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07.02.2009 Health

Recklessness in Ghana's Private Hospitals

By Kwabena Mprah Jnr

Anytime I visit a hospital in Ghana, I begin to ask myself whether we are really serious as a people. I question myself because the attitude of health professionals in many of the facilities mimics characters readying themselves for a situation comedy in an amphitheatre.

To describe some of the doctors in the facilities as being reckless might be an understatement. Some of the doctors treat you as though you are just a guinea pig – they experiment with your life!

The other day, I fell sick and was rushed to a private health facility in the East Legon suburb. After waiting for more than 30 minutes in the out patients department (OPD), a nurse came and took my details. It took at least one hour for me to see the doctor. You could imagine the pain I went through for the 60 odd minutes I had to wait before seeing the doctor because nobody thought my situation was an emergency!

Then bam! I met this young doctor. The doctor was as rude as the word itself. His line of inquiry looked as though, for falling ill, I had committed a high crime, punishable by hanging. At the end of my 'trials' in the hands of that green doctor, I realised that he was just naïve.

My wife who is a university teacher herself cautioned me about the seeming nervousness written in the face the physician. Despite all the chest pains I had, the doctor never saw it prudent to use his stethoscope. He never even touched me.

He rather went on and on asking me very 'silly' questions. After all the gruelling questions, he then started reading through a text book. Oh my God, why on earth should a doctor go back to school just to be able to diagnose my ailment? Thank God I survived!

That doctor's 'misbehaviour' reminded me of how a dentist scared the hell out of me around 2004. I went to the 37 Military Hospital to get a molar pulled out, after it worried me for years.

After they had carried out the dental surgery (which was of course recklessly done by the civilian doctor), I went straight home. For three nights, I could not sleep. Not even the several kilos of pain killers could assuage the blazing fires in my skull.

So, I decided to go back to the same facility for a check up. I was very 'unfortunate' to have met the same civilian doctor who handled me during my first call.

I narrated my ordeal to the dentist. He quickly told me that I was not a doctor so I should not have told him that I felt some of the remains of the molar might be hiding somewhere in my gum! He went on, if you don't keep quiet, I would leave the remains so that you'd die! I saw death stirring at me and I told God, if I don't die, that should be the last time I visited that health facility. Indeed, since then, I have never visited the 37 Military Hospital!

The 37 Military Hospital is not a private facility, but there is horrendous recklessness across board at our hospitals. Just that I thought the private facilities should deliver excellent services because they charge more.

In recent weeks, I have heard very horrifying stories from patients who were just treated like elements meant for laboratory work. The story of the woman who walked into the Joy FM studios to narrate her ordeal at the hands of a gynaecologist at the Family Life Hospital in Teshie cannot go without mention.

I loved the bravery of that woman! But the question is how many women or even men could muster that type of courage? How many of us should be walking up to radio stations to narrate our 'trials by ordeal' in the hands of reckless medical practitioners?

As for the answers given by the secretary of the Medical Association about the incident at the Family Life Hospital, the least said about them, the better! The doctors think they are the only folks who need to be protected!

Before I digress, a lot has happened to me and people very close to me at the Holy Trinity Hospital in the past several months. I would mention just one.

On January 15, 2009, a friend who works with one reputable financial institution in town went with the wife for some check ups at the Holy Trinity Hospital. After waiting for three (3) odd hours, they met a gynaecologist who after prescribing some drugs, asked my friend's wife to undertake some lab tests.

They waited for nearly 30 minutes just to collect the prescribed drugs from the hospital's pharmacy. My friend, who also had customers to attend to in his office then decided that, enough was enough so he took his prescription form and went to another pharmacy in town to purchase the drugs!

His wife's blood sample was taken the next day, Friday, January 16, 2009 with a promise for the results to be picked up the next Friday, January 23. My friend, a very busy professional, could not go on the scheduled date.

He went 'for the results' on Monday, January 26, 2009. Upon reaching the hospital, my friend and the wife were given a very rude shock when they were told that the lab tests were “not ready due to a shortage of reagents in our lab”.

The lab technician then told my friend to go back and call him the next Friday “to check whether the results are ready?” Well, my friends never called at that facility again! This and all the other narratives aren't fairy tales!

My friends who visited the Holy Trinity Hospital even told me that I should write their names in this piece! My friend whose wife's blood sample could not be analysed because of the lack of reagents even told me about how a very 'uncouth' nurse laughed at him for dozing off in the lobby of that same hospital. I want to believe that it's a crime to 'nod your head a few times' if you're drowsy!

As I write this article, there is a raging debate in Ghana on why some pregnant women in the Central Region prefer prayer camps to the hospitals! I think that the debate is totally misplaced. If the hospitals were that good, why do the politicians continue to fly out of the country anytime they are afflicted by the most basic ailments?

I have told a few friends of mine several times that, we are living under grace in Africa. But for grace, our entire Continent would have become extinct long ago! Can you just imagine what would happen if there is a hurricane in the proportion of a Katrina in any part of Africa?

Can you just imagine what would happen if there is an earthquake that measures just one half of the type that happens in Japan?

My advice to those women in Winneba is that they should blend orthodox medicine with divine intervention. Of course that's what I do!

The woman should pray, because if those of us who can truly pay for health care are treated like nobodies, then I wonder what these hapless women in Efutu would be getting in the hands of Ghanaian doctors and nurses. The hapless pregnant women would get hell if they don't pray!

Credit: Kwabena Mprah Jnr
Email: [email protected]