Simpa Panyin: Certification and the poor attitude of Ghana’s medical practitioners

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One of my biggest disappointments, in life, has been when I dropped out of law school. I had, in 2011, enrolled as a law student at GIMPA, to pursue LLB, with the aim of becoming a lawyer, to use the courts to force irresponsible fathers to become responsible. But I had to suspend the course, due to circumstances beyond me.

Anyway, last week I heard the Chief Justice spoke about the proliferation of law schools in the country. She warned that the situation is a threat to the country’s democracy.

Madam, if a weak quality of tertiary education is a threat of any kind, then, I dare say, the end has come. Who is a lawyer? Is a lawyer not the person who represents both the innocent and criminal persons, and try to convince the judge that their clients are innocent? Is he not an advocate who speaks big and long grammar, with the opportunity to correct mistakes through appeals?

Who is a Medical Doctor? Do you get the shift? Have you encountered a doctor who is WhatsApping alongside attending to a patient in a consulting room? Or a team of Doctors and Nurses at a caesarean section in a theatre, all of them holding their phones, some on WhatsApp, others on Facebook, with the baby halfway on arrival, do you understand me?

Recently I went to see a doctor, after returning from a trip, to check my blood flow, the cause of my usual obsession with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). If you have not been checking on this illness, please do so now! It can result in Pulmonary Embolism, and this can kill you in hours; you may Google to read more on it.

Anyway, I did a few more tests, and I was given a prescription to buy some medicine, to take care of some minor findings that had nothing to do with sexual weaknesses.

Simpa Panyin, you will not believe, that amongst the prescription given, was something that looked closer to Viagra! When I asked the doctor, “what does Viagra got to do with me?” Then he said, “oh, sorry”. Thereafter he changed the prescription...

The Ghana Medical and Dental Council might need to do some urgent work to save lives; there are too many misdiagnoses and prescriptive mistakes that have proven fatal. My cousin’s son recently died in a hospital, because a nurse gave him a wrong injection, just like that!

But in the absence of anything immediate, could you please ask Simpa Panyin to announce to everyone, that we should all take personal responsibility to check the medicines we are given, whether they are correct prescription, whether the Pharmacist has not given us the wrong one, and whether it is not too close to the expiry date?

There is an urgent need for us, consumers of medical services, to ask questions, and to demand answers, from doctors, nurses, pharmacists. We have urgent need to check our prescriptions and medications before we take them. My personal attitude is that if I have not read the literature of the medicine I am being given, or if I have not read the indications and the expiry date, I will not take them, it does not matter who is giving such a medicine to me.

The transposition, and the juxtaposition of medicines and drips, are becoming one too many, and I don’t want to blame these only on Facebook, or WhatsApp, I will like also to blame the general weakening professional attitudes in this country.

At one point, I sat in front of a doctor for an hour, and he took me through many of the ills of the current state of the medical profession; he received as many calls as possible, some bordering on below-the-belt conversations, including issues of romance, issues of Barcelona, Chelsea, and why Mourinho should have been sacked from Manchester United.

In between those calls, were, WhatsApp messages that he had to check, and respond, Facebook pictures he had to scroll through, and the dropping of his earpiece that needed to be fixed back up. There was one doctor instance, where, he the Doctor, actually had a tablet, watching movies right on his table, in the consulting room, while attending to me. As he asked me questions, and while I gave my answers, he shuttled his eyes between writing in my folder, and watching his movies.

As I watched him rip through the medical profession, and as I took the decision to seek a second opinion, regardless of the diagnoses this doctor would give me, I thought to myself what our illiterate women will receive in the hands of such a doctor.

No wonder my late brother’s wife, who is diabetic and a heart patient, always come home with polythene bags full of pain killers; I have had the cause to challenge doctors’ prescriptions, on her behalf, and in a number of cases, the challenge I had mounted had resulted in some changes in her prescriptions.

I don’t know where the problem of the lack of ethical and professional consciousness in our health care delivery system is coming from. Right from the government posture, to the person who draws the blood, we don’t seem to recognise that it is human lives that are at stake.

A professional nurse who does not know how to perform CPR, is that one too a professional nurse? Right at Awoshie, one early morning, right in the presence of a nurse and a few others, a man was strike with heart attack.

The nurse stood there, like many others, attempting to take videos of the dying victim, when she could have administered a CPR to save a life. Unlike some stories that I have heard, of situations where medical staff off-duty are able to use CPR to save lives. This one, the nurse did not even attempt, or did not appear to know what CPR could have done to save a life.

The nurse joined the social media photographers to take photos of the dying man, and when eventually a taxi came to pick the victim away, I did not need anyone to tell me, I knew that the man was gone.

So the real threat to our democracy is not necessarily the proliferation of law schools. The real threat is the dying that we are all waiting to die, the midwife who is delivering a woman of her baby while on the phone, the laboratory technician who is performing a blood test while on Facebook, the nurse who is taking your blood pressure levels while group-chatting, these are the real threats.

I am an advocate of freeing the educational space, to allow private persons establish several law schools, including professional law schools. I will like to see several medical schools in Ghana, including private ones. I will like to see several more private persons establishing Teacher training schools, Journalism schools, Nurses’ training schools, and many more professional colleges.

What we need, in addition, is a strong non partisan independent professional regulator who conducts service accreditation, and re-accreditation. It must never be automatic that once a medical practitioner has completed his degree, then he/she is practising forever. If Pilots and flight attendants were to have this one-forever accreditation, there would have been several plane crashes in a day.

The training and the re-training of pilots, and flight attendants, the certification and the continuous certification of the flight crew, the rigorous six-monthly training that every single pilot will have to go through to ensure the safe flying of his plane, and to ensure that all pilots have the continuous qualification to keep flying, that is the kind of certification processes needed in our medical profession.

And here I am not talking about the program related courses that these doctors and nurses attend. I am talking about doing it in the manner that is done for the pilots. At the end of every six months, the pilot is supposed to surrender his license, and he is required to justify his re-licensing, before he is allowed to fly again; this is what our doctors need, this is what our nurses need, to save lives.