I have been thinking of the reason for starting this blog: to create a platform for all of us to talk about the problems that bedevil healthcare. We talked about the doctors’ strike because it was a core example of some of the problems that underlie our healthcare system. The recurrent strikes by doctors, nurses and other health workers, is the ultimate antithesis of what healthcare should be about.
We need to continue to talk about patients’ experiences in hospitals and with doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. The aim of these discussions is to bring into the open what numerous patients have been suffering and, sometimes literally, dying of in silence. Let us give a voice to this suffering with the hope that we can change things and save lives. The noble role of medical care is to save lives, prevent illness and ease suffering. So if in the process of doing this medical care causes preventable deaths or causes suffering and pain then we, as a society, need to take note, discuss it to find causes and hopefully improve things. That is the self-appointed mandate of this effort.
Today let us talk about what really happens in our hospitals, doctors’ offices and pharmacies. In my first blog entry I used a vignette about my own experience in a hospital. From what I have come to know since then, that is an absolutely minor example of what some patients experience when they access medical care. Some patients have felt abused and disrespected; some patients have suffered poor outcomes which have not been acknowledged even when healthcare givers have been made aware. Some, unfortunately, have died of preventable deaths due to negligence and irresponsibility. What I have heard over and over again, however, is the disrespect, the rudeness, the uncaring attitude and even insults that patients have endured when they access health care.
Personally I have been amazed at the paradox. The time of illness is one of the most vulnerable times in a person’s life; a time of significant stress. A sick person is mostly confused. He or she does not know what is going on. Is this an ordinary sickness or one that could end my life? Is this illness going to incapacitate me? Can I continue to work to look after my family? Will this illness kill my child? Kill my mother? Kill my husband? My wife? This is the time when a sick person needs empathy, a hopeful word, a kind touch, a patient explanation and flawless knowledge and expertise. That the patient receives, instead, rudeness, insults and incompetence is a paradox beyond comprehension.
What is it that makes a person who has gone into a profession so noble, so respected, and so capable of doing good things to another human being become so rude, so uncaring, and sometimes even irresponsible? Is it the training (or maybe the lack of it), is it the upbringing, is it the work place? When it appears, as it is perceived in Ghana, that this problem is more widespread than is acceptable, then we must do something about it. We must talk about it openly and without fear or hindrance. It is only then that we can tackle the problem effectively. We cannot suffer in silence. Patients should be empowered. They should expect and demand respect. They should expect and demand better communication. They should expect and demand responsibility and accountability.
That is medicine’s mandate, that is a patient’s right.
Let us share our comments and our specific experiences.