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SHOULD DOCTORS WITH PRIVATE CLINICS BE ENGAGED AT OUR GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE FACILITIES?

By Mabel Delassie Awuku

 

“The knowledge of the cross brings a conflict of interest between God who has become man and man who wishes to become God”. (Jürgen Moltmann)

 

In 2011, I woke up one morning feeling ill and decided to visit a government hospital to ascertain what the problem could be.

 

I queued to see the doctor after I had gone through all the processes required to get my hospital folder. Gladly, I got to meet the doctor who asked me to do lab tests to confirm his suspicions as to what actually my health condition was. It turned out that I was pregnant and per the doctor’s advice, at my age, I would need special attention and hence directed me to see a specialist, who could be of help to ensure that the baby and my good self are secured.

 

I took the doctor’s advice and proceeded to meet the specialist. Lo and behold, the specialist was the same doctor I met earlier at the government hospital I went to for healthcare service. The services at this private hospital where the specialist is, was second to none and nothing could change my mind going back to the previous government hospital because the impression I gathered from the specialist hospital seemed to suggest that I am utterly safe and secured with my unborn child hence my decision to stay, despite the huge financial burden it came with.

 

The above scenario depicts conflict of interest which does not promote best practices in our government hospitals namely Ridge Hospital, Adabraka polyclinic, Dansoman Polyclinic, Korle Bu teaching hospital and the numerous government health facilities across our country. 

 

One observation made is that though such doctors who are full-time workers at the state-owned medical facilities are running their own private clinics with the intention to direct well-to-do patients into their private facilities. Even if that is not the case in such a situation, the conflict of interest is very eminent and tempting.

 

The reason mostly assigned to such practices resulting from poor conditions of service, inadequate motivation and logistical constraints, which retard the progress in government hospitals.

 

Governments over the years have put in a lot of effort to ensure that health facilities across the country provide the best of services to her populace and hence always in the fight of getting and providing the human resource, appropriate infrastructure and logistics to our health institutions to ensure quality health delivery across the country.

 

Unfortunately, the efforts of successive governments never seem to pay off and the health care delivery system is taking a nosedive.

 

Aside from the conflict of interest I enumerated earlier, there are other very important areas which impede the smooth running of our hospitals. Prominent among such challenges include the lackadaisical attitude of professional health care providers, who leave the various professional jobs for auxiliary medical staff to undertake, while they look on unconcerned and also the “whom you know” tendencies that prevail in our hospitals most of the times. Here, it is not strange to join a queue at the hospital and be standing in the queue for hours while people who may know a staff of the hospital just walk-in and pass by to access service.

 

Thereafter, there is the pick and choose attitude of health workers who easily make out more influential and seemingly rich people who they help to jump the queue in the hope of getting tips (Money) and or other benefits.

 

Doctors perform abysmally in state-owned hospitals and do the reverse in their private institutions and these account for the rich accessing better healthcare facilities as compared to the poor based on their financial strength.  

 

These and many other negative attitudes not mentioned here, contribute to the pitiable service delivery by health workers across the country with much emphasis on the state-owned health facilities.

 

It is thrilling to find out that in developed countries, the situation is quite different and their commitment level in ensuring that lives are saved is second to none. These doctors have added additional skills such as scuba-diving and others, which have been useful in helping save the lives of the popular Thai children trapped in a cave under water. These doctors doubled as divers to provide psychological and health care support to these children, a situation which would have turned fatal in our jurisdiction.

 

To avoid such conflict of interest, in these countries, they do not allow doctors who work with state-owned medical facilities to go into private practice so as to get the best from their practitioners and by so doing provide the best of health care delivery to its citizenry.

 

The structures in these developed countries put in stringent and punitive measures to deal with workers who perform below expectation and as well provide incentives to motivate those that perform above expectation.

 

It is therefore not rare to find doctors or health workers whose certificates have been withdrawn because of preventable deaths or conditions. What do we see here?  

 

These measures have brought about a positive effect on the life expectancy ratio of these countries which is at 81 years for females and 75 years for males with a high aged population who might possibly face out after hitting their centenarian age as compared to Africa and hence Ghana with life expectancy of 63 for males and 64 for females published by WHO in 2018.

 

Throwing my lens on the health sector 30 years back, I ask: “where is the commitment and zeal we saw in health workers who loved lives and were so eager to save the lives they swore an oath to save? What has happened to that goodwill and hard work that was very prevalent in our hospitals?

 

CONCLUSION

I do agree that more practice means much more hands-on experience and expertise to improve the quality of health care service delivery in our country but then, the conflict of interest must be looked at in order to streamline the health care system, which would at the end of the day improve service, save lives and encourage more people to explore the healthcare system and related areas for national development.

 

The health and wealth of any nation depend largely on its healthcare systems and practitioners because the healthier you are, the more productive you will certainly be. It is proper if we put more premium on our health sector to expect more for the general well-being of Ghanaians.

 

 The writer is a staff of the Information Services Department

 

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