#OpenUGMCNow, Arrogance, Insensitivity and Healthcare in Ghana: My Take

#OpenUGMCNow, Arrogance, Insensitivity and Healthcare in Ghana: My Take

I could have written this earlier but I wanted to be in the best frame of mind to do this. It is extremely important to me and I think it should be important to you too. As a nation, we need to understand that the greatest power lies within we the people, not the highly privileged elites we elected to rule us. We should be willing to exercise our power anytime the need arises. This is one of those moments. Periodic elections are not the only way we can exercise our power. In fact, if we look at it closely, elections are more of a sham in our part of the world than real opportunities to effect tangible positive changes. A good number of our leaders come to power by distributing money, rice, oil and clothes. This is no hidden secret. I am not saying that politicians are the only corrupt leaders keeping this country stagnant. From previous assignments I have held, I know that public servants and private company owners/workers are as corrupt as (if not more) politicians who share rice and oil to win power. Our country is struggling under mismanagement. If we do not get up and stand up for ourselves now, a time will come when how much money you have and who you know would be the only tickets accepted for access to what you need - basic healthcare included. In as much as hard work - usually acknowledged in the form of money and  recognition - should determine what we get and what we do not get, no one's life should be put in danger because she does not know a big person or have money that commands access.

A week ago, my friend nearly died from a motor accident. As shocking as this may sound, it was not the accident itself that nearly killed her. It was rather the rejection of two hospitals in Accra that almost took her life. If not that “people at places” knew her, she would have died from something that is survivable. Even though this is not the first time I am complaining about services in our hospitals, this particular incident has haunted me for days. I kept thinking about how many people we have lost as a nation from being turned away from hospitals that should be there for us at all times.

As I write, so many of you are practically begging those in power to open the ultra modern University of Ghana Medical Center we have all waited for in high hopes for several years. From what I gathered, the hospital is ready and has the capacity to accommodate more than six-hundred patients at a time but a consensus is yet to be reached regarding its opening. So I ask: what is keeping our leadership from opening this hospital? While it may not solve the bed inadequacy problem at places like 37, Ridge and Korlebu, I am sure it will definitely add to the capacity and reduce the consequences people suffer as a result of bed unavailability in our hospitals within Accra at least. My friend went to UG. While the UGMC will not serve only UG students and faculty, I am sure she would have had a better chance at being accepted in time for her surgery if the UGMC was opened. Someone told me the other day that the ruling government and the school authorities are still fighting over ownership of the hospital. Forgive my straightforwardness but the impudence with which our leaders display their insensitivity shocks me every time. Is ownership more important than keeping citizens alive? The mere fact that this question has to be asked should tell us that we need to rise up. How many of us would confidently say that the fight between authorities  is not about "them" lining their pockets as usual?

Elsewhere, things work. But what anyone who has studied such societies will tell you is that things did not just start working on their own. Citizens rose up. They made demands. They made sacrifices. Some even lost their lives doing so. If our country and continent is going to work, then the first step in that process is for us to be willing to do whatever it takes. Instead of thinking that your small voice or effort will not go anywhere, please give it a try. I come from a small town where I didn't think that anyone will ever read what I write or be influenced by it. But as these few years have shown me, even the most unrecognized efforts contribute to change. When Ghana finally started talking about women and men and household chores, it did not happen because when I wrote that comment to Ace Ankomah, I knew that it will drive our country to talk about some of these things. My comment that day was simply my way of doing what I could where I found myself. Same went for my KKD article and hair incident narration. My point here is that, even the little efforts count a lot. So instead of you joining your ethnic group pals and tribe's (used here to mean "family") to argue NPP or NDC, argue Africa or at least Ghana. Instead of convincing yourself that the privileges your family's class offer you does not affect other people's lives, be willing to see the ugly - how the fact that your uncle got you that job you were not really qualified for resulted into the real qualified person not getting it, and at the end of the day, resulting into a poor job that affects that sector and the country's growth.

