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STATESMAN OPINION: THIS SAD DEATH REMINDS US THAT HEALTH CARE IN GHANA NEEDS A NEW PLAN

Health & Lifestyle

The state of our health system has been laid bare by the needless death of a senior citizen of the land, news of which broke yesterday morning.

The state of our health system has been laid bare by the needless death of a senior citizen of the land, news of which broke yesterday morning.

 

The main Daily Graphic front-page story of Tuesday June 12 ‒ “Seven hospitals refuse care for man, 70” ‒ is sordid evidence of how we have failed to give priority to Ghana’s health delivery logistics.

According to the paper, Prince Anthony Opoku Acheampon died in his car at the LEKMA Hospital at Teshie, Accra, after he had been turned away by six other hospitals because they had no bed.

Acheampon could not get admission to C&J Medicare Hospital at Adabraka, Korle Bu Polyclinic, the Ridge Hospital at Osu, the Police Hospital, Trust Hospital (owned by SSNIT) in Osu and La District Hospital.

The national health authorities have promised an investigation into the “no bed” syndrome afflicting quality health delivery in our country, and appropriate action to address it. But it is important that we re-examine not only our health delivery infrastructure, but also the medical procurement and logistic support we need to keep our hospitals running efficiently.
 
Taken for granted

In decades past, we have witnessed children at the Marie Louise Hospital and Korle Bu Children’s Block lying on the floor or across their parents’ laps to take oxygen. Sometimes patients have to haul themselves and their transfusion tubes into laboratories to pick up a medical report, or down to the pharmacy to buy drugs under the “cash and carry” delivery system – simply because there are no beds.

For too long, we have taken health provision in Ghana for granted. Those of us who can afford private health care even thought that, as long as we had money, it could buy us the services we need. Money was the answer to all ills. As such, for a patient to leave his home and seek treatment at all the reputable hospitals in Accra and be tossed around for lack of a bed is truly alarming. If there was an epidemic, or a disaster – the likes of the June 3, 2015 slaughter by fire and water at Kwame Nkrumah Circle or the May 9, 2001 Accra Stadium catastrophe ‒ we could understand.

This, however, was a normal day. And it produced a national shame that took away the life of a senior citizen who, at 70, was still contributing to Ghana’s economy, creating jobs for boys and girls in Adabraka as the chief executive of a printing venture. Prince Anthony Opoku Acheampon was paying taxes and fully in charge of his own home. He was a husband and a productive citizen.

Mind the gap

We at the Daily Statesman believe the conversation now ought to be about real health delivery needs. That, we believe, was the reason why we launched the CHIPS Compound initiative, under which individuals can gain access to basic health delivery. Ghana’s basic health needs, we believe, include hospital beds. After all, beds are central to the work of nurses and doctors in treating and monitoring patients. Where else should a patient go after undergoing a procedure in the theatre or the delivery room?

But the issue, we believe, equally has to do with what forms of support ordinary citizens give to our hospitals by way of charity. It is becoming evident that, despite the vast resourcing that has gone into health delivery in Ghana, particularly under the two New Patriotic Party administrations, we are yet to overcome this crucial gap. We need many more hospital beds, and probably improved ward facilities, because extra beds must be housed.

Again, unfortunately, in Ghana, where we have not been keen on gathering data and using this as the basis for making reasoned projections, it is difficult for public health officials to estimate the numbers visiting our hospitals at any given time of the year. An ability to make accurate projections would enable planning and procurement of such logistics.

We express our condolences to the bereaved family, but urge our medical officials and the managers of our health delivery system not to waste great resources on an investigative committee. We must simply work to ensure that such a calamity does not recur.