Bolgatanga: Agonizing Patients and the Impatient Health Workers

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Dr. Kofi Issah, Regional Health Director, Upper East Region

Access to health care in Ghana today has improved tremendously with the springing up of hundreds of Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Compounds, health centres, clinics and hospitals. The availability of these facilities has made access far easier but is access a guarantee to quality health care?

Several factors come to form a total quality healthcare system including readiness of people to go to health facilities for medical attention, motivation of health workers which has impact on their readiness to serve beyond their reward as stated in the oath and code of conduct for health professionals.

Upper East Regional Health Directorate

My quest for answers as to why doctors are usually not at the hospital at night and the terrible behaviour of some nurses towards clients they swore to serve no matter the situation, took me to the regional health directorate. There, I wish a quarter of the professionalism exhibited by Dr. Kofi Issah, the Regional Director for Health Services, could be exhibited by staff and management at the Regional Hospital, Bolgatanga.

On the issue of Doctors not on duty at night, Dr. Issah, who appeared not too happy says the situation would be improved adding there would be an orientation for staff of the facility within the week on dealing with clients as he called for calm among members of the public while also urging them to be on the lookout for duty roasters of on-duty staff and report untoward conduct or absence of same staff.

The Regional Director said anytime one is asked to pay for any form of services at the regional hospital then a receipt should be issued. He added that any services paid for without a receipt is illegal and is without the awareness of the Ghana Health Service. He wrapped up his interaction with me by noting that quality health care is a collective responsibility and calls on members of the public to play their part as the service makes efforts to ensure order at the hospital.

For many decades, this facility has served many people in the region but it seems it is losing the confidence of majority of the people it has served all these years because they now find it regrettable attending it. The problems of the regional hospital range from long queues to issues of misconduct or unprofessionalism often exhibited openly by same staff.

The regional hospital as many are by now aware appears to be the hub of what is now termed “Money Nurses” – Nurses who only appear on duty just to safeguard their pay but cares very little about the plight of innocent patients they wholeheartedly swore to serve no matter the conditions just like Florence Nightingale, an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing.

During The Night

The situation appears to be more worrisome at night. From 10pm till the morning of the next day is more than a nightmare to many who seek medical care since one is likely to be admitted without a doctor readily available at a regional facility. Pathetic as it is, if you are unlucky to meet a group of uncompassionate “money nurses” then your night would be more than a year to you for they would care very little about your pain, perhaps they are so used to seeing people in pain that the excruciating pains of vulnerable patients do not move them. In an attempt to be doing something, these “money nurses” are likely to talk harshly to you regardless of the pain you are in.

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More irritating is to see them having fun as they chat with their loved ones on their sophisticated smart phones to the neglect of their patients.

The Story of a Pregnant Woman

It all started at about 9:10pm Thursday January 19, 2017, somewhere in Yorogo where this woman (name withheld) started bleeding and was rushed to the Regional Hospital. Upon arrival at about 10:30pm the nurses/midwives first complained about how late this woman in pain arrived, then further admitted her and told her to let her care taker; that’s me, knock at the door of their rest room in case of pain. Indeed the pain started but when they were called upon, these supposed professionals came. In fact, they were the juniors ones who could knew very little about the situation than to only ask the lady suffering from a miscarriage to just lie down to an extend one of them asked this young woman reeling in pain if she wanted her to go out else she should lie down. It was pathetic as I was tempted to say something. Later at the laboratory where we submitted blood samples at about 11:30pm, and were told to return later at 6:30am Friday January 20 for the results. Who does that? In any case was this gentleman not supposed to be working that night till the morning crew took over?

Well at some point the Midwives/Nurses at about 2:30am asked me to go back to the laboratory for the results but just as I was surprised at the development at the lab, the Nurses whose conduct was nothing different were equally surprised over the fact that we were asked to wait till the following morning for the results. In as much as I appreciate how difficult it is to work deep into the night, I also believe since Nursing is a noble profession and is a calling, I thought these practitioners who have been called would act as noble people. Well there is always that one monkey who is ready to soil the name of other good monkeys right?

The Rest Room

Health officials detailed for night duty later in the night leave patients to their fate while they go to enjoy a good night rest. We virtually had to beg these under-oath nurses to come out upon second knock at the door to take care of a patient which to me made no difference as they made very little effort aimed at improving the situation.

Back to the Unavailability of Doctors at Night

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How on earth does the Ghana Health Service seek to meet the millennium development goals 4 and 5 if a facility of regional hospital stature has no medical doctor detailed for night or as I was told by one of the Nurses that there is always a doctor but they always go home and only respond to emergency cases. I wonder what this lady’s (name withheld) case was? A woman who had a fetus partly out for hours and reeling in pain till the next morning for a doctor. Would it have been negligence if this woman lost her life in the process or not? I’m wondering what happens everyday at that facility called Regional Hospital especially in the night.

A Civil Society’s View

What do civil society groups such as BONABOTO make of this development? Are they aware of the absence of doctors at night at the regional hospital and what do they have to say? Stanley Abopam is the Public Relations Officer of BONABOTO and this is his view. “Looking for a doctor at the regional hospital is like looking for a pin in the ocean”. His Statement comes against the backdrop of the difficulty in getting nurses especially at night talk less of doctors. Mr. Abopam says the current State of the regional hospital is a complete catastrophe and an apology of a hospital as he narrates how he had to leave with his wife to a private hospital after they could not even get a nurse to take her vital signs. The hard-talk PRO says people should begin to be proactive adding they are not prepared to watch the rot continue. He says the hospital is virtually running a cash and carry system since almost everything is being paid for which should be checked.

Regional Health Directorate

I wouldn’t have hesitated to name some of these nurses but they were without their name tags and asking them would mean a whole lot. But if authorities of the Ghana Health Service want to authenticate all these things I am raising in this write-up, then they can check their records to be certain about those who were on duty on the night of Thursday January 19. I won’t fabricate what has not happened for I know there are some hard working people in the service ready to sacrifice for God and Country. The name of this young woman has been withheld for very good reasons – personally she does not want her name published. Besides she is still getting through the trauma.

Well until measures are put in place to ensure sanity at the Upper Regional Hospital, Bolgatanga, people in this region should count themselves lucky to go to the facility and come out safe or better still, thank their stars. If quality healthcare is a collective responsibility, then I hope this would be the beginning of better services at the regional facility.

Half of the problems in the world would never have occurred if people who believe in religion really act according to the doctrines of their religious doctrines. By this, I therefore call on health workers to put God first and members of the public would one day praise them for better services

Author: Nicholas Azebire, a Journalist