Every Ghanaian must have a birth certificate. You can get one from the Births and Deaths Registry. In fact it is by law, a required procedure parents must follow once a child is named and ready to face the world.
The fact that the Registry is under-resourced and inadequately kitted to manage thirty million Ghanaians is neither here nor there.
And the fact that not all Ghanaians have a birth certificate is no reason to ask that only certified born and authenticated Ghanaians with Voter ID cards should be entitled to a Ghana Card that makes you a credible Ghanaian.
We are past the stage when a Voter ID card is so bastardized it becomes a tool to deprive citizens the right of choice in an election.
But death is not the same opposite.
The unpalatable death of a seventy year old man last week, prompted us at OccupyGhana to offer Government an eleven point solution towards a better way to die in Ghana. Here we go.
There is an immediate need for a functioning and co-ordinated Emergency Response Service with a simple telephone number that every Ghanaian can remember. A recent poll shows that only 5% of the population is currently aware of the emergency number for an ambulance.
The Emergency Response Service should connect the caller to a Command Centre set up to direct calls to an ambulance service that is in touch with all medical facilities, and connect to the police, the fire service and NADMO.
OccupyGhana® calls for an immediate action plan to be drawn up by Government to prepare an Emergency Response Service fit for a 21st Century Ghana, within two years. The following points must be included and fully-funded:
- An Emergency Response Service with a Command Centre that fields calls, receives data from the hospitals about bed counts and is able to send out ambulances and paramedics to assist, stabilize and if needed, transport patients to appropriate hospitals. One simple emergency number is what we need;
- All hospitals should be able to care for emergency cases, but in the meantime, designate some hospitals as “Fit to Handle Emergencies;”
3. Government must shore up the NHIS to allow every Ghanaian to be given emergency care irrespective of the ability to pay;
- Hospitals designated as “Emergency Hospitals” should be equipped properly, including the ability to give Triage care. Equipping hospitals also means making sure they are well stocked with needed emergency drugs. This prevents delays in care that occur as family members go around town hunting for drugs to buy so that their loved ones can be treated in emergencies;
- There should be more community hospitals that can provide immediate basic primary and preventative care;
- The law should prevent hospitals turning patients away without proper reason and a strategy for dealing with that patient's care in another facility. Facilities and personnel who refuse to offer care to patients with life-threatening conditions should face sanctions;
- All doctors and nurses should be trained to stabilize, to a basic level, emergency patients, irrespective of the availability of beds and full emergency facilities;
- Even though lack of beds is not the only factor contributing to the refusal of care to sick Ghanaians at our hospitals, it is an important contributory factor. In a country where in-patient care still trumps out-patient care for a lot of ailments, having 0.9 patient-beds per 1000 people is on the low side. There are several unfinished hospitals like the UGMC that could add much-needed beds to the total count and alleviate some of the pressure. Even though we support the numerous calls to open these hospitals expeditiously, we also call on government to put in place mechanisms to optimize bed usage in the existing ones or else we would simply have more hospitals that refuse care because of “No Beds;”
9. Enough paramedics should be trained to be help stabilize and transport emergency cases to hospitals;
- There should be programs to educate the population on how to differentiate a true emergency from an illness that can be treated non-emergently. A good triaging system as part of an emergency response service should go a long way to help with this; and
11. Last but not least, we ask for sufficient ambulances to cover a population of 30 million.
We are mindful of the economic challenges posed by this proposal. But that is no excuse. If Ghana can afford hundreds of government 4×4 vehicles and police escort riders to push them through traffic, then Ghana can afford adequate ambulances to deal with emergencies AND address our list of points made here.
The tragic and unnecessary death of seventy-year-old Mr. Anthony Opoku Acheampong is already blood on our hands. Let us not indict ourselves further; this should be the catalyst for finally building a Ghanaian healthcare service of which we can all be proud. It is time for Ghana to have a 21st Century Emergency Response System. It is time for the government to ensure this, for medical personnel across the country to deliver the best version of it and for the Ghanaian population to demand it as of right.
A word to the wise.
By Sydney Casely Hayford