The Uneasy Farewell

The Author, Dr. Kofi Dankyi Beeko, MD.

One very good reason that has seen me visit fairly often, a particular club since quite a while, is its nearness to where I reside. Other reasons might exist that might compete so keenly, and closely, but I would like to leave them out. Some days before penning this narrative, a good friend phoned me late in the evening, and after the usual long chatting, he announced an invitation for dinner in a place which happened to be diametrically opposite the pub I have mentioned.

This friend was soon to travel outside the country, and the purpose was to come close to his Faith – a pilgrimage to Mecca. Not quite an hour later, however, he phoned again, and my guess that he was nervous, turned out to be correct. He requested a change of the venue, because, he had just been informed that the forty-eight-year-old flamboyant female owner of a prestigious eating place that he had earmarked for us, had just passed away, according to information he had just been fed with.

He expected the staff to be distraught, and he thought it would be good to choose another location.  So, we did. I was very anxious however, to know the cause of death, even though I did not know the lady in question, closely. I had met her only on two occasions at the eatery she owned, and there was an impressive picture of her displayed in such a way that most customers would inevitably have a glimpse of it, whilst seated.

What was the cause of death?  For quite a long time, I used to feel it was asking too much, if when told of someone’s passing away, I would ask questions such as; “what was the cause of death?” How long had he/she been ill for?  It would seem so, like in an inquisition, and I had been given every right, so to do. Perhaps, I generally take it directly into my profession, which incidentally deals with the life of people, and automatically, their death as well. That way, people don’t just die, they die of “something, a disease.”

In medicine, most people are taken ill, and in the process, smart physicians tend to find out what the health problem might be, or might have been. When taken all of a sudden, a heart attack, cerebral stroke, perforation of a “blown out viscus or  blood vessel somewhere” (called an aneurysm), just to mention a few, may be the culprit.

Issues like poisoning would complicate the situation, because, they would need to be established whether one were dealing with self-inflicted poisoning (suicide), or murder, planned and executed by an unknown person or persons – a crime. As such, sudden deaths are not a joke. The coroner would be assigned (requested) to look into it, and a reliable cause of death established. It isn’t then a private matter anymore, and the state is interested in the first instance.

In the case of the death of the aforementioned lady, the information passed on to my friend, who was himself “close to her, and her family, was that she wasn’t well, and she requested to be brought to a nearby country, for medical care.” She passed away en route.  This is so often the narrative in instances where the sick individual, or some loved ones, might be “fortunate, or not.” Sometimes, it may not have happened in a nearby country, but “wide overseas,” South Africa, Israel, the United Kingdom, India, and a couple more of foreign countries feature among places that citizens of our Republic happen to die in, or get treated in.

This is not to say that “they may not die in Ghana too”. They die here at home as well, and when they do, it may not be any simpler finding out how they it all happened and what they died of, let alone surmise, whether death (the event most mortals are so worried about), could have been prevented.  A man sends his ten-year-old daughter to the “Crown-Jewel-Hospital”, and spends a good part of the night with her. He gets to his executive office the next day, three hours too late. The story is spread that the MD’s daughter was ill. If you happen to meet this Executive that day, and you would dare ask interestedly, “what had been said to be wrong with the little girl,” you would be told by the concerned father, “THE DOCTOR DID NOT TELL ME ANYTHING”.

This is not “apocryphal.”  On another front, you may have missed a familiar face at the place of worship for weeks. You bump into each other, and looking at the “succulent skin- appearance”, you cannot help, but suggest he must have been overseas. That would lead to him pulling you aside, and then opining, “I understand the frustration doctors working in our country must be facing day after day.”

That should not be the end, he would continue, “In New York, I was seen by a couple of consultants in a private practice, and machines! machines!, machines!”  I did not want to part with him before getting him to tell me what impressed him most, the MACHINES?  “No, not just the machines, but the several specialists that saw me. I was thoroughly examined by each of them, before I was put in the various machines.”

I thought I needn’t outstretch his magnanimity in politeness by adding more questions. I am sure everybody acquainting himself with this article has heard it before, or experienced the scenario in which a Physician hears a patient’s complaint, and the next is his grabbing his stylum and prescription pad, and preparing a subscription for the patient to take to his preferred pharmacy. It hurts if you are yourself in that profession. I once attended a conference in Lebanon, and as I finished with the registration-desk, the first day of the conference, a young lady walked directly into me, but politely, and said, “Come to our desk, sir. We have something for you.”

As they sat me down and offered a cup of “expectoration-stimulating Arabic Coffee”, an expert on corporate loans started to take me through their all-attractive, all-embracing lending conditions. They covered rental-premises for your practice, and acquisition of equipment to the tune of US$2.5 million, payable in 15 years, or entering fresh negotiations for re-scheduling, if need be. The name was one I had never seen before, even though, I had stayed for quite a while somewhere not so far from the location of the conference. The bank was called Byb-los-Bank.

That day, I was made to learn that there were Lebanese citizens of “Negroid-skin-color.”  I wasn’t resident in Lebanon, nor had I any plans to migrate that direction. But, I went back and learned more about the ancient Phoenician city of Byb-los (and I recommend readers do the same). Then, I recently had an encounter with a Middle-Eastern citizen, who is interestingly and aggressively pushing all sorts of business-lines from his Middle-East source to our Republic. He talked freely, about the fact that his connections would grant him soft loans up to half-a-million US$ at a time, to carry out businesses in our Republic.

He added that it is so difficult to rent office premises in Ghana. All in all, because of the easy accessibility to loans elsewhere, and not here, “he would stick to his way of one-leg here, and the other, there.” Being cautious, he said, he has an insurance policy in place, which “grants him treatment over-there”, when he falls ill. The health care situation in the Republic should, and in reality, make many a Physician practicing here, very nervous!! The lady mentioned at the beginning might have survived, if her type of disease, whatever it might have been, had been done justice to here!  The situation in our Republic is such that even we in the “health-care delivery” must be uneasy talking about it. In a casual discussion about the subject, someone once treated me down this way;   “Stop! Stop! Stop!” he yelled. “Before an official is sent out for treatment, a medical Doctor must write a report about the disease entity,” he said. “And you bet, “the concluding statement in such a report always says there are no facilities to take care of his ailment here in Ghana.” So, it is an impasse, right!

The lamentable situation is that, the private clinic in New York that my fellow-worshipper was so thrilled about, because, it was so well-equipped, must have got equipped with bank-loans. “They don’t exist for private hospitals in Ghana. The argument against is laughable though. As a result, one gets locked in an intractable scenario, where the advantages brought into medicine. due to advanced diagnostics. are simply missing.


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