This seemingly simple yet complex question has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. Well, it is not as though I have nothing else to think of, besides this question is of utmost importance and I feel I deserve the right to be answered.
I have spent countless hours brooding over this issue, coupled with certain personal experiences and those of others. Let me narrate a recent one: I reported at the University of Cape Coast Hospital on Sunday, June 17, 2012, with a health concern, only to be told on arrival by a nurse that “There’s no doctor. If it’s not serious, go and come tomorrow.” I thought aloud: “Wouldn’t I have stayed at home if it wasn’t serious enough?” And by any chance, didn’t I know that the next day was a working day? Well, the poor nurse had nothing to say about my musings.
As it turned out, I left the UCC Hospital for the Metropolitan Hospital, formally known as the Municipal Hospital, only to realize that whoever was in charge of the records section of the Out Patients’ Department (OPD) had locked up the place and gone where only God knew! And this was a hospital that had boldly displayed a 24hour service sign at its entrance! It was time to move again, I realized. I picked my sick self up and boarded a taxi, headed for the Central Regional Hospital, popularly known as Interberton. It is worthy of note that this hospital is the largest in the Central region and by far, a referral point. Being a Sunday, their OPD was closed and based on the turnout at the two ports of call, I had learnt my lesson well – Never fall sick on a Sunday!
So here I was in this big hospital – their Emergency Department. The nurses I met told me to my face: “Since you walked in here, your case is not an emergency.” At that point, I queried, ‘What constitutes an emergency? Must I be bleeding all over or be brought in on a stretcher before my case will be considered as an emergency?” As usual, I got some muttered words- an excuse of an answer. I had to endure great pain, which only I felt and could understand, for three long hours before some attention was paid me.
There have been countless times when I’ve wondered if we truly have a public healthcare system in this country of my birth. If we truly have such a system, do our healthcare professionals have a code of ethics? If you ask me, I doubt something of that sort exists. Sometimes, I am tempted to believe that since these nurses and doctors constantly see people die before their very eyes, they hold human life as of no account. If they did, how on earth would a hospital as large as the Central regional Hospital be manned be just a tired-looking doctor on a Sunday – attending to patients in the wards, and at the emergency department as well?
A little over a year ago, a colleague, Kweku Aboagye, was involved in a motor accident at the Weija Tollbooth. Distress calls made to the National Ambulance Service fell on deaf ears. Why? It was a Sunday! Perhaps the drivers were out eating some omotuo! It took a kind-hearted man who “collected” these ailing accident victims into his pick-up truck, with the hope of seeking medical attention at the Korle-bu Teaching Hospital. Well, they met the same story upon arrival- No doctor on duty! Nurses even refused to admit him, citing the most stupid of excuses – that he will stain their bed sheet with blood! Ask yourself, what’s more precious? The life of a then third-year university student or a piece of bed sheet? The poor young man had to lie in a pool of blood on the floor, until Monday morning when he was attended to. What if he had died, you may ask? Well, would they have cared?
I just hope those in charge of our public health system know what they are about, although I doubt it. But until they clearly show it, I will just have to dream of one day when my children will tell me, ‘Daddy, our public healthcare system is really great” and I will in turn say, “I dreamt of this day when I was in my twenties!”
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