Friday, December 20, 2013

Legal Action in Ghana

In Ghana, we have a very frustrating attitude when things go wrong.For example, when a company promises a service (such as water) and you pay for it, it is only reasonable to expect that you have water consistently.If water is not readily available when you need it, the company has not fulfilled their part of the agreement and they need to face the consequences of breaking that promise.Unfortunately in Ghana, we simple accept the bad service from the company, complaining about it constantly.We complain because a lot of us are not aware of our rights as consumers, or we just can't be bothered to do anything about it.
Even when we know that we have the right to take legal action against such companies, we refrain from doing so with the excuse that the legal system is too corrupt to allow 'poor ol' us' go up against a big rich company.
This same mindset shows up when criminal offenses are committed against us.In November 2012, a big shopping complex collapsed killing 18 people in Achimota, Accra.This was a well publicized disaster, with all the name-calling,finger-pointing and vague promises that such events typically warrant from our leaders.Yet, one year on, nobody has been held accountable for those lost lives.To make matters worse, the families of the victims have not been compensated adequately.They received a paltry amount of money  from the company to cover funeral expenses.
The question that begs asking is since criminal charges have yet to be brought against anyone for this, what happened to civil charges?At the very least, the company running the shopping center, the building management and the city itself should be held liable in civil court and made to pay punitory damages to the victims' families.The cause of the building's collapse has been reported to be the use of poor building materials, and the lack of a building permit.Yet, a big company was able to lease this building for use as a shopping complex and nobody is being held accountable.Clearly, the city, the company and the owner/manager of the property are all liable here.I would hold the city officials  most liable, because they are the ones charged with protecting us from incidents like these, but they  are too busy collecting bribes and lining their own pockets to ensure the safety of such a building and 18 people end up dead. If any punitive damages were to be paid, they should pay at least 50% of it.A young man who had just graduated from the University and was highly admired by his colleagues was killed in this accident.At the prime of his life, when he was just beginning to live his life and support his family for the investments they made in his education, he died.And yet, his family and that of seventeen other victims have not been able to come forward and file a civil suit.

Sadly, such a case is yet to be filed and is unlikely to be filed in court, because the families will take the paltry sum of money they've been given, assume its impossible to fight in court, and say to themselves'Let it go.Its ok.They're dead and gone.Let's move on with our lives'.The problem with such thinking is that it perpetuates injustice in the society.If there are no consequences for negligent actions like these, why would they do the right thing in the future?They will build another mall with bad material, pay bribes to corrupt city officials to get out of a permit, and rent it out to an irresponsible company looking for ways to make more money and not caring about the safety of their space.So next time, it will be 25 people dead, and the cycle will continue.
When we go to the hospital and are treated unprofessionally, we have a choice to keep quiet or to sue.Healthcare professionals elsewhere in the world carry out their duties with some degree of decency, because they know the cost of a malpractice suit.However, we allow anesthologists to show up to work drunk and give us the wrong drugs during critical surgery, and yet we do not take action against the hospital and the person in question.Students die from treatable illnesses in Ghana because they are misdiagnosed consistently in the same healthcare facility, and we do not sue because we are told to 'leave everything to God'.When will enough be enough?Until we learn to make people accountable, injustice will continue, and increase in our society.So the next time you are wronged and consider sweeping the issue under the rug, ask yourself if this is the kind of treatment you want your children and grandchildren to receive.After you answer that question, the choice is yours.Enough said.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ghana's nurses

Author's Statement:I am probably going to step on a few toes with this post, but the truth is the truth and needs to be said.I do not believe in sugar-coating, and so I apologise in advance for my bluntness and if I offend anyone.Also, this post does not imply that there are no good nurses or teachers.There are, and things are slowly changing to train better teachers and nurses.If you are one of the good ones,please keep it up and stay focused on helping others.

Akosua was pregnant with her first child.It had been a difficult pregnancy to say the least, and she was just about ready to have the baby and be done with it.As she lay in the hospital bed catching her breath and waiting for the next wave of contractions, she prayed again that she would walk safely out of the hospital with her child healthy.She tried not to be afraid, but it was difficult especially since the woman in the bed next to hers had died during her delivery just a couple of hours before then.Considering how long she had been in labour,she was very afraid of what could happen to her and the child if she didn't deliver soon.Another wave of contractions hit her, and she fought to endure the pain.This time though, the pain would not stop and just kept increasing in magnitude.She gritted her teeth and tried not to scream or cry, since the nurses had told her to endure the pain when she arrived.She tried her best, but the pain was unbearable and she couldn't help but scream.She kept screaming and screaming, then called to the nurse on duty to please help her.
The nurse on duty was bored out of her mind.She was on the phone talking to her friend about the new doctor when the lady in  the ward began screaming and calling to her.That was so annoying!Did she not know she was making noise and disturbing her phone call?Besides, she had already warned this patient to keep from making noise.This was just labour, having a baby, no big deal.Why was she being such a wimp and making noise?Muttering under her breath and complaining to her colleague nurse (who was browsing Facebook), she stalked over to Akosua to give her a piece of her mind.

