Abandoned to die: Ghana ambulance investigates case of negligence


The Ghana Ambulance Service has launched investigations into how a sick and homeless man ended up back on the street without receiving the proper medical attention. It comes on the back of a story carried by JoyNews about a sick elderly man who was left to his fate after the ambulance crew failed to get him medical attention.

In an interview with Keminni Amanor, the Deputy CEO, Ghana Ambulance Service, Dr. Joseph Atiah Akamah disclosed that, the occurrence is not an isolated case adding that hospitals fail to accept certain patients brought in by the ambulance service especially those without any relative accompanying them. He explained that it posed a major challenge for the smooth running of the service. Dr. Atiah Akamah presumed that the crew had perhaps exhausted all alternatives hence the need to wait for the outcome of the investigation.

In response to this, Benjamin Otoo, Ashanti Regional Director for the department of Social Welfare said, that no hospital especially the police hospital has any excuse to reject anybody in need of health care whether identified or not. 

Stressing his point, Otoo said almost all public health care facilities have health welfare departments which take care of cases like that of Jacob Basil Asare, the man in question. According to the social worker even if those departments were absent the health care workers are aware to call the department for the needed processes to take place while medical attention is given the patient. 

When asked about the kind of working relationship that existed between the two sectors, he admitted there was no direct working relationship. “I don’t think there is a direct correlation between the Ghana Ambulance service and social welfare department”, he said.

ABANDONED TO DIE
Jacob Basil Asare is the name of the man who lay helplessly on the street of Kokomlemle in Accra. Sick poor and dejected he had two wishes – a good Samaritan to help ease his pain or the icy hands of death to take him away from the unfair world.

Instead of a Samaritan, Samaritans came to his aid, however all that came to naught when the ambulance that was called in only brought him back to the same spot on the street, because the police hospital where Asare was sent to, will not accept and treat him; claiming their hands were tied.

The ambulance brought him back to the streets to die. Asked why he was returned to the street the crew said the man was cleaned and fed but they could not find a hospital to accept him. The crew also said, they had no fuel and had to buy with their own money. Nonetheless, Deputy CEO Dr. Atiah Akamah on Newsdesk on MultiTv debunked their claims saying the ambulances are filled with enough fuel. He adds that each crew is given some coupons for refill or is reimbursed should coupons run out.

TOO SOON
But if one took a closer look at the Kokomlemle neighbourhood, a number of public health facilities exist.  Besides the police hospital, one can count at least six other facilities. The 37 military hospital, Maamobi, Dansoman, Kaneshie and Korle-bu polyclinics and the Korlebu teaching hospital. So was it really a hopeless and helpless situation? What stopped the ambulance crew from pursuing medical attention for Asare?-  shouldn’t that have been the priority? Dr. Attiah Akama admits it is indeed the obligation of the ambulance service to find a health facility once a person is picked up. Hence it is difficult to find reason in why the ambulance crew gave up hope too soon after the police hospital rejected the extremely weak Asare.

COMING TO THE RESCUE
In spite of the seemingly hopelessness depicted by the actions of the police hospital and Ghana ambulance service, JoyNews managed to get Jacob Basil Asare medical attention from the ridge hospital.

Thankfully, he is responding to treatment. Beyond the civic duty though, the state does have procedures to help those like Asare. The Ashanti Regional Director of the social welfare said when all attempts to trace relatives fail the cost of treatment is waivered and a court order is acquired for the state to take charge of the person at the national infirmary at Asante-Bekwai.

“In practice we’ve been doing it. When I was in Accra, we moved him to the Accra Rehabilitation Centre…when we were not making any headway…we sent him to Asante-Bekwai and we have been receiving periodic report on the man…” he elaborated”

Well, there could still be a little more than hope for Asare who is just recovering from an unforgettable bruise of his dignity. Equally pressing however, is how we can ensure this does not happen to anyone of us.

Human rights lawyer, Francis Xavier Sosu who was in utter shock upon hearing Asare’s story blamed it on the systemic failures and sheer ineptitude shown by both the ambulance crew and health workers at the police hospital.

For him, “This is an epitome of the lawlessness, the ineffective social systems we have…it is very unfortunate to say the least…somebody must be brought to book”.

Nonetheless, he is quick to add that while getting to the bottom of the matter is crucial the system needs an awakening. According to the lawyer, sometimes this can only be done when the state is sued.

He said Jacob “has the right to sue the state” because that is “the essence of the rule of law”. He adds that “for a man who has been this violated Jacob is legally entitled to some compensation” explaining, his circumstance is as a result of the failure of the systems.

It is not always about the money, sometimes some of these stories address the failures withing the systems, he emphasized.

Though the ambulance service will not disclose how long before its investigations are concluded it assures no stone will be left unturned urging the state to deal with the challenges of the system. Perhaps this is also a call on the many legal brains across Ghana to help awaken the state on the failures of its emergency system. the police hospital is yet to react to the story.

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