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Opinions of Monday, 16 April 2012

Columnist: Kpebu, Seidu

Extortions and Bribery at Korle-Bu Polyclinic

By: Seidu Kpebu

It it regretable that our health personnel in our hospitals, polyclinics, clinics and health posts across the country have held Ghanaians hostage for all these years.

Their constant demands for higher salaries and better conditions of service, which put much strain on the national budget, adds to the siege of Ghanaians in the health delivery system.

First of all, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was introduced to ease the burden of cash and carry that it replaced. However, a visit to any of our health institutions tells a different story. It is a tragedy that people using the NHIS scheme are given less attention.

The situation is even worst when you visit Korle-Bu Polyclinic. The bribery at the Polyclinic makes nonsense of the NHIS scheme. When you arrive there, you are confronted with haven to pay bribe to see a doctor early or go through a nightmare waiting time of nearly eight (8) hours.

Some support staff are used to front this bribery scheme by some unscrupulous and extremely rude nurses at the front desk. They will ask you to put an amount in your folder to speed up your chances of seeing a doctor early.

Then when you get to the desk of the very nurses that you have already bribed, they charge you GHc3 (three Ghana cedis) for taking your temperature and blood pressure and no receipt given. One may ask: is this extortion or an approved charge without receipts issued?

The situation is so bad that patients who cannot afford to pay to circumvent the process so as to see the doctor are 'dead' seated with clear signs of frustration on their faces. These patients are made to believe that it is the fault of the Government that patients are put through this undue stress at the Polyclinic.

Tragically, some of these nurses and staff are extremely rude, arrogant and less professional. After five (5) hours of observation at the Korle-Bu Polyclinic, I was horrified with the level of impunity, exactly what the Asantehene was speaking against, by the nurses shouting on elderly patients who are old enough to be their grandparents. The situation was not different at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital itself. Indeed, the situation was so despicable that I lost my 'cool'. A cashier at the Haematology department (blood centre) by name A Ofosu put up an insulting attitude when she called yours truly by a lady's name and when she was corrected she nonchallantly said "whatever".

I sincerely believe that the hardworking Ghanaian taxpayer is less respected at our hospitals and other health institutions especially at Korle-Bu Polyclinic, Korle-Bu Hospital and the Children's Hospital in central Accra.

At the children's hospital two weeks ago, the nurses were seen chatting and speaking on phones ignoring the concerns of patients. It took the intervention of a lady pharmacist to get the nurses attend to the concerns of patients who were all children. The doctor on duty who was supposed to be at post by 7pm finally got to work at about 8.46pm.

In all of this our health personnel have forgotten that the very people they have taken hostage, paid for their training and are paying their salaries.

The adminstrators at the Korle-Bu Polyclinic must come out and tell the public whether they are aware of the GHc3 charged by the nurses at the desks infront of the OPD office and why no receipts are given for the charge and why nurses handle money. The public will like to know how these monies are accounted for since no receipts are issued to patients.

The nurses at the Polyclinic deliberately waste patients time in order to create frustration and extort money from them. I was a witness to an elderly lady who sat there for more than five hours and the nurses did not even attend to her let alone a doctor seeing her. I literally wept for her.

Last Tuesday the 10th of April, I personally saw five (5) patients walked away with their folders out of frustration. A lady said she paid GHc10 (ten cedis) so she could see the doctor early. But after 4 hours she had not seen the doctor.

Unfortunately, some expatriat doctors shamefully support the rude behaviour of the nurses. The doctor in consulting room 2 at the Polyclinic was staunchly supporting a nurse abusing a patient who went to her to make an enquiry. The sad truth is that this behaviour will never be accepted in the country of origin of this expatriat doctor.

All efforts at contacting the administrator at the Polyclinic proved futile. The notice on his door read: "all pressmen/journalists should please contact the P.R.O (Mr Salifu) at the main Korle-Bu Administration on issues related to the Korle-Bu Polyclinic."

Source: Seidu Kpebu seidu@gfmradio.com Read more exclusives at: www.kpebumediacomms.com

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