When Member of Parliament and lawyer, Joseph Dindiock Kpemka’s wife suffered a sudden stroke in September 2016, he was confident that medics could save her. Little did he know that the shortage of something as basic as a hospital bed would end up taking her life.
The journey began at Nyaho Medical Centre, a private clinic, where a hospital worker informed Kpemka that only a referral hospital could help his wife. From there, they travelled to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. At Korle Bu, a nurse told him the same. Time was ticking away.
“Without looking at my wife, the nurse said there were no beds,” the MP said. “She did not even look at my wife to take any precautionary measures or give first aid to handle the situation.”
From Korle Bu, Kpemka rushed to 37 Military Hospital. Same story. No beds were available, he was told. When they arrived at The Trust Hospital at Osu, he was given the same news. At this point, four hours had lapsed.
Stranded and running out of time, he arrived at Greater Accra Regional Hospital, better known as Ridge Hospital, where he literally dropped to his knees begging for help.
“I said, admit her even on the floor and try to do your best for me because now it was beyond what I could do.”
Could they help? No – not initially, at least.
After Kpemka called a personal contact who worked at Ridge, they agreed to admit her, but by that time, it was too late.
“The situation became irreversible. Nothing could be done.”
A CT scan revealed the damage to his wife’s body was beyond repair. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“It was one of the saddest moments of my history,” he said.
Kpemka’s story is similar to a more recent situation that surfaced earlier this week. Seventy-year-old Anthony Opoku-Acheampon died at LEKMA Hospital in Accra after seven hospitals turned him away. Health authorities have since launched an investigation.
Anthony Opoku-Acheampon died after being turned away from seven hospitals.
“I think it shouldn’t have happened,” said Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Nsiah Asare told Class FM. “All hospitals in this country are acute hospitals and acute hospital means that emergency is an emergency. So I’ve called the regional director of health services to find out what happened and all the various hospitals which were involved to give us an account of it…and ensure that this does not happen again.”
Joy FM’s Malik Daabu says the wider issue involves hospitals becoming highly-selective, only giving aid to people with connections to employees.
“If the family of this man knew someone at any of these hospitals, they would have found a bed,” he told Joy FM’s Daniel Dadzie on the Super Morning Show Tuesday. “We have evolved into a culture of personalizing services delivered to people. These things have unfortunately become very common in our country.
Patients sleeping on the floor at 37 Military Hospital in Accra. Courtesy: Ghanaian Times
One Joy FM listener recalled his experience at Ridge, where he was told there were no beds, but suddenly, a bed became available after he bought a nurse breakfast, lunch and provided transportation to the employee during his wife’s stay there.
“In some countries, hospitals do something called bed management. There are bed managers who make sure patients who are medically fit to go home do not unnecessarily occupy beds,” one Joy FM caller commented. He said that “in Ghana, there are patients who are occupying beds and can’t be discharged until they pay their bill.”
A Citi FM analysis found that Accra has only 3,400 hospital beds for its 15,000 residents. Of the seven major hospitals, Korle Bu has 2,000, Greater Accra Regional Hospital has 420 and Trust has 86.
Kojo Anan Ankomah, lawyer and lead member of pressure group OccupyGhana, says “enough is enough.”
GHANA, IT’S TIME TO LET GOVERNMENT HEAR FROM YOU ON OUR SICK HEALTHCARE SYSTEM. Call into a radio station. Post your experience/views on FB, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc. using the hashtags #BedOrDead and #NoBedIsAGovtCrime," he wrote in a Facebook post.
Medical practitioner and politician Arthur Kennedy says turning residents in need of medical care is “unacceptable.”
Kpemka agrees. He said without reservation, his wife’s death “was murder. The circumstances of my wife shouldn’t have happened.”
Kpemka says he is currently in the process of preparing a statement to Parliament to address the issue and says what happened “is a sad reflection of the healthcare system in Ghana.”