Health institutions, gov’t disagree over free cholera treatment

Managers of some health institutions and government have clashed over the policy directing hospitals and clinics to treat cholera cases free of charge.

While doctors and other health officials insist that the treatment for the disease which has claimed more than 90 lives across the country cannot be free, the Ghana Health Service is saying otherwise.

Joy News’ Joseph Opoku-Gakpo reported early this week that nurses at the Mamprobi Polyclinic in Accra were charging before treating cholera patients.

It came to light later that other health institutions were also doing same.

Patients and their relatives say they have been overwhelmed by charges for almost everything when report to health facilities after suffering the disease.

More than 7,000 people have been infected in six regions since April this year.

Medical Director at the Kaneshie Polyclinic also in Accra, Patrick Amoo Mensah, told Joy FM’s Top Story anchor Evans Mensah “if someone comes to the cholera unit and the person is vomiting it becomes difficult to give the person oral treatment” that will replenish electrolytes the patient is losing.

He explained further that if the patient is vomiting, oral treatment such as the Oral Rehydrated Salt (ORS) cannot be administered to the patient, instead an intravenous infusion is applied.

“That one [intravenous infusion] is not given free”, he said.

He adds that because of the scale of the recent cholera outbreak, the ORS which is given freely runs out of stock in many hospitals, in which case the application of the intravenous infusion becomes inevitable.

“You also have to pay for the antibiotic injections that are given if you are not able to take the ORS by mouth”, said Dr Amoo Mensah.

He said pregnant women who come down with cholera cannot be given ORS because it has adverse effect on the pregnancy. This means that any treatment options for pregnant women will cost money.

Dr Amoo Mensah recommended altering the communication on free treatment of the disease to show that under certain conditions cholera treatment may not be free.

However, Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Health, Tony Goodman, contends “cholera treatment is free, and that is a policy”.

He said government gives drips and other supplies to hospitals to facilitate free treatment of cholera, adding he does not see why there should be charges for the treatment.

Mr Goodman said as far as he is concerned, under no circumstance should cholera patients pay money for treatment.

Listen to the entire show on the attached audio.
Story by Ghana | | George Nyavor | [email protected]

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