DO PATIENTS HAVE RIGHTS IN AFRICA? THE CASE 0F GHANA.
By: Misbahu Bawa Bulmuo
The phenomenon of sick persons having rights is quiet strange to many people on the continent of Africa including those who are fortunate enough to have received any form of formal education up to what ever level.
Sick people who visit the hospitals have lots of respect and admiration for health workers, from the doctor to the very least staff, and yet they are not aware that they are also supposed to enjoy some respect in return.
The sick are not aware that their basic human rights can also be enjoyed at hospitals and clinics, and only turn to assume that the health centers are sacred institutions that require patients to kowtow to everything.
The situation in Ghana and many other countries on the continent is that, Patients Charters exist that clearly spell out the rights and of course responsibilities of people who visit the health centers to seek for treatments.
In recognition of these rights, and in conformity to the obligation to ensure quality health care delivery and the respect for human rights, government has through the Ghana Health Service enacted the Patient’s Charter.
The Charter has the supreme interest of protecting the rights of the patients in the country as a step towards improving health care delivery in the country.
The Charter recognizes the fact that a sick person has rights and therefore is entitled to protection when he or she pays a visit to the hospital, clinic or pharmacy.
The first of these rights is the right to quality basic health irrespective of the patient’s geographical location, background or profession.
It is no secret that this is one of the most violated of the rights as patients with no or low education do not receive better health care unlike those with better education and family connections.
As a fundamental right, patients are also entitled to know what exactly is wrong with them and the kind of treatment to be given out to them and any unpleasant effect the treatment might bring on the patients. Alternative treatments are to be made known to the patient.
Unknown to many is the fact that, patients have the rights to know all rules and policies of the health facility they attend.
Many are those who do not know this and the fear of health professionals who have turned themselves into mini-gods would scare them from asking to know the policies and rules of the hospitals they visit.
These and other rights exist that the patient needs to know. It must however be understood that rights as always, rights do come with duties and patients have some to observe them as such.
One of such important duties is for the patient to provide the doctor with accurate information on what is wrong with him or her, the medicine one might have taken before and advice the patient might have received before. This is seldom done by patients.
Patients are also to strictly observe appointment dates and time. They are to enquire about the cost of treatment for forestall any unfortunate situation.
A basic knowledge of first aid is also a duty to be observed by the patient and all efforts must be directed towards preventing diseases by ensuring clean surroundings. The latter is a bane to many patients who do not even understand that a clean environment prevents disease.
There is no doubt that when the rights and duties are strictly adhered to, health care delivery in Ghana and indeed in many African countries would be beneficial to all stakeholders.
It is therefore the duties of all stakeholders to endeavour to educate the public on this important component of health delivery. Time to act is now.