unit in a new teaching hospital near Kumasi in the Ashanti. This hospital is due to open in January 2016.

In April 2014, a neonatal unit – one of the first of its kind – opened in Saint Patrick’s Missionary Hospital in Maase-Offinso. Already, the unit has cared for over 400 infants and premature babies, to give them a good start to life in the Ghanaian forests.

Our associated pediatric surgery and psychiatry teaching unit has been passing on knowledge and experience to all levels of mobile clinic staff since it opened in 2009.

gye nyame mobile clinicori and britta

Psychiatrist Dr. Ori Shwarzman and his wife, pediatric surgeon Dr. Britta Budde-Schwartzman, met at Korle Bu University in Accra, Ghana, in 1991.

Ori was a young, graduate Israeli doctor working in the bush and Britta was a German third-year medical student. Ori stayed in Ghana for one year and Britta for two semesters before returning to their respective countries. Five years later, after getting married in Germany, they went to live in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The couple’s love for Ghana never left them, and in 1999 they returned with their two-year-old daughter, Amarell, to work voluntarily for two years as general practitioners in the Ghanaian rain forests. From their base at St. John of God Hospital, which is located in the bush in the western region of Ghana, Ori and Britta realized that, although primary care was given to patients, there were no specialists to deal with specific ailments. This led them to the idea of establishing a professional mobile clinic.

For those who live in the developed world, it is hard to grasp the significance and the scale of this ambition. To put it into context: when Ori and Britta started the mobile clinic, there were still only four practicing psychiatrists and one pediatric surgeon in Ghana to support a country of 25 million inhabitants.

Working as general practitioners between 1999 and 2001 gave Ori and Britta a good insight into the types of diseases that existed in the Ashanti region and suitable treatment methods. They were able to treat countless infants and children with anemia, malaria, typhoid fever, diphtheria, cholera or AIDS.

Tragically, they also watched helplessly as babies died in their mother’s arms from curable diseases, such as incarcerated inguinal hernia, due to lack of surgeons and medical equipment. These babies might have been saved if surgery had been possible.

Ori and Britta witnessed the misery of the children and adults suffering from neurological and mental disorders caused by tropical infections and AIDS. These people not only suffered from their illnesses, but were also segregated by their social group, giving them no option but to flee into the rainforest, where many of them starved.

Motivated by their desire to make a difference, Ori and Britta returned to Israel in 2001 to allow Britta to complete her training in pediatric surgery. When they arrived back in Ghana in 2007, they felt ready to fulfill their now longstanding ambition to improve access to pediatric surgery and psychiatry services. After a lot of hard work and determination, the Gye Nyame specialist mobile clinic was born.

By this time, Ori and Britta had three children, with whom they lived in one of the small villages in the forest without running water or electricity. In every way, these pioneering medics had become part of their local community in Ghana.

Four years on, Gye Nyame mobile clinic had become self-sufficient enough to function on a daily basis without Ori and Britta. Therefore, the management was handed over to the now experienced local team and the pair returned to Israel. Since then, both doctors have returned every month to renew medicines and equipment, supervise the clinic and perform surgical operations, run seminars and workshops, and manage fundraising.

Ori and Britta’s involvement with improving healthcare in Ghana is by no means complete. These days they concentrate their efforts on training and equipping others with the right knowledge, leaving them more time to achieve their ambition of extending medical provision to improve the lives of an increasing number of Ghanaians.

Ori and Britta were granted the SID award for sustainability and good governance in February 2015.

gye nyame mobile clinic

"When we walked together for the first time, it was evening and we strolled through the market at the Korle Bu Campus of Accra University. I remember the small fire lanterns illuminating the vendors' smiling faces and it was clear at that moment that we had found our soul mate."
Britta talking about meeting Ori for the first time.

gye nyame mobile clinicvision / mission

By 2020, we intend to train every doctor and nurse in the Ashanti region to treat and operate on babies and children with surgical conditions, and to manage psychiatric patients.

gye nyame mobile clinic vision

  1. We envisage a society where no child or infant will suffer and die from curable surgical conditions, and where no child or adult with a mental disorder is stigmatized and isolated from society.
  2. We start from the premise that healthcare is a basic human right in any community. Our work is based on the belief that medical services in Ghana need to be mobile and flexible in order to reach the entire population and serve our rich variety of cultures. At the same time, every activity should be integrated, as far as possible, with the established medical infrastructure.
  3. We want a future for Ghana, and Africa generally, where pediatric surgery and psychiatry, which are among the most undeveloped and unsupported medical practices here, are brought up to an effective standard. Patients who present with these often live in poverty.
  4. We foresee a healthcare service, staffed by professionally trained care providers, where the affects of poverty, including malnutrition and stigmatization, are eradicated.

gye nyame mobile clinic Mission

'Gye Nyame' means strength. We use our strength to stand up for the most vulnerable in the community, and give them the respect and support they deserve. We strive to:

  1. Give sick children the chance to realize their potential by restoring them to balanced health.
  2. Ensure that every psychiatric patient has the most fitting treatment for his/her condition in order to lead a fulfilling and meaningful live.
  3. Reduce by 50 per cent mortality and morbidity in the under-fives from treatable diseases by 2020.
  4. Allow our patients the chance to escape their isolation by involving family and community members in their treatment and aftercare.
  5. Close the gap between the vulnerable and the poor in the community and the rest of society.
  6. Help people to help themselves.
gye nyame mobile clinic

"We chose to live and work in Ghana because it is a peace-loving, democratic and stable country, with generous people. And also because Britta and I met there…"
Ori speaking about his love of Ghana