It is extremely painful for me to say this but patriotism is almost non-existent in our country. While it is understandable that we are a different peoples historical forced together into a nation, that is not an adequate excuse for the mediocrity that is so prevalent in our transactions. There are nations made up of different groups of people but these nations are working. Why can't our own too work? I took a walk the other day and visited a cemetery in my school. What I saw shocked me. Even the cemetery had United States flags spread all over. While I found it amusing that the cemetery management thought the flags will be of use to the souls resting there, it also strike me as an extension of the patriotism that is so prevalent in American culture. My friend told me the other day that he thinks Patriotism should be a course in our primary schools. I agree with him. Obviously, we need to be taught how to love ourselves (unselfishly).

I heard that nurses are being brutalized for demonstrating against the government. One would have thought that a human rights lawyer as the driver of our nation will do things differently. Unfortunately, it is under this government that I have seen the most arrogant disrespect for rule of law. But I will leave this issue for another day. Here in the US, things work. When you go to the hospital, no one is going to tell you that there are no beds for you or that the equipment is not working or that the medicine needed for your operation is unavailable. Even if it is not, a simple online search or call will bring the product to your door. These are not initiatives we need huge sums of money to do. If we stop selling ourselves to foreign governments and organizations such as those in the West and Asia: if our leaders stop diverting aid  money  into  their offshore accounts and sponsoring their extravagant lifestyles, we could do this.

Being a newcomer to the United States combined with my passion for African development, I spent my early conversation moments with friends trying to convince them to return to Ghana. I argued that it is Ghana, not the US, that needs their expertise more. I told them that for their education and experience to be of any use to humanity, they must give it to those who need it, not those who can afford it. Most of them tried to tell me that the issue at hand is not as simple as going back home. They said the systems back home do not work. Some even showed me their failed attempts at making it work in Ghana. I disagreed with them. I told them that we could change the system if we are willing to do what it takes to change it. Sacrifice. I insisted that no one can prepare our beds for us to come back home and lie in. We must prepare it ourselves. While I still stand by those words, I now understand that they have valid concerns. When I was called about my friend's accident, the first question I asked after finding out whether she is still alive or not was: is she getting medical attention? Heartbreakingly, I was told they went to 37 and was told there was no bed. The accident happened on the 37 - Dzorwulu stretch. As if that was not enough, they were given the same excuse at the Ridge hospital, which sent them towards Korlebu. At this point, the pain was unbearable for her and her life was at the verge of leaving her body. Why? If you were me or anyone in the West, would you like to come back home to a place where even with money at hand, you cannot access healthcare in emergency situations?

As I sat on my bed looking at the phone and listening to my brother tell me these things, an anger that nearly chocked me swirled up in my heart. It took me a while to utter my next words. Even though I knew the answer, I still asked: where do they expect you guys to go when they all keep saying there is no bed? Are we going to continue like this? By like this I mean working by rules that put our lives in danger? I hate the comparison but in this case, I can't help but make them. I believe strongly that Ghana could make sure adequate healthcare is available to all its citizens. Let's face the fact, while the majority of us do not know people to call or belong to families that can make calls in emergencies or afford to send us abroad for medical care, our leaders can - no, they actually do. Part of me says that no matter how hard we argue NDC - NPP, the fact remains that our leaders and their immediate family members and allies fly abroad for medical care in foreign lands while we die in our land. The first lady cut a sod for the building of a health center yesterday while UGMC remains closed. The obvious question is: what informs such reasoning and acts? While a continued inaccessibility of UGMC affects you and I, can we sincerely and factually say that the same goes for the first lady and her political party or the University Officials fighting with the government?

As I said in the beginning, things do not get good on their own. We must make demands. We must make "unrealistic" demands. Clara Beeri wrote the other day that we should demand that our leaders’ children go to the same schools as us and we will see improvement in our education system. I agree with her. If you demand that your leaders go to the same hospitals as you, they are more likely to pay attention to the state of the hospitals in the country. That is human nature I guess. We care more about ourselves and our family members and friends than those we do not know directly. A president or minister or MP may be your leader but trust me, all you are to them is a group of people that gets them where they want to be. In fact, you would not be far from accurate if you consider yourself a statistic. I am sure if leaders in the West or elsewhere on the planet were leading at one place and educating their kids and accessing healthcare in another place the way most of our African leaders do, it would have been such a joke. Why then are we treating this normal? We are angry but we are not angry enough.

I end here with hopes of seeing inspiration force us into action.



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