Solving the 'no bed' crisis

Hospital Beds Empty A 70-year-old man died after seven hospitals turned him away over claims there were no beds

Tue, 12 Jun 2018 Source: Arthur Kennedy

The death of the patient denied treatment by seven hospitals has scandalized many Ghanaians.

While the outrage on the part of some may be feigned, this is a seminal moment.

As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is fond of saying," this crisis must not go to waste". The medical system violated its cardinal pledge not to do harm. Harm was done here to the deceased and his family.

It is an axiom in Medicine that wrong diagnosis often lead to wrong treatment. Those seeking to scapegoat the few overworked doctors and nurses involved in this case are wrong. When 7 hospitals all turn a patient away with the excuse of "No bed", it is not an aberration. It is the dysfunctional system at work.

It is the policy. While we all wish some individuals had bucked the policy, this was a dysfunctional system working as it was designed to do.

It is a failure, largely of leadership and management.

The Health system must not be permitted to investigate itself. Parliament must do the investigating.

Here is what we need to do do.

1: Set up well publicized numbers to hospitals staffed by qualified personnel who can give patients medical advice and up-to-date information on the availability of care and beds.

2: Augment our meagre fleet of 55 ambulances with a 100 more at 50,000 dollars each for total of 5 million USD while a task force of mechanics is assembled to fix the hundred broken ambulances. New York city's 8.5 million citizens have about 450 ambulances.

3: Act expeditiously to open for use the UGMC and all other government health facilities completed but yet not open to the public.

4: Pass a law, along the lines of the US EMTALA law outlawing the "No bed" excuse and guaranteeing basic emergency care to all who need it, regardless of wealth or status.

5: Commit an additional 5 million USD for the hiring and training of additional emergency technician staff.

Let's have these completed, not next year but in the next three to four months.

Our motto should be: EMERGENCY CARE NOW!!

This is not the time for partisan politics.

Today, join me in urging the first lady, consistent with her interest in healthcare, to mount delicate, sustained pressure on the President to get this done.

Let us urge the Vice-president, who recently had an emergency to exert pressure on his colleagues to get help for those who cannot afford to go abroad. He owes it to them, all of us and his conscience.

Mr. President, help us believe in Ghana again and make us citizens by taking this on.

To all you Ghanaians out there, be citizens. This is what the President had in mind when he asked us to be citizens. Do not permit this issue to die or to divide us. Death is nonpartisan and the dead cannot vote!

God bless Ghana and sing with me "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers; that you do unto me".

Columnist: Arthur Kennedy