Unsinging The Song Of ‘No Bed’

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Once again and more wearingly than ever, Ghana’s health system seems to be broken and heading for a disaster.

This is evident in the story of the late Mr. Anthony Opoku-Acheampon who embraced death decisively in his car after being turned away by seven hospitals due to lack of beds.

Unfortunately, the 70-year-old would never be able to explain to the world the extent of his pain in his time of neglect.

This disturbing outcome had since coined the phrase, ‘No Bed Syndrome’ and has sparked up heated discussions with all and sundry questioning, “what may be wrong with Ghana’s health system?”

Age-Long Deficiency

As the discussion gets tougher, the issue seems to have grown more tentacles than an octopus could have.

It’s been established that this is no first-time case and neither is it a case of recency.

A listener on Accra Based Joy FM had shared the experience of his father who in 1976- 42 years ago, had taken his cousin to the Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital at Mampong for healthcare and was turned away because there were “no beds”.

“He was about to leave when he met a classmate who thankfully worked there. The mate came back and was able to get them admitted in a ward with 13 empty beds,” the listener recounted.

This age-long health system deficiency has not been remedied and it is inexplicable to the ordinary Ghanaian.

The Destructive Phase of Nepotism

Another baffling tentacle of the ‘no bed’ song is that, it is not sung to persons who may have a connection or two at the health facility. Discussants have argued that if Mr Opoku-Acheampon had known someone in one of the hospitals that turned him away, maybe he would still have found more time to spend with his family.

The story is also told of the late Chief Inspector Razak Usman Dabu who was turned away at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital for yet again “No Bed” but had a bed ready for him after a phone call.

Nonetheless, even after securing a bed, he did not have a professional to look after him until he decided to check out of the hospital three days later.

So, the question is asked, “What does no bed mean?” Malik, a discerning citizen responds; “No bed means, the systems are broken but it could also mean, you don’t know anybody.

“When you know somebody, you get a bed; when you don’t know anybody, you get nothing. The issue is not with the absence of bed, it’s a determination by some other people that they must have a personal relationship with you in order to give you a lifesaving service which you are already entitled to as a citizen,” he said.

Stop and Think

Can anything good be salvaged from the rubble? That’s a question left to players in the health sector to answer.

But if Ghana must avoid a repeated catastrophe, the health sector must pull back from a brink and do a rethink.

The starting point, according to Dr Arthur Kennedy, a renowned medical practitioner, is for government to put in place systems, policies and procedures that could help fix the broken systems.

According to him, the case is not solely about the negative attitudes of health professionals.

“When this happens in over 7 facilities it is not individual nurses and doctors lacking compassion, it is the bad system at work. A bad system would overcome excellent individuals. We need systems, policies and procedures that would tell people what to do,” Dr Kennedy said.

The doctor also proposed that every major hospital get a working phone number through which the public can “call them and get advice on what to do during emergencies and to know whether there are beds or not.”

He further suggested that hospitals be barred from sending away people because there are no beds.

“Only about 20% of people who show up in the ER end up requiring admission or a bed and a lot of emergency care can be rendered while the person is on a blanket,” the doctor noted.

To reduce the cases of emergency, Dr Kennedy said, public education must be intensified.

“We need to educate people on things like blood pressure screening, making sure you are checked for diabetes, how to prevent heart attacks…if we do these effectively, it will cut down on the number of people visiting our hospitals.

“We need to run a healthcare system with strong emphasis on primary and preventive care,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Health data indicates that only 18.5 % of all the public health facilities have a functional emergency team, this, according to Dr Kennedy must not be the case.

By: Grace Ablewor Sogbey/ ksogbey@gmail.com

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