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Opinions of Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

A Case of Deplorable Attitude of Ghana Nurses ….True Story

How rotten could a Ghana nurse be if one cares to know? I have chosen to use "Ghana nurse" rather than "Ghanaian nurse" to draw the distinction between the Ghanaian nurses practising in Ghana and Ghanaian nurses practising abroad. My problem is not with the entirety of Ghanaian nurses worldwide but those nurses practising in Ghana. I will be brief with this article by narrating a true story which reflects how badly Ghana nurses can be at times or at all time.

I had an extended family member who represents my business interests in Ghana fall sick. As it's usual with Ghanaians to often attribute our misfortunes to the work of witchcrafts or wizards, so was the illness of this family member. Superstition had it that he was dying simply for standing in for me; taking care of my business interests, having powers of attorney to fight my court cases etc. I am not going to delve into this baseless issue of superstition but how untowardly he was attended when on admission to the Kumasi Central Hospital (Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital). To assuage the grief and anger of those blaming me for his illness, I was hell bent to secure him the needed medical services as much as I could. I was at the same time ready to pay for their expenses incurred for visiting their trusted fetish shrine in quest of securing his life and health.

When I was told about the cause of his illness as disclosed to his siblings by their trusted fetish priest, according as superstitiously but wrongly diagnosed as stated above, I was still ready to foot their bills which though had been incurred without my prior knowledge or permission. They had collected some concoction of herbs for him to drink and to rub on his body. Luckily, he refused to have anything doing with fetishism as strong Christian as he is. Could this decision of his not have helped to save his life? He would prefer dying to having to associate with fetishism, he had said. Although he was very ill, confined to the hospital bed and was dying, he was resolute in his determination not to have anything from a fetish shrine even if that was his only chance of regaining his health.

After the first consultation with the fetish priest who had been able to tell the pain and the mood he was in, he requested of them to produce a dog to be slaughtered to his gods to save their brothers life. If the dog had been taken to the fetish priest as requested, the sick man would have died according to the later revelation by a powerful and honest man of God. This Man of God and other like-minded persons stood in prayerfully, fasting and making supplications to God to intervene to save his life. Saving his life would save me from getting bad-mouthed, getting blamed, and getting disgraced in the event of him dying. They had by their superstitious nature, been programmed to believe the lies they were being fed by the fetish priest. They themselves had connived among themselves to have him dead for reasons which may be the future content of my article. Interestingly, the fetish priest died barely a month after he had been consulted by the siblings of the patient under discussion.

Anyway when his illness intensified with his health fast deteriorating and all hope seemed to have lost after series of unsuccessful blood transfusions, he was transferred from a District hospital to the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi. He was in and out of coma. Here is where I have issue with the hospital's nurses whose character and attitudes are quite divergent from that of the nursing idol - Florence Nightingale. As he was so weak to move his body, arms and limbs, the nurses would not help feed him, would not help clean him when he wets himself or defecates in his bed. The most disgusting thing was they would serve him solid food of cooked sliced yams or plantain ("ampesi") with boiled egg. Amazingly, the egg would be in the shell. Without movement in his limbs, how could he open the egg, how could he help himself with the "ampesi?" They would always deposit the plate or the bowl containing the food on the table in a manner suggesting anger and nonchalance - slide it across the table.

He could not eat the food. The food ended up being taken away hours later same as it was left to be chucked away. Could they at least not have had the decency and the caring heart to try to feed him knowing that he could not do that himself? Moreover, could they not have provided him with liquid meal instead of solid foods he could neither chew nor swallow without difficulty?

His wife and my sister had to visit him daily to feed and clean him. He could only swallow one or two table spoonfuls of soup for the entire day. Was this too difficult a task for the callous nurses to do? He was not only dehydrated but emaciated. For the fact of lying on one side in his urine and stool until the time his wife and my sister would visit him, his body started rotting off.

He was left without proper medical attention. The nurses were saying in turns at the resumption of their shift duty, "akoa yi daso da ho, waa nwu?" - "is this guy still lying there, didn't he die?" When the day shift nurses are signing off duty, they would say, "akoa yi adee nkye no, obewu" - "this guy will not live to see tomorrow, he will die" Both the Day and the Night shift nurses were in unison pronouncing the stated phrases in turns. What a shame and how disgusting they were! Does this explain why he was treated with scorn?

It finally occurred to the wife to contact her stepmother who is also a nurse in a different department at the hospital to seek advice and help. Her stepmother visited the patient and promised to notify a certain specialist-doctor who doubles as a nephrologist. This doctor was able to correctly diagnose the illness as kidney failure but he was too weak to be given immediate requisite medical assistance. He could only be helped if he didn't pass away within four days of the date of diagnosis and also, upon the full advance payment of a course of dialysis treatment, the Doctor had said. It took the family about a week after the expiry of the initial four days to be able to get the doctor to attend to him even though the totality of the fee was ready within hours of the day of the diagnosis.

When he became well by the grace of God through the successful medical intervention, he narrated to the family all that was said about his fate by the nurses. He said though he could neither move nor brink his eyes nor speak, he could hear all that everyone was saying. Does this go to tell that a patient in vegetative state or coma could hear? If they do, then please we should be mindful of the statements we make about them when we are within a possible hearing distance from them.

Is there a special ward assigned to the terminally ill at Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital? Are those taken to the ward being treated with contempt because they are bound to die? I know that all patients transferred to London's Hackney Hospice die within three days or a matter of days after their admission yet they are treated with dignity by the attending nurses. Why can't the Ghana nurses accord the dying the last dignifying respect? I am ashamed of how insolently they treat them. Many patients tell how stubborn and disrespectful some Ghana nurses. This dismal attitude is not unique to the nurses in Kumasi but to almost all nurses throughout Ghana. Could they please turn a new leaf after reading my written complaint, reprimand and suggestion?

For how long should we also allow ourselves to be insanely manipulated by lying fetish priests? If we had listened to the fetish priest in this case without resorting to medical assistance, the patient in question would have passed away; giving cause for the attendant hullabaloos and the nonsensical superstition. My own grandmother, Nana Gyamfuah of ever cherished memory, who passed away ten years before my birth was said to have suffered the same fate. The fetish shrine, "Moronkomso", claimed she was a witch and that he, the fetish, had caught her. While she was insisting and urging her relatives to take her to hospital because she was actually sick but not a witch, her superstitious siblings and relatives believed the fetish priest. They kept her at the shrine until she died. This is the greatest disservice these fake fetish priests can do. The genuine ones are just a few but are there any that are genuine nowadays that everyone is chasing money anyhow?

Rockson Adofo