Dispelling Myths and Saving Lives: Inside the Kaneshie Polyclinic

Ayeley Quaye, a 34-year-old fishmonger, sat inside the Kaneshie Polyclinic in Accra, Ghana, and shared her fear that the contraceptive method she sought might somehow kill her. As the nurse in charge of the family planning ward at the busy clinic, Matilda Quist knew just how to explain to Ayeley that what she had heard was untrue: Her IUD would not break free and enter her heart, but it would prevent her from more unwanted pregnancies. By the time Ayeley left the clinic, her confidence was renewed.

Similar scenes play out daily at the Kaneshie Polyclinic, where Matilda and a team of health care professionals serve an area with a population of some 340,000 people. With EngenderHealth’s support, Matilda and the other nurses are able to offer a range of family planning methods, along with maternal care and other health services.

Matilda sees up to 25 clients a day, counseling them about all contraceptive methods and when needed, as in the case of Ayeley Quaye, dispelling myths about how they work. Matilda’s efforts help thousands of women and men plan and provide for their families—and prevent needless maternal and newborn deaths. Here, as elsewhere in Africa, family planning services can mean the difference between life and death.

Matilda learned this firsthand. Years ago, while working as a midwife, Matilda witnessed a woman die in front of her after giving birth for the 10th time. The newborn’s father refused to care for his child, and only reluctantly did extended relatives agree to do so. “All the doctors and nurses were very sad, and one of them said family planning would have prevented the mother’s death,” Matilda recalls. “At that moment, I became committed to offering family planning services to both men and women as a way to save lives.”

Matilda’s dedication is apparent in her daily work at Kaneshie. The clinic is one of more than 200 health facilities across Ghana where EngenderHealth and its partners are collaborating to improve the quality of family planning services. EngenderHealth works with the clinic to ensure the availability of essential equipment—including insertion and removal kits for the intrauterine device (IUD) and the hormonal implant—as well as informational posters and pamphlets that help Matilda and the other nurses counsel clients. EngenderHealth’s medical consultants doctors visit the clinic periodically to support staff, strengthening their own ability to train others and improve services.

“EngenderHealth helps us do the right thing,” says Matilda, adding that trainings organized by EngenderHealth have helped ensure that there is always a skilled health provider available to serve the clinic’s many clients.

According to Matilda, clients seek out the services at Kaneshie because they have heard about the clinic’s high standards and they know their privacy will be protected. Satisfied clients often refer friends and neighbors—clients like Veronica Owusu, who was so pleased with the services she received that she volunteered for an EngenderHealth-sponsored training to become a peer educator. “The staff are so nice to everyone who comes to their clinic, they have the patience to explain all of the contraceptive methods so well,” says Veronica. “That’s why I always refer people here.”

And so does another satisfied client: Ayeley Quaye.

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