Lack of space in hospitals - Time to go paperless

Hospital Bed File photo of patients in a hospital

Tue, 28 Aug 2018 Source: Simon Aikins

I had the shock of my life on Monday, 27th August 2018 when I visited the Mamobi Hospital in Accra. I was told my folder, that my physician will depend on to offer treatment had been disposed of as a result of lack of storage facilities at the hospital. I just could not believe what I was told.

I queried further from the Out-Patient Department ( OPD) attendant the reason for this irrational act, and all his excuses sounded lame to me. I believe many doctors depend on folders to evaluate how good or worse one's condition is. This I also believe will inform the decision to be made by the doctor whether to stick to the treatment or review it. The only reasonable thing I was told by the attendant was to request for a new folder.

I was in a state of denial because I just could not fathom why a hospital situated in Accra could dabble in such a risky venture. I phoned a few nurse friends to ascertain whether it was the standard practice, but to my dismay, they all debunked that assertion claiming it was unprofessional to dispose of one's medical records just because of lack of space which I agree with perfectly.

In this era of technology, I wonder why a hospital still wants to use archaic methods to achieve sterling results. In our part of the world where the least amount of rainfall could cause chaos, going the folder way is a road to disaster. What stops the hospital from transferring the data of all patients onto a computer for safekeeping to safeguard patients? I admit it is burdensome but it is the best option available per where we find ourselves.

On daily basis, nurses and other hospital staff have to burden themselves by combing through the archives of a hospital just to look for a missing folder when this daily canker could be solved with the aid of a computer. This will prevent undue delays and long queues at the hospital.

Also, doing away with folders and resorting to the use of the computer will prevent environmental pollution since the folders that are disposed of are normally burnt. Smoke inhaled from such unhealthy activities causes lung diseases which lead to untimely and painful deaths that could have been avoided.

The government cannot be absolved of any blame. They are also complicit in this instance. It is the duty of the government to better resource hospitals to function efficiently and effectively. They sometimes leave hospitals at the mercy of donors. In the absence of donors, the activities of hospitals grind to a halt because they lack basic amenities to remain relevant.

Citizens deserve better than what we are being served. We are chased into our inner rooms for taxes which are not used to do things that will justify the payment. Our taxes must do things that inure to our benefit and resourcing hospitals should not be too much to ask for.

Life is precious which should not be toyed with. Once it is lost, it is gone forever. We must as a nation put our shoulders to the wheels by making sure we protect jealously every human life by contributing our quota in making the country what we want it to be.

To the Management of Mamobi Hospital, lack of storage facilities is not an excuse for you to dispose of a patient's folder. One has to rerun all tests in order to be treated and who pays for the cost of laboratory tests? Doctors also lose the history of the patient due to your negligence. In this situation, the patient is the big loser whereas workers of the health facility continue to receive their salaries at the end of the month after shirking their responsibilities.

It is time to go folderless to save patients. A life lost cannot be quantified in monetary value. All hands on deck. If it must be done, it must be done well.

Columnist: Simon Aikins