Fatal Negligence

The circumstances underpinning the death of an eight-month-old pregnant woman at the Kwesimintsim Polyclinic in the Western region is a frightening reflection of the challenges of accessing medical attention in Ghana. Had Samuel Adjei, the bereaved husband of the deceased not taken up the matter to the hearing of the media, it would have faded into oblivion with nobody raising an eyebrow about it. Having been told by the doctor at the polytechnic that there was the need to abort the pregnancy to save her life, she was put on a medication to achieve the life-saving end. It turned out that neither the dosage nor the appropriateness of the drug posed medical questions whose answers would assist in resolving the conundrum regarding the doctor�s handling of the deceased person. Even before an enquiry of sorts is instituted to probe the issue, there is no gainsaying the fact that the woman�s death was avoidable. Was it necessary to put the deceased on the medication before the results of a lab examination demanded, and was the dosage appropriate? Was there adequate monitoring of the response of the patient to the treatment after putting her on the drug? Why could the doctor not be reached when crisis set in? Why was it difficult to make a referral to the Effia Nkwanta Hospital? Was the bleeding and vomiting after taking the medication not adequate sign that something was amiss and therefore required immediate attention? Answers to these questions and others, which the General Medical Council may pose, would present a clearer picture of what really happened and the dangers patients face while seeking treatment and attention. While not oblivious to the many challenges doctors face in the discharge of their duties, it is also a fact that there are instances of negligence in our local medical facilities across the country. Several patients have stories to tell about what they have suffered at the hands of apathetic medics and paramedics even when their situations were dire, requiring immediate attention. Patients who ask questions stand the risk of being abandoned or even turned away at the hands of bad medical personnel. This is by means a representation of the overall picture in our hospitals. When the deceased was bleeding and vomiting, her husband could not have asked questions regarding the appropriateness or even the dosage of the drugs she was put on. When he turned up to deliver some food to the woman before her death, a nurse told him that she had been given a bottle of coke and that she was alright, apathetic reflection of the reality. The doctor could not be reached and there was no ambulance available to convey her to the referral hospital as demanded. We have even gathered that such a transfer should have been preceded by some paperwork even as the pregnant woman was at the point of death. If the husband of the deceased is crying out over what for him is negligence at the hands of the medical delivery staff and the system itself, we associate ourselves with him. This is but a microcosm of the challenges in our infirmaries and unless we sit up and ensure a radical overhaul of things, the kind of challenges suffered by the deceased would recur. Must we turn our attention away from such challenges and pretend all is well with our medical delivery system? Thankfully, a General Medical Council exists to manage such acts of medical recklessness on the part of some doctors. It is our hope therefore that this matter would be given a thorough interrogation with a view to stopping further recurrences. As for the deceased she is gone, an irreversible act. What she suffered should serve as an important wake-up call on all of us. We should show interest in the progress or otherwise of patients even when they are in the care of doctors by posing relevant questions and relaying observations in a manner which would not infuriate the medical professionals. As we await the decision of the Ghana Medical Council, we join the bereaved Takoradi Polytechnic lecturer, the widower, on the avoidable death of his spouse.