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Health News of Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Source: Ananpansah B Abraham

Patient pays GHC1, 600 for ‘free’ anti-snake venom

The plight of patients suffering from snake bites in the Northern Region of Ghana seem to be increasing as there is a surge in cases of snake bites as a result of flooding of snake burrows in the raining season.

Most of these snake bite cases are recorded in rural communities in the North due to farming activities as well as shea nut picking.

Anti-snake venom is the single most effective antidote for snake Venom. Not only is the Antivenom expensive but also in short supply most of the time, a situation clearly evident in the West Gonja Catholic hospital in the Northern Region.

The vaccine is a program drug supposed to be administered for free, but in most of the cases, passes through the system and end up in private hands somehow and sold to patients at cut-throat prices.

Checks at the hospital show that a total of 51 known cases of snake bites and four unknown cases have been recorded so far in 2018. Out of the 51 known cases, four deaths have been recorded.

This is against a total out-patients morbidity rate of 101 and in-patients morbidity rate of 68 recorded in the whole of 2017. There were two in-patient related deaths within the same period.

2016 saw a total of 69 out-patient cases and 49 in-patients cases being recorded. In 2015, the in-patients morbidity rate was 80 and out-patient morbidity was 77.A total of 2 in-patients mortality cases were recorded.

Remy Nyewie, the administrator of the hospital feared it was early days to be recording such figures in 2018.

The hospital, according to him, is challenged in taking care of majority of the cases due to the shortage in supply of the Anti-snake serum, revealing that authorities had made an initial requisition for the Anti-Snake Serum but only received 40 vials whilst within the same period, Bole Government hospital was given 100 vials.

On May 23, they again, requested for 150 vials from the Regional Medical Stores but have since received only 10.A number he said was woefully inadequate considering the number of cases they record on a daily basis.

A single patient he further stated can take the whole of the 10 vials.

He lamented that their status as Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) could be what is affecting them, adding that patients have had to be referred to get the vaccine from outside due to its short supply at the facility. He added that the vaccine is supposed to be administered for free and not for sale.

Nzemba Moses is from Bawuna, a farming community in the North Gonja District of Northern Ghana. He is currently taking care of his middle aged brother on admission for snake bite at the hospital and narrated his ordeal to Ghanaweb's Northern Regional correspondent Ananpansah B Abraham.

According to Moses, they were initially compelled to request for two vials of the vaccine in Tamale at a cost of GHC600 because the hospital had run out of stock.

A further request for two vials cost them GHC500, and a third request for two vials again cost them GHC500 making a total cash amount of GHC1600. He disclosed he and his brother had to 'squeeze' the money to purchase the Anti-Snake Venom from their little savings and borrowing from relatives and friends.

Out of financial frustration, Moses wrote to the hospital requesting that his brother be discharged so they can go home and continue with the local treatment. His reason being that they had spent enough and were cash-strapped, and couldn't afford even a single night of the bed fee in the facility any longer.

Stephen Kubbour, a nurse at the facility explained his decision could be dangerous, since the venom in the body of the patient needed to be cleared, explaining that if that is not done, a little cut could cause him to bleed to death due to poor blood clotting.

Moses however, wouldn't take that for an explanation due to the financial burden and frustration.

The story of Moses and his brother, Mahama Baffo -the victim of the snake bite is just one out of the many.

The affected patients when spoken to, appealed to the government to respond promptly to the requisition of the hospital management and check the leakage of the vaccine in the open market.

The checks of this writer reveals that the vaccine, even though, needed most at the rural areas considering the season which happen to be their season of gathering is rather prioritised in terms of supply at the centre and hardly gets to such areas most needed but rather finds its way to the open market for sale.