13.03.17 | News, Three questions for

Three questions for...

Reverend Roger Wegurih, Chaplain at the Presbyterian Hospital in Bawku Ghana
Chaplain Roger Wegurih at Bawku Hospital

Roger Wegurih (right) visits a patient who receives support from the "Poor and Sick Fund". (Photo: EMS/Edwards-Raudonat)

As hospital chaplain, Reverend Roger Wegurih encounters people from different religions. He helps HIV positive persons who were abandoned by their families and supports patients who otherwise would not able to bear the cost of medical treatment. Wegurih, worked as Ecumenical Co-Worker with the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Wuerttemberg, Germany from 2013 - 2016. After returning to Ghana he became Chaplain at the Bawku hospital, the largest health facility of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. During his recent visit to Ghana, African Liaison Secretary Riley Edwards-Raudonat met Wegurih in Bawku.

What do you particularly enjoy about your work as a chaplain?

Particularly pleasing to me is the inter-faith aspect of my work. Here at Bawku Hospital, we have Christians, Muslims and traditional believers. In my work, I have ready access to all of them, regardless of their religious affiliation. This is due in part to the fact that in all three religions, healing has a spiritual dimension. This means that not only the Christians, but also the Muslims and the traditional believers are happy to engage in conversation with me concerning the religious aspect of their health situation. Let us take for example the problem of "bad death". For all of us in Ghana, death by drowning is considered to be "bad death", meaning that we have great difficulty accepting it. I recently counselled a young Muslim couple whose young child had accidentally drowned. The mother was quite fearful, worrying that God was angry with her, and that she would be punished more. I reminded her and her husband that according to the Koran, "God gives, but God also takes away." After some time, the husband agreed, saying to his wife "Let us go now. I will not blame you for this, and there will be no divorce." It was a joy to be able to counsel them, even though they are not Christians.

To what extent do you now deal with persons facing a life with HIV and AIDS?

The incidence of HIV and AIDS is still high here, though now that the medications have improved, those affected can still lead normal and productive lives. In Ghana, they receive the anti-retroviral drugs free of charge, even if they don't have health insurance. Still, they are stigmatised, and often find it difficult to gain employment. Often, they ask me for money to buy food. If I am able, I help them small. More difficult to assist are persons who deny their sickness, even to the point of death. Even after they have been tested and their status as HIV positive is without doubt, we have persons who refuse to accept the truth, and also refuse to take part in the anti-retroviral therapy. Eventually, their health collapses, and they may well be abandoned by their relatives as well. This means that I and the medical staff may be the only persons speaking to them.

Please describe the role of the EMS "Poor and Sick Fund" in your work.

Generally, persons in need of financial assistance are first identified as such at the Out-Patient Clinic. The nurses take notice of the fact that the person is alone, that the relatives are not providing support. Often, the nurses then bring me their medical folder and ask me to take up the matter. Even when the person has health insurance, there are often surcharges for treatment given. When they are uninsured, the cost of treatment is higher still. They may also need clothing and articles of personal hygiene. At this point the "Poor and Sick Fund" takes over the outstanding expenses.

The interview was conducted by Riley Edwards-Raudonat.

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