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Feature Article of Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa

Can we Ghanaians Trust our Lives on Cuba-trained Doctors?

Ghana and Cuba have a mutual arrangement to train Ghanaians who have a clout to study medicine and qualify to be doctors under a Cuba government scholarship scheme. This very kind gesture of the Cuban authorities is not demanding any form of reciprocity, neither by way of exchange of same nor by payment in kind; thanks to the leadership arrangements of ex-President Rawlings. For many years now, some selected Ghanaians continue to flock into Havana – Cuba to be trained in the medical sciences and other allied fields for the benefit of Ghanaians. The objective of this offer of training by Cuba is to save lives and an ability to postpone death where necessary by capable trained hands, competent enough to fulfil this unique objective as enshrined in the Hippocritic oath ingeminated in the Helsinki and Nuremberg declarations. To achieve this objective, capable students with the relevant clout and capacity-building must be the sole criteria for selection, yet what we see in Ghana is a nepotic selection of favourates based on Party political colours and flavour; a selection of incapable Party faithful with no smattering of knowledge in anatomical and biological sciences but can only qualify for selection by reason of Party-belonging where the said Party is the ruling authority, hence even housemaids with the poorest of poor SHS grades are pushed on to pursue a course of training to become doctors in Cuban institutions where they are enroled as a matter of protocol curtesy without checking their academic and vocational suitability.

The image inserted in this script is my uncle who walked into Sefwi Wiawso hospital on an arranged appointment to undergo a surgical operation to remove a hernia. To his woe, he walked into this hospital with intent to undergo a healing process on a surgical table but ended up on a butcher’s table only to be carried home in a coffin. Nana Kwaku Besseah, Agyaaku as he was affectionately called, walked into the hospital on Monday 4th November 2006 with his full life in vigour and agility, was butchered and pronounces dead the following day as a result of some botched up surgical operation performed by a Cuba-trained ‘Doctor’, a butcher indeed, leaving behind a widow and six hapless children. This hospital, staffed with surgeons trained-in-Cuba of a high magnitude of incompetence did not accept vicarious responsibility on grounds of bioethical incompetence and impropriety in the conduct of the operation by the said ‘doctor’/butcher. There have been similar such cases across Ghana where victims have suffered untold jeopardy at the hands of medically incompetent doctors who are later identified to have been trained in Cuba.
A young woman in Berekum claimed on Hot FM radio to have suffered loss of her entire womb a few weeks ago through a supposed medical treatment at an approved hospital. This woman who will remain childless for the rest of her life complained to the authorities for compensation yet what she received was insults and vilification by the hospital authorities. Ghana needs stricter laws governing the medical profession whereby incompetence can be punished either jointly or severally as it pertains in other countries as a way to foster competence. R v Adomako (1994) All ER vol 74 is a cited case involving medical negligence in English Law against incompetence.
I do not blame the incompetence on the training so received in Cuba per se, I blame it on the selection; a selection which does not take into consideration any innate clout, a desired connation, zeal and passion, the qualifying criteria of the candidate to become what the intended selection so made aims at achieving. Medicine, like legal or architectural studies is full of challenges whereby practitioners aim to achieve beyond the ordinary with zeal and passion. Much as a legal practitioner strives to make legal history through professional expertise, architects designing structures beyond the ordinary, so are doctors and physicians. Signs of extreme attristed sorrow is visibly expressed on the faces of competent Doctors and nurses when they are unable to save a life even in dire and hopeless situations.
Fabrice Muamba, a Bolton mid-fielder collapsed on the playing field at White Hart Lane, an incident in which Muamba was said to have stopped breathing, (virtually dead) for 72 minutes yet through the very challenging efforts of paramedics, furthered by the well trained and dedicated Doctors of the cardiology department of Chase Farm hospital, the ‘dead’ Muamba was revived. Such is the joy and pride of studying medicine and indeed any profession; to prove and exhibit an acute knowledge and practice of what the brain has been cultivated for through training but not to practice a profession perfunctorily for the sake of doing a job.
In view of the cost involved in training our doctors both at home and abroad, the NDC administration under John Mahama has made Ghanaians to believe though erroneously that, the cost of training a doctor in Cuba is US$5,000 however the fact remains that the training is under a full scholarship scheme by Cuban government yet Ghana spends US$50,000 on every medical student trained in Cuba. In the government’s untenable explanation regarding the extra massive cost, if the parents of the students were to be responsible for paying for their training, they wouldn’t indulge in such inordinate profligacy. In view of this, wouldn’t it be more prudent to invest more in expanding our own training facilities in our teaching hospitals to produce more home-made physicians under a better competitive selection process to achieve the best? My question enquires into if it is just the prestige of having been trained outside one’s country. If Ghana can spend so much on ‘incompetent’ training, it would be better to have those so selected trained in better university hospitals worldwide. If it is not the fault of the trainer institutions, then the blame must be on the selection process that decides how prospective trainees are so selected. There are several Ghanaians who were cobbled up out of political convenience to study agriculture in the former Soviet Union where the so-called graduated and returned to Ghana improperly qualified with insufficient knowledge in agriculture to enhance agriculture input but rather became propaganda personnel of the defunct CPP of the 1960s.
There are indeed some Ghana-trained doctors, a few of whom I know as former school mates who practice as physicians in British health institutions with satisfactory performance after going through a brief orientation training. On the contrary, there are Doctors from other former Soviet communist block who are required to redo the full length of their training so received before being accepted into British medical institutions. I therefore see no point in not expanding our existing medical institutions which are as equally competitive as those even in the advanced countries. We in Ghana do not have trained career advisers who are capable of delving into our post-secondary education incident to choosing a course for professional training. How on earth could hairdressers and housemaids be selected for training as Doctors in Cuba? No British university hospital would accept such candidates for medical training because if their GCSE results were satisfactory enough, no amount of frustration would push them to opt for hairdressing and serving as house-maids incident to becoming physicians. This clearly shows that candidates are selected out of political convenience but I must tell readers that training to become a medical practitioner should not a matter of convenience but that sacrifice, high standard mental qualities, devotion and dedication. The medical profession can only be pursued by best brain high calibre people who can cultivate their brains to produce the best for patients as good and not bad Samaritans to staff our hospitals The medical profession is so challenging that it doesn’t make room for vainglorious certification to brag of; it rather places extreme importance on high hopes of expert performance that brings joy and contentment to be proud of.
It is expected that an in-coming His Excellency Akufo Addo administration from January 2013 will ensure competence in handling our patients to safe precious lives through giving training only to the right and committed candidates irrespective of Party belonging to pursue medical studies both at home and abroad because Ghana first. It is poised to be a government that is people-centred and will not gamble with peoples’ lives by reason of political expediency, a selection based on job for the boys and girls as we witness in a total of over 23 years of P/NDC administration where butchers rather than Doctors are trained to staff our hospitals.
Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa; London UK

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