The fear of victimisation by some health officers has been identified as a major reason why patients fail to report the substandard medical service rendered to them in many rural areas.

This was revealed by participants at the inception meeting of the first ever programme dubbed: “Projecting Citizens Voices for Health Accountability” over the weekend in Cape Coast.

The programme, which is funded by STAR-Ghana under the auspices of the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR), is aimed at increasing the influence of Community Support Organisations (CSOs) and Parliament in the governance of public goods and service delivery within the health sector.

Contributing to discussions on their experiences in handling customer complaints, some of the participants intimated that even though avenues for complaint redress have been created in forms such as complaints boxes and desks, the patients are apprehensive in openly expressing their views.

The reason, according to Mrs. Mariatu Seidu – a senior midwife – is that, the patients are scared they will be victimised later by health officials when they return to the hospital. She said the situation is so bad that the patients prefer suffering in pain than getting their grievances resolved by hospital administration.

District Health Director of Juabaso, Dr. Francis Amissah who was also a participant, corroborated the revelation. He said there is an erroneous impression that their lives depend on the doctors and nurses so if they table any complaints, their lives will be made unbearable.

Dr. Asiamah however indicated that while fear prevents the people from going to the complaints desks, illiteracy is also a barrier to some of the folks as they are unable to write their complaints.

He expressed optimism that the accountability project will encourage more people to let hospital officials know their grievances.

Gilbert Germain, a participant and the Executive Director of Young & Lonely Foundation; a community based organisation (CBO) in Agona East registered his displeasure at the attitude of some health workers who are contributing to tarnishing the image of health personnel. He thanked STAR-Ghana and the ARHR for the project and indicated that he is hopeful it will achieve its intended aim.

According to the Programmes Manager of ARHR, Mrs Dela Kokroko Gle, the programme is geared towards increasing the accountability and responsiveness of government, traditional authorities and private enterprises to Ghanaian citizens.

Mrs Kokroko Gle said: “We hope that when we do this, we can improve access to quality health services for all Ghanaians through greater accountability and responsiveness in health service delivery.

“We are determined to increase community involvement in health sector governance with an ombudsman mechanism at District Assemblies for reporting and feedback,” she added.

The project will be undertaken in two districts in the Central Region (KEEA and Agona East) and two others in the Western Region (Shama and Juaboso).

Evidence from women of reproductive age and youth groups at the grassroots level will be collected to inform strategies, resource deployment and decision making on the project.

Aside the CSOs, the project will involve the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service and the District Health Management Teams as well as the Department of Social Welfare.