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14.01.2012 Opinion

Ghana should get health worker-patient relationship right

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Accra, Jan. 14, GNA – An old man was rushed to one of the country's hospitals, critically ill. The expectation of people at the medical facility was that he was going to enjoy prompt attention.

That was not the case! An angry nurse yelled at the old man for reporting late to the hospital in a critical condition.

This started a public debate about the attitude of health care providers, especially nurses, which is worrying and needs the attention of stakeholders.

The enmity between health care practitioners and patients has become a teething phenomenon, which needs to be addressed to improve on the health care delivery system.

The relationship between patients and their healthcare providers should involve mutual agreement and understanding so that a medical practitioner can solve the problem of his or her client in order to be fulfilled.

A study by the World Health Organisation shows that modern health care practice can only function when health care providers and patients' behave as partners.

Experience and research reveals that patients, who are informed, involved in the process of their treatment and whose rights are respected by health care practitioners, recover more quickly and have shorter stay in hospitals.

Co-operation in this sense should be education for patients on things they should know concerning their health and training workshops for health care providers to enlighten them on the ethics of their profession.

Health care providers must communicate effectively to the understanding of their clients while patients should also correspond well their illness for proper diagnosis and treatment.

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) Patient's Rights Charter states that “GHS is for all people living in Ghana irrespective of age, sex, ethnic background and religion”.

It also indicated that “in all healthcare activities the patient's dignity and interest must be paramount”.

The document said patients are entitled to information, consent, privacy and confidentiality.

The charter explained into details the rights of patients and how those rights go a long way to benefit them and should therefore be the concern of health professionals.

The question is; are these rights implemented and is the majority of the public aware of them?

Formulating the rights was not enough without regulating and implementing them; the two would have to move and complement each other.

What should be the concern of health authorities is how possible the rights would massively be enforced in the various health institutions nationwide and how practitioners could imbibe them in their daily practices and activities.

The charter made provision for patient's responsibilities, which states that “the patient should understand that he or she is responsible for his or her own health and should therefore co-operate fully with healthcare providers”.

Diseases are necessary evil which could never be avoided.

As a country we have witnessed cases where some health professionals through their negligence have conducted themselves unprofessionally, resulting in loss of lives and even disabilities.

Some of their actions and inactions are completely against the code of ethics of the health profession.

An aspect of the code of ethics says that “all service personnel shall be competent, dedicated, honest, client -focused and operates within the laws of the land”.

Sometimes the authorities do not hold responsible medical practitioners who go against the ethics or even when they do so, the public is not made aware of. ”

There is the need for a commission of enquiry to look into such issues.

If the health care provider-patient relations are healthy, a good rapport can be established in delicate situations.

Some health providers seek to have cordial relationship only with patients who are among the urban rich, neglecting the rural poor to their faith. So who helps the high number of impoverished people seeking medical attention?

Patients should not also take it as a privilege to abuse their rights because they think health care providers are suppose to have compassion for the sick.

Patients have to inform healthcare providers of any anticipated problems in following prescribed treatment or medical advice and respect the rights of other patients' and health care providers.

It is also a must for patients to protect the property of health facilities.

Among the rights entrenched in the GHS patients' charter, include: the patient has the right to quality basic health care irrespective of his or her geographical location.

Patients are entitled to full information on their condition, management and the possible risks involved, except in emergency situations when the patient is unable to make a decision and the need for treatment is urgent.

The patient in other words has the right to know the identity of all the caregivers and other persons who may handle him or her including students, trainees and ancillary workers.

The charter explained that patients have the right to consent or decline to participate in a proposed research study involving them after a full explanation has been given. The patient may withdraw at any stage of the research project.

A patient who declines to participate in or withdraws from a research project is permitted to the most effective care available.

The patient has the right to privacy during consultation, examination and treatment. In cases where it is necessary to use the patient or his/her case notes for teaching and conferences, the consent of the patient must be sought.

The patient is unrestricted to confidentiality of information obtained about him or her and such information shall not be disclosed to a third party without his or her consent or the person entitled to act on his or her behalf except where such information is required by law or is in the public interest.

Hospital charges, mode of payments and all forms of anticipated expenditure shall be explained to the patient prior to treatment.

Health care must be the concern of all Ghanaians and should be paramount in all the activities of the GHS.

A GNA Feature by Morkporkpor Anku

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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