Generally, I have been supportive of hardworking doctors seeking better service conditions because I am firmly of the belief that the overwhelming majority of Ghanaian politicians, especially our parliamentarians, are obscenely overpaid. And they often are not even half as professionally educated as our doctors and nurses; and in terms of social utility, our parliamentarians are, generally speaking, as useful to the people they presume to serve as a bicycle is to a fish, as a sticker on the office door of one of my colleagues once read.
Still, I feel rattled to the marrow anytime that I read a report in which striking Ghanaian doctors are alleged to have placed their parochial interests over and above the lives of the very people they have solemnly sworn to protect against all odds, as much as possible, within the realm of human capabilities.
The apparent refusal of some doctors at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) to treat a 46-year-old man suffering from strangulated hernia is one that ought to be unreservedly condemned (See “Komfo Anokye Hospital Probes Man’s Death” Ghana News Agency / Ghanaweb.com 3/2/14). The victim, Mr. Solomon Mensah, is reported to have been rushed to the country’s second-busiest hospital on February 2 and died two days later, while on admission, without being seen by a medical specialist.
We also learn that strangulated hernia, a form of blood circulation-blocking disease, can be potentially life-threatening, and even fatal, if not treated promptly. And this is exactly what appears to have been the tragic case of Mr. Mensah. What has further complicated matters is the fact that the deceased man had, reportedly, been duly admitted by hospital personnel, after having been sent there on referral. What this means is that if the health specialists at KATH were not prepared to treat the patient, the right thing for them to have done ought to have been to promptly refer the patient to the nearest health facility with specialists willing and ready to treat the patient.
My good guess here is that, that nearest emergency facility ought to have been the 4th Battalion of Infantry Military Hospital, located less than three miles away. I personally lived in the old barracks of 4BN, located adjacent to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital; and so I pretty much know what I am talking about. Besides, I also partly attended Prempeh College, located between North and South Suntreso and Kwadaso, and a stone’s throw from the new headquarters of the 4th Battalion of Infantry.
That Mr. Mensah lasted two long and painful days, or at least 48 hours before succumbing to his bout with strangulated hernia, clearly implies that the patient had a great chance of surviving his ailment. And it is the latter state of affairs that makes the apparent insensitivity of the KATH medical specialists all the more damning.
As of this writing (3/2/14), KATH’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Kwame Frimpong, had announced the establishment of a committee of enquiry aimed at finding out whether Mr. Solomon Mensah had died as a direct result of professional negligence or natural causes, or both. Mr. Frimpong also noted that should professional negligence be found to have played a significant role in the evidently preventable death of Mr. Mensah, the medical specialists responsible for such abject neglect would be severely punished.
We hope that such disciplinary measure is pursued to the core or spirit of the letter.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
E-mail: [email protected]