Beyond the ‘no-bed’ mantra

Beyond the ‘no-bed’ mantra
Source: Richard Amarh |
Date: 20-06-2018 Time: 03:06:00:am

Last week, a 70-year-old man died after about 7 hospitals in Accra had refused to admit him for the same reason,“No Bed”.

There was no vacancy to admit the man for treatment. So his family travelled for several hours through traffic and bad roads in some instances hoping to have him given care. But alas, he gave up the ghost. Oh! the sting of death could not wait for the excuses from the nation’s hospitals. The Poor old man is gone. Jesus is not here to raise him again… at least, not immediately like the case of Lazarus in the Bible. Life once lost cannot be gained again.

It’s as if this is the first time this has happened. Perhaps, his family has some media connections so his death has become the symbol of sacrifice that has awakened people to call for an end to the ‘No Bed’ syndrome. I am at least happy about it especially because the phenomenon is gaining attention and may be given attention by government and leaders in the health sector.

Somewhere in April this year, I sat in a Café in Paris with a Canadian friend who has relocated to Paris. She asked me if I am interested in relocating from Ghana. I remember telling her that, Ghana is a very sweet place to live. I can’t imagine myself living in any other place apart from Ghana. I also told her, that I have learnt to deal with most of the difficulties associated with living in Ghana but there is only one that sometimes make me feel like joining the many Africans who wish to leave their home and return no more. That challenge I told her is our very dangerous health sector. Yes, I call it dangerous health system and I shall explain in the next few paragraphs.

Today we are pushing the #ENDNOBEDSNOW campaign. I am very happy how it is being given prominence by the media. But I think there is more to it than just lack of bed spaces for patients. No one can deny the fact that we do not have enough facilities to take care of the sick amongst the 30 million Ghanaians. But most people are not aware that the apparent lack of beds has also become an industry for some doctors and health practitioners in public health facilities. I may not be the Anas who would have hardcore evidence so I know this my allegations shall remain allegations. Yet, the right thinking leaders if they care, can actually solve this problem and end this industry.

Let’s ask some few questions. What is an emergency health situation? Do we need a bed to treat emergency situations at all? Have we not seen many emergency care units in this country where people are given first aid on the floor until a bed is available for them to be moved to the bed?

I have had the chance to interact with some staff and actors in the private ambulance industry. Not one, not two but several. I do not wish to mention their names or their brands but I am mentioning this fact so my readers especially a journalist who can investigate can have a basis for begging an investigation into these matters.

Truth is that some health facilities create artificial NO BED situation or fail to do proper checks before turning their patients away with the No Bed excuse. That is because there are Senior doctors who have arrangements with specific ambulance operators to admit sick persons who patronise those ambulances. Thus if an ambulance arrives in a hospital and its operators do not have that “connection” with a senior medical officer in that facility, then without any checks, the front desk will just tell them no bed. This has led to a situation where if a sick man/woman calls a private ambulance in this country, the first question they ask is, have you arranged with a hospital? Most private Ambulances will turn down a patient if the calling hospital for referral or the patient himself has not made arraignments for a bed. The reason is that the Ambulance will spend more on fuel and first aid in running from hospital to hospital for the same fee and sometimes this lead to death which the Ambulance services do not want to experience. Beyond the #NOBED, let’s look at the #CASHBEFORECARE matters.

I wish to throw this challenge to Anas Aremyaw Anas, Manasseh Azure and others who are investigative journalists as well as the entire Ghana Journalist Association (GJA). Investigate and you will see that most senior doctors in major state hospitals actually receive allowances from some ambulance operators in order that they will admit their patients whenever they bring them.

In some instances, the family of the patients also have to pay in order to get hospital bed for their sick ones. When your see your father almost dying and someone ask you to pay GHC 1,000 so they can get him a bed for treatment, you will almost certainly pay even if you do not have that money at that time. Doctors and nurses actually take advantage of desperate families of a sick person in order to extort money and claim they have arranged special beds for them. Beyond the #NOBED let’s look at the #Extortions

Another question that arise is why private ambulances should dominate the scene. No too long ago, we were discussing the fact that the National Ambulance service has only 55 ambulances in commission. We have made comparisons with the fact that all 275 members of Parliament have V8 cars. We did not even talk about the Judges, the President and his presidential staffers. That will even not make you cry. The National Ambulance service which is supposed to have staff in all districts by law, actually pay a lot of people on monthly basis for no work done. They have employed them as paramedics in most places with no vehicle, no Phone, no equipment’s to work with. These paramedics and drivers draw their salaries on monthly basis and have their time to do whatever they want. This links me in on the weak administration we have in the health system.

I am not by any means accusing Doctors and Hospital staff without any course. Of course, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) is also to be blamed. We very often talk about training and recruiting the right people in this country without talking about supervision. Most people will actually not do the right thing when they are not supervised. I dare say that the Ghana health serves has a very weak supervision regime which also has contributed to this industry that allows hospitals to turn away sick persons in order to profit. Without effective supervision in the health systems, things like this will continuously happen. We in Ghana are still using paper files to manage hospital. Why can’t the GHS implement an automated system that registers the number of beds in the system as well as the number of patients admitted in each hospital? This will make it very easy for them to see what is happening in all hospitals. Instead, we still run a paper file system which even contributes to the delays that are associated with going to hospitals. Beyond the #NOBED lets also look at the #WEAK HEALTH ADMINISTRATION.

Genuinely, the doctors also have a point. They are simply overwhelmed a lot of the times with their work. With 30 million Ghanaians, the Ghana Medical Association membership is not more than 17,000. I do not know how many of that number is into specialised practice. But it simply means that every doctor has about 1,764 patients to take care of. That is even if all of them are into general practice. This must present a very difficult situation for Doctors especially when we are not able to prevent some preventable disease such as Malaria, Cholera etc.

Typically, in most public hospitals in Ghana, you would see a long queue of about 100 people going to see a single doctor every day. No wonder the nurses and doctors usually do not have enough time for us. They just want to finish dealing with you so the next person comes. With all of this insight, our medical schools still reject students who get Excellent in 7 subjects and get very good in 1 subject (7As and 1B). Beyond the #NOBED let’s look at the #NoChair in the medical schools.

This year the University of Ghana Medical Centre has been in the news for obvious reasons. It was built by the Mahama Administration, therefore, the Nana Addo Administration is not too happy to open it. I have also seen another video of a Community Hospital in Amasaman built by the Atta Mills Administration. It was not opened by the Mahama Administration and it has not been up for the Nana Addo's team to even consider. There are several Health Projects, started by different political Regimes which have been abandoned just because we had a new government. Beyond the #NOBED let’s look at the #Evil Politics of our political leaders.


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