This is just a hypothetical scenario that happens everyday in hospitals throughout Ghana.The reality is far worse than this, and it makes my skin crawl to remember some of these stories told to me by friends who have had to be hospitalised or visit the hospital for routine procedures.Why do we hear such horror stories all the time?Why are nurses treating patients without any compassion or professionalism?
I have a simple theory, and its my personal opinion.You're allowed to agree or disagree, but this is my opinion.The educational system in Ghana is responsible.
There are 4 tiers of high school graduates: the top 20-40% will go to college/university,next 40-80% will go to polytechnics,the next 10% will go to a nursing or a teacher training school.If you're considered at the very bottom, then you don't get to continue with a formal education at all.
Consider this.You are unable to get good grades in your Science and Math classes, but your only options are to become a nurse, a teacher  or to consider a career in fashion or something informal.
How can a country commit their whole healthcare system into the hands of students who were unable to grasp even the basic concepts of Science?How can we trust them to take of us when they are forced into this profession because they have limited options?Why then do we complain that our nurses are unprofessional and lack compassion?
We need to decide as a nation that we want excellent students in the nursing profession.We need to set the standard so high, that nursing students will be selected as if they were medical doctors.We shouldn't be gambling with the lives of the helpless and weak in our society by simply training academically inept individuals to run our hospitals and clinics.We need to remember people like Akosua, and be intentional about the kind of people we allow near our loved ones when they're sick.People who actually WANT to be nurses, who have some compassion and sympathy for those in pain, who actually know what 10cc of a drug is, and who understand that they aren't just working for money,they are helping people!Until we fix this problem with our educational system, I do not foresee a better breed of nurses being produced than we already have..and complain about.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to enjoy grad school

I am back after my long hiatus, and as you can probably guess from my title, I disappeared because I was too busy having fun!I know that's a weird thing to say, but its true.I have really began to enjoy this experience.Its busy, hectic, stressful  sometimes and overwhelming at others, but I live by a simple rule: enjoy whatever you find yourself doing!
That means no matter how 'bad' I think my present situation is, I am bound by this rule to enjoy it.And its actually quite possible.If you're in a similar place in your life, then this post should be quite helpful.My aim is to help you find realistic ways to enjoy whatever it is you do, no matter how much you complain about it or no matter how tiring or boring it may seem.Its quite simple really.You ready?Are you sitting at the edge of your seat yet?You're not?I'm sorry but I require you to be quite anxiously scanning this article for the answer, so please,sit at the edge of your seat!Now move closer to whatever screen you're reading this on,squint because I'm writing this in the same font I've been using before, and smile.Ready?Good.Here we go:DECIDE to enjoy whatever you're doing.Make up your mind to have fun.I'm done.
Its really not rocket science.Its not even Neuroscience.If YOU make up your mind to have fun doing something, you will have fun doing it because guess what?Fun depends more on you than on anyone else!If you're 'stuck' behind your computer all day at work, there is still something you can enjoy in that.You can enjoy the solitude,take a break to hang out with co-workers or read a fun blog post like this, or you can even look at the wedding pictures of your friend from high school.Don't pretend you don't do that,because you know Facebook is open right now while you read this.
For fellow grad students like myself who spend so much time in the lab and library,enjoying the whole school experience is really easy.You have your choice of writing weird stuff like I'm doing now..:D,go work out,go for a walk,talk on the phone, read weird comics about grad school in between those articles for school,enjoy playing with your mouse (whether its a computer mouse or a real one),go dancing with friends, or just hang out in the lab watching funny videos on YouTube.Either way, don't allow yourself to get into that whole typical grad school mode of 'I'm so tired and stressed out.There's too much to do.Where do I begin?Why am I even doing this?Grad school is so tiring.My boss...blah blah blah."
That doesn't change much, does it?So stop it and have some fun!Even if that means stabbing yourself in the legs with a pair of forceps (true story..that happened to me)!
The end.