Asks Hannah Awadzi
I eavesdropped on some public health workers in one of the country’s big government hospital; they were heartily discussing how a health worker slapped a patient who more or less was protesting why she was being treated unfairly.
According to the health workers, this patient (for the purposes of this article, I will call him early bird) had come to the hospital very early. Apparently, she was the first to get to the Out Patients Department (OPD), however, a health worker, working in this hospital, but off-duty on that fateful day, brought a relative.
When the names were being mentioned for patients to queue up and see the doctor, the “early bird,” realises that someone had been placed in front of him in the queue, so he confronted the one placed ahead of him. The confrontation turned into a heated argument and in the process the “early bird” got slapped for demanding that the right thing be done.
The health workers I eavesdropped on were laughing about this scenario. They said the doctor said they should just drop the case and one of them even threatened the “early bird” that with his behavior could he come to the hospital for their services?
As I sat quietly listening, I felt very sad about our health system as a country; it looks like hospitals and especially government hospitals are just “untouchable” for lack of a better word.
In this country, Ghana, woe betides you, if you fall sick, you will be battered left, right and centre for it. In recent times, it appears you will not be given the due courtesies at certain public health facilities, unless perhaps you know someone in the system.
To many, the hospital is perhaps the last resort. Apart from queuing for very long hours, most of the time, it looks like the doctor is angry already before you get to his/her presence.
One is likely to be asked in a stern tone, “Yes, what is wrong with you?” and sometimes, before you finish speaking you are giving a prescription. Most of the time, patients do not even know their diagnoses, when one is requested to do a laboratory test, nothing is told or explained to them. It is always, “an obey before complain scenario”.
And yet, there is something called the Patients Charter, adopted by the Ghana Health Service to involve patients or clients of a health facility in their diagnoses and treatment.
The Charter says, among other things, that health facilities must provide for and respect the rights and responsibilities of patients/clients, families, health workers and other health care providers. They must be sensitive to patient’s socio-cultural and religious backgrounds, age, gender and other differences as well as the needs of patients with disabilities.
Besides, it states that the patient is entitled to know of alternative treatment(s) and other health care providers within the Service if these may contribute to improved outcomes.
The patient also has the right to know the identity of all his/her caregivers and other persons who may handle him/her including students, trainees and ancillary workers.
The patient is entitled to all relevant information regarding policies and regulation of the health facilities that he/she attends. Procedures for complaints, disputes and conflict resolution shall be explained to patients or their accredited representatives.
Yet, how dare you to ask a doctor’s name, some doctors perhaps think that once, you asked for their names, then you probably are looking for a favour from them, not to mention asking about you own diagnoses.
My wish is that individuals within our society will understand their rights and responsibilities when accessing a health facility. I wish that someday, patients will be able to test the law. And I hope the law works well to sanitise the health system.
Let’s keep talking….
Source: Public Agenda