It is trite knowledge that diseases and sicknesses are consequentially an integral part of our daily lives. No matter how well we take good care of ourselves one can never escape the scathing sword of sicknesses and diseases. Indeed, diseases and sicknesses are no respecter of persons. They have no regard for gender, creed, race, ethnicity, religion, politics or social standing.
For many of us, when the unfortunate happens and we fall sick or we are bogged down by an ailment our first point of call is a health facility. Health facilities are ordinarily expected to be places of solace, tranquility and healing.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. The work being done by some of the health facilities across the length and breadth of this country leaves much to be desired in both public and private health facilities.
I have had an excruciatingly and unpleasant experience of losing two close relatives in recent times, one in February at a public facility and the other in August at a private facility. (Names withheld). This got me thinking deeply about how our very lives are virtually in the hands of health workers and how well they handle it determines our fate and survivability.
Quite often we read in both the mainstream and social media about the poor services being rendered by some hospitals in the country and until it happens to you directly or indirectly you might not appreciate or fully grasp the gravity of the sad reality in a lot of our health facilities.
Some of our compatriots who have been at receiving end of these poor services rendered by some health facilities mostly complain about rude, uncaring and unfriendly medical staff and how their negligence wreaks havoc on innocent citizens of this country.
Others also complain bitterly about substandard medical facilities as well as medical staff whose handling of patients begs the question whether they are duly trained and certificated medical professionals or not!
The actions and inaction of medical staff in our medical facilities are partly to blame for the high mortality rates being recorded in some of our medical facilities across the country.
The administration of wrong medications, wrong dosages and application rates as well as wrong surgical procedures have killed and maimed too many of our people and we should all be concerned since we are all at risk of dying needless deaths from substandard medical facilities and incompetent medical staff.
Why on earth should one visit a health facility in times of sickness without returning home hale and hearty? For me, the number of deaths being recorded in some of our health facilities in recent times is way too many and this calls for urgent probe into the activities of our health facilities.
For instance, on 18th February this year, a 40-year-old male relative of mine was suddenly taken ill and was admitted at a public health facility and in less than 10 hours he was gone just like that. I have a strong feeling that he could have been saved but for the negligence and inaction on the part of the medical handlers. Around 11pm a particular drug was administered to the patient whose breathing was being supported with oxygen only for his breathing to sharply and irregularly rise and fall and in less than a minute after a particular drug was administered, he was already gone and the usual we are sorry bla bla bla was re-echoed quite painfully.
As if that was not enough, just last month my 44-year-old big sister walked into a private facility somewhere in Kumasi for myomectomy. She was not 'sick', she was hale and hearty. The surgical process I am told was successfully done on Sunday only for her health to deteriorate afterwards and by Thursday she was also gone painfully just like that.
In both of these scenarios from a layman in the medical profession's point of view I could draw conclusions of ineptitude coupled with negligence and of course lack of respect and responsibility for human lives as the common risk factor that played out
It is therefore not surprising knowing people travel outside the country just to access good quality medical care which involves huge sum of money. But the question is what about the masses who do not have the wherewithal to access quality health care from outside the country? Should we continue to die needlessly like some experimental guinea pigs? What are we doing as a people to also create a congenial medical atmosphere in our country for the good people of this country so we stop dying like chickens?
Most medical people have no sense of responsibility for human lives. They kill patients needlessly in our medical facilities through their actions and inactions ostensibly because they are sure to get away with it! I believe naming and shaming medical personnel and facilities who are negligent in the discharge of their duties as well as other stringent punitive actions against culprits would go a long way to sanitize the system for better healthcare delivery system.
As it stands now fighting one's way through the justice delivery in case of medical negligence is an uphill task. Special courts should be designated to handle cases of medical negligence and infractions for victims and their families to be able to seek redress.
To this end, I would like to urge the Ghana Health Service (GHS) which has the supervisory and regulatory authority over all health facilities in the country to intensify supervision, monitoring and evaluation of all health facilities in the country and deal drastically with non performing facilities. This is about human lives and absolutely nothing should be left to chance. I am sure if GHS start closing down medical facilities for just a single human life lost negligently our handlers of medical facilities would begin to sit up.
Ghana Medical Association (GMA), The Ghana Medical and Dental Council, The Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) and all other professional bodies within Ghana’s medical space to admonish their members to ensure the highest standards of ethics and professionalism for the betterment of our health delivery and administration system. These professional bodies I believe should endeavour to crack the whip and withdraw the license of members who breach their code of conduct and ethics.
I would like to urge the government to work around the clock to ensure our medical infrastructure are up to scratch whether in urban or rural areas for efficient health administration system. Also, government must work hard to ensure a proper and well-functioning and above all a sustainable National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to save more lives especially in low-income groups. Remember this is about human lives and we need to do everything within our power to make our NHIS one of the best if not the best in our subregion.
Again, government should ensure the availability of basic drugs in our health facilities. It is sad to visit some facilities like Community Health and Planning Services (CHPS) compounds, Health, Centers, Clinics and Even Hospitals only to be given prescription to buy your drugs from outside the facility. Indeed, this situation makes a mockery of the emergency services being delivered by these facilities. What is the usefulness of the emergency unit of any medical facility with basic drugs to respond to cases. The issue of fake drugs purchased by our central medical stores and supplied to health facilities especially public health facilities should also be looked at for the betterment of our health administration system.
The "No Bed" syndrome in our health facilities continue to be a blot on our collective conscience as a people and there should be a deliberate and well calculated plan in place to ensure that going forward the "No Bed" syndrome would be a thing of the past. Never again should any patient visit any facility and sleep on the floor, on a bench or in a plastic chair. We have come too far as a nation to allow such avoidable and disgraceful incidences to be part of the narrative. Let us all tell ourselves Never Again!
Let me quickly add that of course there are some medical facilities and medical staff who are doing a great job and doing their best to save lives and we doff our hearts for them for saving lives to the best of their abilities. Kudos to all those who are holding high the flag of the medical profession and putting our country on a pedestal despite the challenges. We are grateful for the great job you guys are doing.
Let us all put our hands to the wheel and make our country a better place to live in. God bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.
Felix Kwame Quainoo
The writer is a freelancer from Aboso in the Western Region.