Ghana’s anemic health system!

Ghana's anemic health system!

Somewhere in the long and frustrating traffic around Achimota, a cabbie was frantically honking to be allowed to meander his way to the nearest health facility. Lying on the backseat is a pregnant woman who appears to be in labour. Every passing minute leaves the driver a more desperate person.

From pregnant women, to dying persons, or accident victims, many have had to endure a very torturous road to the nearest health facility at the back of discomforting taxis rather than ambulances where they would have received first aid treatment.

Many, especially accident victims, who have made this torturous journey have not been lucky to have survived while those who did, suffered complications due to the manner they were handled particularly by the non-paramedics – people who have little or no idea about first aid.

“Taxi-ambulance” is a very common occurrence in Ghana. Some even argue that they are more popular than our regular ambulance services. I won’t be surprised. Anytime we’re in a traffic jam and we hear a frantic honking of a taxi, we just know we have to give way. Of course we know there’s someone in there who needs immediate medical treatment.

The National Ambulance Service was established under the General Health Services Act, 2011. The service was mandated to provide emergency healthcare service or pre-hospital care services. Due to the critical function of the service, the Act stipulated its decentralisation to make it readily accessible.

Ideally, in a typical emergency situation, one should be able to call the ambulance service and expect a swift response. A fast and reliable service. But realistically, to rely on the ambulance service in times of emergency is tantamount to a death sentence. It’s highly not advisable!

Last week, my colleague here at the B&FT, Tanko, met his untimely death in a ghastly accident which occurred about two minutes’ drive from Ridge Hospital, fifteen and ten minutes respectively from the 37 Military Hospital and Police Hospital, but all the hospitals refused him admission, not to talk of first aid when he was rushed there.

The late Tanko, who was rushed to these three health facilities by a cabbie, could not be admitted because there was no bed. Rather than admitting and offering proper first aid before referral, the hospitals turned the injured Tanko away. So within a spate of 45 minutes, the driver had toured three different hospitals to no avail.

The situation was not any different at the premier hospital, Korle-Bu, where the Good Samaritan driver got fed up and dumped the victim because he wouldn’t have any of those lame excuses of shortage of bed while someone perishes.

That’s the sort of health system we have in the country. Even when there’s no national disaster or tragedy, the hospitals seem to have hanged the “no vacancy” sign turning away even accident victims who need crucial treatment.

The sad thing about such emergency situations is that people are turned away without even first aid treatment, leaving them at the mercy of God. In Tanko’s case, he wasn’t attended to by all the three hospitals he was taken to. Sometimes I wonder how our health system works.

Even if there’s no bed for the hospital to handle emergency cases, what prevents the hospitals from using their ambulances for such referrals? It still beats my mind why health facilities will turn away emergency cases. In most emergency cases, the crucial point is the immediate moments after the incident—which in these cases are the times wasted in jumping from one hospital to the other without paramedics.

Tanko’s experience is just one in a million. Many people who were rushed to various hospitals have either died as result of lack of treatment or in the process of being shuttle from one hospital to the other. Such deaths are usually painful especially when you know the person could have survived with the right treatment.

Again, paramedics are so crucial in times of emergency. In fact, the way a person is handled on the accident scene could probably aggravate his/her injury. Usually in this country, because people don’t trust the ambulance services – of course they have every right not to — they tend to attend to accident victims themselves. In their quest to help these victims, they worsen the plight of the victims, some die as a result. But can they stand and watch while people suffer to death waiting for help which may never come?

You see, corruption is everywhere but when it happens within the health sector, it could be deadly.In most of these cases where people are turned away for lack of beds, others who parted with some few cedis were given admission. The 2012 Corruption Index of Transparency International has indicted the health sector where people confessed having paid bribes for blood transfusion, beds etc.

Our health system, particularly the state owned health facilities have not done us much service when we needed them most. Some have gained notoriety and any brush with them could be costly. You will never know what I am talking about unless you have experienced it. And if you have tasted it and you’re living to read this piece, that probably was your miracle.

Of course there could be several good nuts within the system, but the presence of the bad nuts have corrupted it. But while the bad nuts reign, what we have could best be described as an anemic health system.

I’m out!

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