RE: Video: Waiting to die
Feature Article of Sunday, 20 January 2013
Columnist: Larson, Abby
RE: Video: Waiting to die: The Harrowing Exposé of Emergency Care in Ghana
Mr. Manasseh Azure Awuni’s excellent piece of 01/05/2013 brought tears and shock to many of us who watched his documentary. Even though Mr. Awuni has done a great job exposing the deplorable state of access to healthcare as well as exposing the corruption in the heath sector, none of it will matter if government and other stakeholders continually turn a blind eye to it all. That is not to say we should relent on pointing out the hard truths that will help improve services in general. Watch video below: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=261300
The government had not taken any serious look at the perils Ghanaians go through to access healthcare. Emergency systems are almost nonexistent up until recently and we still have a long way to go. It is such that when there is an accident, you are on your own and you have two choices: take a taxi and go seek medical attention by yourself or go home and treat your injuries with hot water and Robb (heat ointment). The complications that arise from not having urgent care will later kill the victim and our folks are like, oh! nothing happened; he just had a headache, stomachache etc and died! Of course something did happen to the victim during the accident and immediate and professional care saves a lot of lives. That is what plagues our healthcare system including negative provider attitude, thus Mr. Awuni’s headline ‘Waiting to die’.
Being a medical practitioner is not just passing exams. Your first and foremost obligation is to save lives, then your people skills and empathy for human suffering. Your communication skills and respect for human dignity plays a huge role in being an excellent doctor, nurse etc. Your support, dedication and care for the patients lift their spirits and a good percentage of their healing starts from there.
But how many doctors and nurses exhibit even two of the above traits? There is hardly any empathy in health practitioners in Ghana. Doctors and nurses, when you go on strike to demand more pay, could you also demand refresher courses to improve healthcare delivery and reassess the services you render to the populace?
A lot of emphasis should be placed on customer service as well as communication skills for doctors and nurses. It is disheartening and disgusting when you observe how people are treated in our medical facilities especially, the poor and average Ghanaians. Most doctors don’t explain patients’ conditions clearly to them, patients cannot question the doctor and there is hardly any updates presented to patients. Most nurses and nurses’ assistants (green clad ones) are so rude and unprofessional and inmost cases verbally abusive to patients.Yet these same practitioners will go abroad and offer world-class customer service to patients because their continuous employment depends on how they treat patients. What is wrong with our mindset? There have been cases where people have preferred to stay home instead of seeking medical help to avoid being embarrassed and belittled. There is absolutely no disciplinary action in place for nurses and doctors misbehavior. Dealing with people can be stressful and with patients, it could be more stressful but it comes with the job. Medical job descriptions should include ability to work under pressure and has to be a preferred requirement.
Nursing is not for everybody!
Professional ethics is almost nonexistent. Consider a doctor who will pick a private call in front of his patient, a nurse screaming at a patient for not responding properly or loud enough to her call, a midwife demanding ‘gifts’ for a good job done. The private clinics aren’t any better regarding work ethics and customer service. Why would you demand bribes to do your job? How shameful it was seeing the nurse in the video insisting they cannot take the patient because there is neither bed nor a stretcher, however after paying a bribe a stretcher magically emerges!This is a patient who had been in a coma for five days. Ghana! Ghanaians, when are we going to learn to take care of our own and not foreigners alone? Based on ability to pay, a patient is asked if she will prefer further laboratory test or just take a prescription based on obvious symptoms.
Ghana’s been lauded for hospitality worldwide except that it does not affect the ordinary citizen. It is definitely a welcoming society but for attitude and mentality. Most workers feel they’re doing a customer a favor by providing services. In Ghana Professionalism=arrogance. It is funny how we never learn. If you’ve been to an African market abroad you will notice the same attitude towards customers. Having lived abroad and experienced western customer service, these African market owners haven’t learnt a thing to improve customer relation in an engaging manner. It is really sickening. The attitude is, buy if you want to or just leave. Only foreigners, the rich and famous receive good customer service in Ghana and are heartily welcomed.
The universities have to expand access to nursing degree programs to train more degree nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to help minimize the huge gap ratio of doctor to patient in the country. Admit and train passionate and ethical students to be the face of a new dawn in Ghanaian healthcare. Do away with bribery and corruption in the admission of students which block the chances of passionate people who really want to serve. Increase facilities at the medical schools and stay abreast with new medical practices, equipment and create incentives to encourage more specialization in fields like neurology, urology, oncology, nephrology, etc. As a country we should denounce the practice where students who did not pass exams well enough rather gain easy admission to teacher training colleges, nursing, etc. Remember that classmate who did not gain admission to the university (especially because they did not make the grades) so attends a training college instead? How about those who went to medical school and law school because they knew somebody or paid bribes? What quality of professionals are we producing? Such is our society.
It’s amazing how politicians, many of whom lived and or studied abroad do not try to implement the good services they experienced or had seen to better our lives. Their wives give birth abroad and they know how good the service is. Is it that politicians look down on the citizens that put them there or they just are selfish and are only there to amass wealth? If the government will make a commitment to equipping district or regional hospitals with better facilities, some of the plight witnessed in the video could be avoided. How long does an accident victim have to wait for care in order to survive? That is why we need well equipped hospitals in all theregions so there wouldn’t be need for transferring patients all the way to Accra especially since we don’t have air ambulance services.
To begin with, every regional hospital has to be upgraded to Korle-Bu standards with better facilities and staffed with professionals. Why should the whole country of twenty-five million rely on just one better equipped hospital? The country’s priorities have been displaced for far too long. If corruption is reduced by just 25%, this dream of state of the art hospitals for every region can be realized. Better still, since government institutions are taken for granted by lackadaisical workers, healthcare should be privatized. Professionalism would be upheld, customer service will improve and the citizens will have a right to excellent service because then, patients can sue for negligence. If medical personal are liable for their actions and inactions, they will do and serve better. Invite investors to invest in healthcare, real standard hospitals not a proliferation of small clinics that hardly serve the purpose. Other Africans will come in for services just like we’re patronizing South African health services and this will grow the economy too. There will be more job opportunities to reduce unemployment.
The percentage of avoidable deaths such as misdiagnosis, negligence and delay in emergency care will be greatly reduced. Let’s learn to care for the sick and ourselves just as we do to foreigners and when we work abroad. Spread that love to reach our own and business owners and service providers in Ghana should value customers knowing that without customers, there wouldn’t be businesses.
We could have well-trained doctors, specialists, state of the art equipped hospitals but if the corruption and attitude does not change, it wouldn’t matter at all to the average Ghanaian that seeks medical care. While we look forward to better and improved hospitals, let’s hope all Ghanaians will learn the value of the customer and provide services regardless of social status with respect and dedication, reduce bribery to make room for well qualified candidates especially in sensitive areas where human life will be at stake.