This week let’s talk specifically about private hospitals and other private medical institutions.

In previous topics, we have mentioned private hospitals in our discussions as part of other issues. Ceedoo, Fambondi, Jay, Chief and others have emphasized that an increased role and prominence of private hospitals should be a major component of the health delivery system in Ghana.

I personally agree, strongly, with these ideas.

The question is: what kind or kinds of private hospitals or medical institutions are we talking about?

For private medical institutions to be of benefit to the health delivery system in Ghana, and meet the needs of the system in the way that we have been discussing, they must have certain characteristics. I believe that private hospitals and medical institutions, be they laboratories or radiology facilities in Ghana, must be of the highest quality. By highest quality, I am not saying they should have the same sophisticated equipment as we have in developed economies. What I am saying is that, if they say they have a CT scan, then, the reports of the CT scanning should be accurate and of the highest standard so that patients are not given wrong diagnoses based on poor results.

The same should go for laboratory and ultrasound results. There seems to be a proliferation of stand-alone laboratories and ultrasound facilities in Ghana. How reliable are the results coming out of these stand-alone institutions? How qualified are the technicians? Are patients paying for quality? Are patients being harmed by poor results? Why are technicians directly telling patients what they think is wrong before their reports get to the doctor? Who is checking the quality of these facilities? Who has oversight responsibilities? And how are these responsibilities discharged? Where does an aggrieved patient go to seek redress?

We must prevent the proliferation of shoddy, poor quality facilities; something that is bound to happen if there is government encouragement of increased private participation in health care delivery.

Private hospitals must have the highest quality of medical care delivery, within their four walls. Their quality oversight must be robust. For example, private hospitals who admit patients who they obviously do not have the facilities to care for but keep these patients anyway (for whatever unacceptable reason) until when the patient’s condition deteriorates then quickly refer them to public hospitals, especially Korle Bu, the Ridge Hospital and 37, should be identified, the “referrals” investigated and the appropriate sanctions, including closure of the hospital applied. A lot these patients who are so referred die in the big hospitals because the referral was done too late.

Private hospitals must have a good and proactive referral system to help save these patients. Money should never be a reason to keep patients you cannot take care of. The patient’s well-being should be supreme. Private hospitals that will not do this voluntarily and professionally must be sanctioned, firmly. Patients’ family members should know which institution to send such complaints to for investigation. Which number to call. Which email to write to. Which address to mail a letter to.

So this week, the primary discussion question is: what are our experiences with the private hospitals and medical institutions that exist in Ghana today? Again, the good, the bad and the ugly. What needs to be improved and how?

The secondary question is: what kinds of private hospitals and medical institutions do we want to see in the future?

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