Fri, 19 Mar 2010 Feature Article

Mumble in Healthcare Delivery!

Mumble in Healthcare Delivery!

On a visit to some districts in our Republic some time in 2009, I got caught in a discussion, which initially, should not have been of that much interest to me, or anybody for that matter, but it did so nevertheless, because I thought I had suddenly landed on a different planet, similar to Neil Armstrong and his team landing on the moon in July 29, 1969.

The story you are about to hear is true! In the district in question, lives a man, who starting life as an unskilled labourer, has worked his way up and turned into a “traditional healer,” but one par excellence! People with broken bones, acquired through accidents (falls, or high velocity accidents where motor vehicles are involved), it doesn't matter what or whom “conventional doctors” have supposedly not been able to help, troop to this super-talented healer.

He requests an x-ray exposure, which gets done in a hospital (in this particular narrative, in a district hospital). He “evaluates” the x-rays, and then initiates his treatment, which is better than if the injured person had been to a hospital. It doesn't stop there.

Those suffering from degenerative processes such as waist-pains, knee pains, ankle pains, neck pains, back pains - the list seems endless - all are referred, by whom? They all get to him. You might never get to know.

It seems heaven does know, and the list seems endless. It was added that his patients have initially been to hospitals, “but they could not be helped, let alone cured.” It stands to reason that, “such an individual exists for them.”

He “sees you”, and what he does first cannot even be guessed, but he ends by asking for the x-ray, which gets done, and once done, the rest is “child's play” for him.

Ordinarily, if you happen to acquire the skills of the man who should be called a Radiologist, you ought to have undergone a training (a post-graduate training), that is four years, but at times, five in duration, after you have graduated from medical school, you must have passed an exam, which you may, by no means, take for granted.

The gentleman I am talking about doesn't need to worry about such an exam. He is exempt, right from the start, for being where he is and doing what he does. His clientele, I was made to understand, include the elite of our society, people that have been to Europe or America (at times they have been both places), but they could not be helped.

In such an entity as the one under scrutiny, all is settled in a matter of minutes. I have been trying to dissect what I heard on that weekend-visit, and I must say, I have had sleepless nights over it, and even till today, quite a time since the encounter, I am just as worried as I was from the beginning.

In trying to infuse quality in the healthcare delivery of our since half-a-century liberated Republic, the Ghana Medical and Dental Association, and the College of Surgeons and Physicians, have lately established a board that sits and examines Ghanaians who did not have their primary medical training in Ghana, as well as foreigners who trained abroad, but for one or many of a dozen reasons would like to work in Ghana.

This “Examining Board” has the prerequisite of passing them, or failing them. Imagine a scenario in which a man or woman had practiced in Berlin, New York City, London, or Paris for thirty years, and he/she has been through all upgrading exams that would be required in those places, and has managed to pass them all, as required.

He/she may one day feel he would like to get back to his original home, and in the evening of his life contribute somewhat in his/her own way to “nation building.” A candidate like the one I have just described may not pass the exam in Ghana, implying that he legally cannot work here until such time that he/she may fulfill the requirement.

There is basically nothing wrong in a country establishing some kind of regulations that should streamline the standard of practice in any professional group. The health-related professions better stay on top of such “streamlining” - all should agree.

If you want to work in America, you sit an exam called “Examination Council For Foreign Medical Graduates” acronymed, ECFMG, that on one hand. On the other hand exists a scenario whereby one may act as though he/she was trained in a conventional medical school, when indeed he was not.

Is this kind of situation of any advantage to the Republic? Since five years, about a dozen of “fake Physicians” have been “unmasked” in Ghana.

The most audacious among them attended a medical conference in a foreign country, posing as a delegate from Ghana. Another took his own life as the police was closing in on him. It seems so easy, to pose as a medical doctor in Ghana, and there must be some emolument, “cum dignitas”.

Even though medicine is not the most gratifying profession in the world, and that includes the mighty USA, it has nevertheless stayed on top of the list of the most “cried for” professions in America for almost two hundred years running. For example, top ranking Computer Engineers working with Chairman Bill Gates could earn as much as US$500 million gross/year.

In America, Brain Surgeons, and Cardiac Surgeons, who are said to be the top-earners don't come anywhere near. So, exactly what is the attraction with medicine? Many reasons! Life is precious, right? Aristotle Onasis, “the Greek Tycoon” who married President Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, appealed to his American Physician at the American Hospital in Paris, “to save his life and take 50% of his hard-won fortunes.”

“Onasis was the third richest man on earth at the time.” The situation in Ghana, where it seems the easiest thing to do is “to fake” into the field of medicine, is “dastardly worrying” to say the least! History's famed Doctors, (e.g. Dr. Albert Schweitzer) was both a Doctor, and an Ordained Priest).

In Ghana, you only need to receive training at the Seminary, the healing portion you can just add yourself. Whereas Jesus healed “instantly”, it is weeks, sometimes, months of prayer camp activities, at untold costs.

So, whom should it surprise, when Nigeria has had a medical school since 30 years, but their Chief Executive (Head of State) must be flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment of a “mystery disease?” Saudi Arabia's oldest medical schools are not yet 30 years old, and Ghanaian and Nigerian Lecturers trained their doctors.

I can imagine how the Saudis would be enjoying their giggles, as every morning the famous of their doctors would be enjoying their over-sweetened tea sections at the common room of the VIP ward at the clinic where President Yar Adua was “receiving” treatment.

Presently, how do we take it, as men and women of the medical profession in Africa, and especially West Africa? Do we even talk about it, or have we resigned to our fate? At most funerals, the obituary you would read would go like this: Madam Akosua Sarpomaa, aged 51 years, whose death after a short illness, took place at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

The cause of death is most of the time not known, not even to the hospital where it took place. The Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital shares the fatalities with her sister institution in Accra.

During the period that the Nigerian Head of State was overseas for treatment, a former Ghanaian Cabinet Minister had been flown to Israel for treatment, he died unfortunately.

Barely over a year ago, another Cabinet Minister from Ghana was flown to South Africa, and he too died of…? King Fahd Ibn Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, whose tail of life on earth was plagued with complications of diabetes mellitus and arterial hypertension, was treated for years by doctors in his country until he finally died, almost at 90, some four years ago.

Don't we need (especially those in the medical profession), to try and bring some “sanitation” (not necessarily sanity), in healthcare delivery, and especially, an end to the pervasive “Meccarization” of the Ghanaian elite, who and when they may need healthcare?

Credit: Dr. Kofi Dankyi Beeko. MD/Chronicle
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