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Opinions of Saturday, 27 June 2020

Columnist: Daniel Darko, MD MPH, Contributor

Improving standards of medical practice in Ghana - Part one

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There have been a number of stories online lately concerning the professional conducts of health care professionals particularly medical practitioners and unfortunately some have resulted in the death of love ones and left families devastated.

While these may not necessarily represent a surge in the number of such cases, people have no choice but to resort to social media to air their grievances and displeasure at the care they or their love ones have received at some health facilities. Imagine the number of people who might have gone through similar or worse experiences who do not have the ability or courage to write on social media.

Often than not, after the huge social media pandemonium, the outcome of most of these cases if investigated at all are not made known in the same medium, they were first expressed.

I do not intend to hold brief for any party or wade into the latest incident as I, like many are not appraised with the other side of the story to make conclusions.

I am particularly disappointed in the deafening silence of the Ghana Medical and Dental Council (MDC) whose duty amongst others is to protect the public interest as stated by their motto ‘Guiding the Profession, Protecting the Public’.

The Medical and Dental Council is a statutory body established by law; Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act, 2013 (Act 857). The objective of the Council as enshrined in the act, is to secure in the public interest the highest standards in the training and practice of medicine and dentistry. As part of their core functions, they are to prescribe and enforce professional standards and conduct for practitioners.

They have the mandate and should conduct independent investigations into these allegations bothering on professional conducts of practitioners and making their finding public to bring closure and finality to some of these cases. This does not in any way prevent aggrieved parties from seeking redress in the court of law. The outcome of these cases could shape and guide the practice of medicine in the country.

MDC has failed to position itself as a credible, independent arbiter, where patients and their families can petition when aggrieved. MDC must not be seen as a toothless entity interested mainly in annual retention fees.

Their counterpart in UK, General Medical Council, (GMC) is revered and held in high esteem by practitioners with a lot of public confidence in the discharge of their duties as they have over the years cracked the whip where it matters without fear or favour.

Investigations concerning medical malpractices, negligence and professional ethics must not be left to the named facilities to conduct without independent body and public access to these hearings. It is the duty of the MDC to restore public confidence in medical practice in Ghana.

Medicine in the 21st century is patient centred; keeping patient informed in every step of their care without making it look as if we are doing them a favour when in fact it is the reverse.

It behoves on us as medical practitioners to maintain the highest form of professionalism, keeping in mind that we may at a point in our lives become patients.

Daniel Darko MD MPH