A young chartered accountant has been reported dead after a counterfeit brand of Oxytocin administered in a maternity ward when she began to bleed excessively after delivery failed to save her life.
The Executive Director of the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), Peter Kwame Yeboah, announced this in the Upper East region at a durbar jointly organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Presbyterian Hospital in Bawku to mark this year’s World Health Day.
“A chartered accountant— a young beautiful lady who has just been married— gave birth and she was bleeding. The doctors administered the first shot, third, fifth and she passed on suddenly. When they had a maternal death audit, it was established that the substance served as Oxytocin was just water. And that is what we are experiencing,” Mr. Yeboah, who did not mention the names of the deceased accountant and the hospital, lamented Saturday.
He added: “In recent times, Oxytocin, a drug used in saving mothers, has been counterfeited and has led to several missed opportunities to save the lives of women during birth.”
According to the Executive Director, reports about fake medicines at health facilities are widespread, with experts alerting the public to the fact that “counterfeit medicines constitute 25% of the medicines market in developing countries and it is worth about 700 billion dollars a year.”
“To a large extent,” remarked Mr. Yeboah, “this affects maternal and child health outcomes given that many of the emergency situations require quality medicines.”
Health Facilities protecting only Preferred Faces from Fake Drugs
A sad-looking Mr. Yeboah also gave a picture of a Ghana whose health system has become ‘a selective-justice jungle’ where health professionals are concerned only about the lives of faces considered ‘too rich to die’ or ‘too connected to be handed wrong drugs’.
“Let me recount one sad instance,” he said as an uneasy crowd doubled its attention. “A family member of mine was also sick. She had asthma. I went to a hospital and the doctor just told me, ‘Director, you are a big man. If we give this Salbutamol, you’ll not come and find this your relative [alive]. Go out there and buy’. I drove from Sunyani to Kumasi (a 76-mile driving distance of two and a half hours) within one hour— I don’t know how I did it.”
He continued: “When I came [back], she got saved. And I asked, ‘How many patients have died because of these fake medicines?’ And if [not for] the big-man mentality that was there (at the hospital), what would have happened? Do we need to know somebody in order to provide humane, compassionate services? Is that what we want?”
Politicians, Pastors, Chiefs blocking Universal Health Coverage
The Executive Director also took his raw anger to public figures he said were obstacles to efforts being made to achieve the theme for this year’s World Health Day— “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere.” — which is same as the global target of “Health for All by the year 2030”.
“In our attempt to ensure equitable distribution of health personnel across regions and needy communities, there have been challenges worth sharing. Posting of critical health staff to deprived segments of the country has become an intriguing experience.
“When it is time for postings, politicians, clergy, chiefs and all the big men in the society have preferences and would obstruct equitable posting with tough lobbying and pleas. Suddenly, some health professionals are professing CVA (strokes) for their parents just to get posted to their preferred areas,” he stated.
Mr. Yeboah hinted at plans by CHAG to help check counterfeit medicines in the country through what he called “a digitally supported supply chain system”. He also spoke of the need for stakeholders in the health sector to create and sustain an environment congenial enough for professional growth and development.
“We need coordinated efforts from all stakeholders to evolve innovative schemes and responsive conditions of service to attract and retain critical health personnel to deprived and needy segments. These should include essential training for health professionals, career development opportunities, out-of-turn promotions and enhanced subsistence packages for family among others,” he recommended.
Over 200 poor people in Bawku benefit from Presbyterian Hospital’s Fund
In celebrating the 2018 World Health Day, the Presbyterian Hospital at Bawku kept the limitations faced by poor people in accessing maternal and child healthcare services under a week-long spotlight.
Throughout the week, staff of the hospital lifted a banner through the streets of the municipality, displaying a sub-theme chosen for the event: “Maternal and Child Health— the Plight of the Poor.”
“We believe that attention ought to be given to the poor and vulnerable in terms of maternal and child health beyond the current efforts if we are committed to bringing down maternal and infant mortality. As a hospital, we recognise that we have a part to play in promoting access to health services for the poor in the maternal and child health.
“And for this reason, we operate a poor-and-sick fund by which we go to the aid of clients of our facility who are identified to be genuinely poor and needy. In 2007 alone, over 200 individuals benefited from [the fund] which translated to an amount of about 60,000 Ghana cedis,” said the General Manager of the Presbyterian Health Service North, Fred Effah-Yeboah, at the durbar.
According to CHAG, most of the maternal and child deaths are from “avoidable causes and circumstances, and, worst of all, they occur mostly in deprived communities where the poor and needy live.”