By Dr Adoma Dwomo-Fokuo Odame
I offer you my condolences but I also say ‘welcome to our world’.
Reading your piece ‘I am angry, I am sad, I am pissed’, I feel your frustration and your pain but I am tempted to think you just returned to Ghana last week after many years stay abroad.Because this is what we go through daily here.
Its not just about beds..no..its about many things in the healthcare system.
I am a paediatrician and I speak for the children. Many hospitals do not have the equipment children need to help them survive and thrive. Many hospitals do not have NICUs.(We are creating awareness about neonatal jaundice this month so I will just mention phototherapy machines that are used to treat newborns with jaundice before it damages their brains…permanently). Many of our district hospitals do not have these machines, let alone radiant warmers..and incubators…or infusion pumps or monitors…oh and childhood cancer is not even covered by health insurance.
You felt pain because the child of someone you know died..and despite your calls, you couldn’t save the child. Thats how I feel every single day I work in this country. Welcome to my world. You have the liberty of talking politics and placing blame at peoples doorsteps and therefore can sleep easy. I don’t have that liberty as no child votes in Ghana…every child has red blood. No child has a mixture of red, white and blue blood or green, black,white and red blood. The blood of children is red. Period! The red blood cells of children are not shaped like umbrellas or coconut trees or elephants. The red blood cells of children are all little circles.
You can easily turn this into a #fixthecountry #fixyourattitude chant. But I cannot. I will always remember the eyes of the parents as they watch their child suffer and die.I will remember the gasping breaths. And I will know what could have been done but wasn’t done because of the decisions and inactions of people.
But enough of this. Let’s focus on the way forward. Do not let this child’s death be in vain.
Honourable, find out what really went wrong.
Why did powerful men need to get involved before ‘things’ could happen?
Why were there no beds? Why couldn’t another hospital handle it?
Why did the child have to cross regions to get care?
Is it a matter of equipment or personnel or both?
What will it take to prevent this from happening next week?
Please get into your car and drive across, trace the journey this child made and find out from the people on the ground what really happened. Do not call before you arrive in the hospital else you will meet a hospital scrubbed clean and painted white, with dinner fit for a king served to you…and it will be from the hospitals meagre resources; money that could have bought a defibrillator.Go unannounced and get the true answers. Talk to the people on the ground, not those in the suits.
And thats not all. When you find the problems, come up with solutions that are devoid of politics.
What can you, with all your power ,do to turn things around at your level.Let it be a memorial to that lost child.Thats what matters.
Do not tell me that its not your duty to do this fact finding task and that there’s a whole ministry for health.
I didn’t train as a telephonist, nor letter writer, nor fundraiser. I learnt medicine. But if I don’t write letters, fundraise or make thousands of calls, in addition to clinical work, the kids will die in my hands. If I don’t piece together a voltic bottle and tubes, I can’t get bubble cpap for a baby. I am not a biomedical engineer. If I don’t fix onion bulbs on a wooden frame, I can’t get a warmer for newborns. I am not a carpenter.
But we all go the extra mile so the Ghanaian child can live .So get on the road for this fact finding journey.You may realise that everyone has the blood of the dead child on his/ her hands.From road contractors to the ministers. Everyone.
And that’s not all. On Monday or whenever, kindly go to parliament, talk to your colleagues and pour your heart out to them. Remember the emotion that you felt as you poured your heart out on facebook. And let the change begin. Marshall your colleague MPs to do something to save the lives of Ghanaian children. (If they even adopt the kids ward in their districts hospitals, buy phototherapy machines for their hospital NICUs and get childhood cancers on insurance, I will be less pissed)
We are all sad and angry and pissed..but let it bring change.
Don’t let the child’s death be in vain. Red is the only colour that matters.
Sad, Angry, Pissed Adoma
Please tell the other Honourable, that if it takes him being admitted in a hospital abroad to see how ill our hospitals are, then I pray that he and all the other decision-makers get admitted to a children’s hospital abroad and have their eyes opened.