Medical care is one important aspect of human life that has led many governments across the world, if not all, to one way or the other, invest in medical facilities and equipment to deal with issues of health of citizens. No matter the political ideological motivations that underpins a government, the health of the people remain paramount. Indeed, a healthy nation they say, is a wealthy nation. This is engrained from the belief that when people are healthy, they can undertake economic activities that eventually brings bearing on the economic performance of any nation.
In Ghana, several coordinated efforts have been put into ensuring modern medical facilities with their attendant equipment to ensure safer healthcare delivery to the people. I must note the presence and significance of private medical facilities dotted across parts of the country, all aimed at providing the best healthcare to people at “affordable costs”.
So much was the commitment of government in ensuring affordable healthcare that the National Health Insurance Scheme was piloted and later introduced to ensure that the people of Ghana are able to access quality healthcare at the best affordable cost. I must note however, that, the purpose of this whole scheme is also being misused. I would spare a few thoughts on why I think so.
Today, you hardly could find a medicine that costs Ghc40 (less than US$7) and above, being issued on national health insurance account. Medications that are considered a bit “expensive”, are suddenly not available at hospital pharmacies. Funny enough, some of the pharmacists at those facilities, are able to refer you to a pharmacy they think you could get those prescriptions to buy.
This kind of system, based on its current establishment, may lead to the state losing money. Let us assume for instance, that I have been prescribed a medication that cost Ghc100 (US$14) to obtain from a hospital pharmacy under the Health Insurance Scheme, which I did not get from the hospital, and I have to visit a pharmacy to acquire, how is that unavailable medication at the hospital pharmacy gets treated?
For my candid view, hospitals cannot help an effective health insurance accountability in our current system without the national health insurance office having an office stationed in those facilities. Government has found an easy way to introduce capitation which in my candid view, solves nothing. Here again, if a hospital knows that they have been allocated Ghc1 million in claims, whether exhausted or under-spent, it would be expected that the hospitals would do everything possible to ensure that they spend lower to be able to make profit on the monies to be released by government. Under such circumstances, it can be expected that common drugs could be declared unavailable.
What I think could resolve this completely is that, if health insurance offices are located in hospitals, every patient who visits the hospital for service delivery on the health insurance scheme, could walk to their office after service delivery and have the records of medication delivered on the scheme recorded to aid in accounting for the exact amounts to be funded by the health insurance scheme.
Back to the very subject, the previous administration under His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, invested some two billion dollars (US$2 billion) the equivalent of about Ghc8 billion at the time, in lifting the image of government hospitals. That exercise resulted in the construction of the University of Ghana Medical Center (UGMC), the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, the Dodowa District Hospital, the Maritime Hospital, among others, with the construction of several polyclinics, district hospitals, regional hospitals, and CHPS Compounds. The commitment was simply to ensure the provision of hospitals as close to the people as possible.
The specific case of the Ridge Hospital, which is named the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, was to ensure that the pressure on the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, was minimized while maintaining that facility as the nation’s number one referral specialist hospital. The Ridge Hospital had seen its old structures demolished and a new modern medical block established from scratch. The first phase was completed and handed over in November 2016. The block underwent some synchronization and training as it was the first of its kind, (a paperless facility) which required training for its users.
However, since its opening to the general public and subsequent operation, it has recorded some unfortunate cases that brings to question, the need for such a facility if negligence and attitude to work would result in the loss of precious lives.
It has become common for those who have had experience in that hospital, to question your rationality of sending a sick relative to that hospital when the life of the person is at stake. People could easily ask you “do you want her to die for taking her to that hospital?”.
Naturally, we could understand the enthusiasm that would lead the public to take their relatives to that hospital because they see it new, and believe it has what it takes to provide the needed quality healthcare. But, upon experiences from some, it could be the worst decision to take a sick relative to that hospital on matters of life and death.
Recently, a colleague whose partner delivered at the hospital, had cause to complain bitterly to me over how unserious the medical staff were conducting themselves on his woman who had some complications during child birth. Another colleague also had cause to inform me how he resisted an attempt to refer his partner to the Ridge Hospital. According to him, based on sampled opinions, he feared losing his partner over medical negligence and recklessness in that facility. He told me that when the doctors at where his wife delivered mooted the idea of a possible transfer of his partner to Ridge, these were his words “I beg you, whatever you think Ridge could do to save her life, kindly do it here for me”. This, according to him, was because he feared losing the woman he cherishes. For an individual to pass such a comment on a new facility like Ridge, it tells a lot of what people make of the facility.
I have also picked concerns from a colleague who had a relative admitted at the hospital who recounted how, but for the fact that he has some experience in medical care, he could have lost his mother. He could clearly see how nurses were going about their businesses without any sense of urgency and concern. According to him, his relative, after having gone through a painful surgery, has only been administered paracetamol as part of the pain management protocol. He was able to go through the prescriptions and found that the doctor actually prescribed something else which was more effective, but the nurse was so negligent that she only came to administer what she felt to administer.
This takes me to two significant issues that became viral in our national discourse. There was an incident of one Mustapha Mohammed who lost his wife and baby at the Ridge Hospital due to negligence arising from a Caesarean exercise that his wife had had to undergo. The complaints were so bad that the man felt the hospital staff and those detailed to work on his wife, did not show care and had to result in her death. As a result, he proceeded to sue the hospital for a Ghc5 million (USD800,000 thereabouts) damages.
The second issue has to do with one Mr. Emmanuel Kuto, the Director of the Ghana Institute of Languages who lost his wife over what he described as wrong medication to his wife. According to him, though he had no means to confirm that his wife was administered wrong medication, he could gather from a phone conversation between the doctor and a nurse that the wrong medication was administered to his wife by the nurse, contrary to what the doctor actually prescribed.
Medical care is an important aspect of sustaining human life. Aside the beautiful edifices and wonderful equipment, if the human resource attitude to work is wrong, every other outcome would be wrong. The expenditure incurred by the state is therefore unjustified. Meanwhile, these investments, aside aiming at providing world-class hospitals for medical care, are also aimed at providing jobs to our compatriots in the medical and healthcare fields.
The Dodowa Hospital is one facility I thought could be a perfect example. But, in a discussion also with a colleague recently, she lost two of her colleagues during childbirths, one paralyzed and the other currently battling fistula. The unfortunate part is that, all these four individuals were/are nurses, who chose the Dodowa hospital for their antenatal because they also thought it was new and could provide them the best care.
I am greatly concerned over the damage we could be doing our nation if attitude in these modern hospitals do not proportionate with the edifices we spent taxes to build. Our modern hospital facilities, must not and cannot be reduced to death traps.
I am not by this article, suggesting that all staff of these facilities are the same. There are those who have taken their calling serious and dealing with human beings in accordance with their professional dictates. I wish to congratulate all such people. They must rise up and help clear the system of their colleagues whose actions are bringing a dent on their collective image.
The most devastating of all is that when issues of complaints are raised, they are mainly presided over and ruled upon by the same institutions. I do not think this speaks well. This cannot guarantee a fair outcome and portends a likelihood to cover up. As a result, I have carefully examined the promise made by the John Mahama manifesto to establish a Patient’s Protection Council which is aimed at implementing fully, the Patient’s Rights Charter. I believe this would provide the independence in bringing finalities to issues that arises from medical negligence among others.
Our new and modern medical facilities must live up to expectations. As our citizens see new medical facilities spring up in their areas, we must ensure that the confidence such structures comes with, accompany them to assure our citizens that we are making progress in our medical care and the commitment by government to deliver same.