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Is it Health Care or Death Care?

Fri, 23 Jul 2010 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

Until today, July 20, 2010, I simply could not lift a finger to write another article for my fellow Ghanaians – because I was still seething from our loss to Uruguay at the recently concluded FIFA World Cup tourney in South Africa. This piece is not about soccer, whatsoever, but I must share what still remains an aggravation: I will neither accept nor respect Uruguay’s victory over Ghana, because it was not achieved through the spirit of fair play. And by fair play, I mean the ethical realization by Luis “The Obnoxious Cheat” Suarez that Dominic Adiyiah’s header should have had a free passage into the net, once the former could not reach the ball with his head, torso or legs. At least, that is how decent athletes compete.

Now, back to what actually roused me from a deep lethargy and, somehow, re-energized me to write again: the disgraceful health care system in Ghana. We are in the year of our Lord 2010 – but Ghana’s health care system could not be better than what it was 70 years ago, if not worse. What exactly is ailing our minds as Ghanaians? Why does Ghana continually produce a mother lode of crooks masquerading as politicians, people incapable of steering the wheel of the affairs of state?

Not too long ago, a good friend of mine – I thank God that this guy is still alive! – began to experience some problems with his heart. Not wanting to take any chances, he went to Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, our flagship health care facility, for a checkup. Interestingly, nothing was found – but the man simply got worse as the days wore on. In fact, one month into his ordeal, he could barely walk up the stairs without gasping for air, a typical symptom of congestive heart failure. Because he could afford it, however, he flew to the U.S.A. for a thorough medical examination, where a simple diagnosis was made: pericarditis, the inflammation of the thin membrane that surrounds the heart. Because no bacterial, fungal or viral infection was found, my friend was simply placed on a regimen of Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory analgesic. He recovered completely in less than 2 weeks! So, what if he was denied a U.S. visa or was unable to afford the air fare?

Again, not too long ago, the wife of a friend suffered a postpartum cerebrovascular accident – the effects of her illness are still evident today. She had fallen in the shower, I was told, 3 days after giving birth, and although she was rushed to, oh, yes, our flagship health care facility, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, she was not attended to immediately, leading to some permanent damage. Today, she walks with a noticeable limp. Could she have sued the hospital? Not very likely! That is the Ghana that we call our home.

Oh, I am so angry. I am angry because my favorite uncle, once a specimen of health and vitality, just passed away. He suffered a cerebrovascular accident a week ago, and when he was taken to a hospital in Accra for treatment, the medical staff barely attended to him. In fact, the doctor on duty told his relatives to take him home and bring him back after one week – by which time the results of some blood tests would have been received. A stroke victim, who could neither speak nor move his right limbs, was told to go home for a week, without a diagnosis or drug to help save his life? What? In this 21st century? It is obvious that only the rich and powerful are expected to live when afflicted by a serious illness. So, who speaks for the poor and voiceless?

Honestly, I am fuming right now because the country’s executive and legislature are on the verge of mortgaging our collective future by fraudulently giving away $10 billion (TEN B-I-L-L-I-O-N DOLLARS!) – money that we do not have! – to a fraudulent South Korean company to build houses for Ghanaian workers. Whew! So, we do not have construction companies in Ghana capable of erecting structures similar to those affordable S.S.N.I.T-funded houses located at Adenta and Sakumono? What a country? Oh, yes, I used to live in one of those houses at Adenta – and I also worked at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital at about the same time, so I know quite a bit about the pathetic health care delivery system and the decrepit structures that we call hospitals and clinics.

Seriously, our young men and women – veritable members of the nation’s work force – are perishing on a daily basis, due to treatable diseases. Our roads are littered with potholes, made worse by the ramshackle boxes on wheels that we call vehicles, which are claiming lives on a daily basis. Our politicians loot the nation’s coffers at the slightest opportunity, leaving the average man and woman poorer today than his counterparts were in the 1960s. What is wrong with us as a nation? What, exactly, is wrong with us?

I am not a socialist, in any shape or form, but I must confess that Cuba’s top-rated health care delivery system, offered to every Cuban at minimal cost and comparable to America’s health care system in terms of quality, is worth emulating. This example shows that a country ought not to be rich to be able to implement an excellent health care system. We need a social revolution in Ghana – via the ballot box. We must vote out selfish, insolent, grandstanding politicians and elect selfless, considerate, egalitarian leaders in their stead. With oil revenues in the offing, Ghana can have such an advanced health care system, our current president, John Fiifi Mills, need not travel periodically to South Africa for medical care. Enough of the death care. Ghana needs a proper health care delivery system now.

I welcome your informed comments.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.