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08.10.2008 Feature Article

``Dirty Rags in the Healing Art?``

Everybody in my circle of friends, and acquaintances, knows what I do for a living. They know too, that, I, like millions of our compatriots, want to be proud of our nation. But, I guess it's natural to say, no matter how long you might befriend someone, or stay in acquaintanceship with somebody, you might not get to know “all the likes, and dislikes” of one another.

From the aforementioned, it happens that, one day, someone you really like since you got to know each other, walks into your office, and after the “usual welcoming”, you ask what you could do for him/her. If it happens not to be “your day”, the following is what you may get: “O. Doc., I was just wondering, which place, (country), you would recommend I travel to. My back hurts since several years now, and I have seen many doctors here, but…………….. Would you too, recommend South Africa? Everybody seems to be going to South Africa, for health care matters, when they can afford it, and I can too!”

You are thrown into a tantrum; you may not easily come by the vocabulary, to express in your own words, what you may find distasteful. You make an undertaking to enlighten whoever it might be, that posed with the question. Your demise however, deepens when you achieve very little, in spite of gigantic efforts. Your very good friend is by no means impressed, if you don't see eye to eye with him, his unwavering motivation, to go to South Africa. You are really in trouble, when your visitor continues; “You know, Doc., it's just that my cousin recently lost his 23-year-old son”. My readers may at this juncture just allow me to sum up what I heard of this particularly pathetic episode.: One morning, the father of the 23-year-old “sensed” that, his son hadn't left the house, when he, the dad intended leaving around 7 o'clock, to pursue his daily chores. He walked over to his son's flat to find out, what the matter might be. He found the boy in bed, and when he inquired why he was not away to the Polytechnic he was enrolled in, he replied he was not well. Dad left for work, “having satisfied himself inanely, that the boy would be alright the next day. Not long after dad had left, his mom too coursed across the dining room, and discovered her son's breakfast was still on the table, untouched. She got startled, and rushed to his flat. The response from him was similar to what he had fed the dad with, less than an hour previously. She, though, got more involved, and arranged to send him to the nearest hospital.

Soon, she arrived with the young man, (mom at the wheels), at a place, believed to be busy, and “good too.” It took some time before the nursing staff at the CRW, (Casualty Recovery Ward), did get involved. Mom had not “lost her nerves”, but her “anxiety-pulse” did not stay the same. She paced up and down the corridor, from where she could see the upper portions of her son's hospital bed, or perhaps, a stretcher should be more appropriate.

At some stage, and that was exactly three hours after she had brought in “the poor young man,” she saw “some action” A drip had been set, and again, from the distance, she could observe the colorless fluid, getting less and less with time, and even without any knowledge in that kind of activity, the young man's mother got the impression that “the right thing was being done.” At that juncture, she left, after taking leave of the staff. Five in the evening, she returned to the hospital, with her husband, to visit the young man, as indeed, the nursing staff had advised they do. Inside the bag in her hand, was a flask-like container, with about half-a-litter of some light soup. The boy talked to his parents, not feeling any better than when he was brought in that morning, (it was more towards mid-day), but not worse either. “His condition was listed as stable.” Both parents sat with their son, until around 6 p.m. and the time had come for them to go home. They each “kissed” the young man good-bye, and departed, obviously with plans to return the next morning, and they were filled with optimism. At 9 p.m., however, their telephone rang, and it was a nurse at the hospital, informing the until then, not any longer so apprehensive parents, that the “Doctor would like to see them, immediately.”

Of course, they got to their garage, and off they drove to the hospital, carrying the strongest suspicion that, the doctor probably was going to send their son home prematurely, “because, his condition had improved.” They arrived at the scene, to discover that a cotton sheet in white color had been drawn over the entire body of their son, whom they had hoped would one day turn an Engineer, and they had earnest plans in that direction.

That hope, was of course, gone, for good. What usually follows next is the unpalatable chain of preparations, for the last journey, which for this boy, had come too soon.

It's understandable, when someone familiar with the saga of the 23-year-old man, would wish her hospital care better take place in another country, where such episodes as above, would not be so common. Naturally, nobody wants to have anything to do with “dirty rags”, and showing them, less so. Self praise was exhibited in a bluffing manner by the one-time African American Heavy-weight Boxer called Mohammad Ali, alias Cassius Clay.

He braggingly predicted the round in which he would knock out his opponent, and for many years, exactly what he predicted was what really happened. He thrilled fans and foes alike. But, other than that, the Germans have a saying that goes like this: “Eigenlob stinkt.” In English, you would say, “self-praise is egregious.” Ghana once had a boxer in some lighter-weight class, who bragged and performed so well, almost as excellently, as Mohammad Ali.

With us Ghanaians, football is where our Republic is observed to be a bragger-nation. If you go back in time, the substance should be found in 1957, when we could easily beat Nigeria, by seven goals to nil. In North Africa; Morocco and Tunisia both shivered, when they had to play Ghana. Lately though, when we win two matches out of four at a World-Cup Tournament, 2006, (the first time since 1957), the highest medallion the nation possesses is bestowed on the players, and at times, “we seem to have won, even when we have lost a tournament.” Is that the case in Health Care Delivery in the nation too? Well,…., just watch!

Most citizens in their sixth decennium remember the nation half-a-century ago, when the population was much smaller, (a quarter of what it is today), as when everything was resplendent. A medical school was established at Korle-Bu in 1962. Among the first graduates, a lot are sexagenarians and octogenarians today, but a lot others are already in the next world.

A larger portion of the pioneers moved for greener pastures, and stayed put, wherever they landed. Among those who were sent to study abroad, for lack of space back home, and many other reasons, hardly anybody returned. Another Medical School was added to the Premier less than ten years later, in Kumasi, on the premises of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology. Credit goes to Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and the “Big Six”, whom all Ghanaians are expected to know.

Prof. Easmon, the first Dean of Ghana's 1st Medical School, should be accorded a big chunk of the Laurels hereto. Foreign hands like Prof. Parry, (an Englishman), and 1st Dean of the Sister Medical in Kumasi, deserve God's Blessing too. The two schools have churned out eminent Doctors for “the world”, over the decennia. But the road to any effective health care delivery at home has been bumpy, and that is putting it civilly.

Other than Korle-Bu in Accra, and Komfo Anokye in Kumasi, a couple of Medium-size hospitals like Efie Nkwanta, Tetteh Quarshie Memorial, Koforidua Government Hospital, Agogo Presbyterian Hospital, established by the Government and Missions, now in their fifth decennium, were satisfactorily equipped, and were run at the time, similar to those found in Europe, which had been established just following World War II.

Indian and Eastern European Doctors had come to join in manning these institutions. But, not long thereafter, the effect of the cold war showed its ugly face in Africa, (and other 3rd world countries, not relevant to the present discussion), whereby Governments were overthrown, and among the institutions that suffered most were Health Care Outposts. The Military everywhere, needed the money of the national pot, almost all of it, to tense its muscles. The situation has stayed that way, almost until today. (To be continued)

_anonymous Columnist
_anonymous Columnist, © 2008

This author has authored 86 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: AnonymousColumnist

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