Published: June 20th 2006June 20th 2006
Front doors to the Outpatient Department
Today I was introduced to the Police Hospital that I will be working in for the next month. I arrived at around 8:30am after a half an hour tro-tro ride to Osu, although I didn't start my introduction until 9:30. As the other volunteers have informed me, Ghanians are very relaxed about time. People will often come late to work and its accepted as being quite normal. However, this is quite reasonable considering that the tro-tro is fairly unreliable. As Louise put it yesterday, the transport system here is organized chaos but it works. People actually sometimes fight their way on to a tro-tro. Imagine a very small minivan with about 20 people in the back of it; that's a tro-tro. When it came to a stop near the guest house this morning there were probably 10 people needing the same tro-tro route and there's usually only a couple seats on each tro-tro, it's a mad rush for the only seats. This morning we opted for a route taxi to take us half way there since it probably would have taken an hour to get in the first tro-tro. The taxi turned out to be quite cheap. If you're wondering what
a route taxi is (or whatever they call it) I'm going to write a page about getting around Accra.
Anyway, back to the police hospital. My introduction started late because I was waiting for Mr. Viero, who is the Deputy Matron at the hospital. Mr. Viero is a very busy man, especially in the mornings, and he's not the type to argue with or rush so the tpa guides told me just to get comfortable and wait as long as it took. The Police Hospital is owned and operated by the local police and it also meant to be primarily for police, security and military personnel. This, of course, would probably raise questions about ethics and equal treatment for the people back home, however, here its the only option for many Ghanians. There are other hospitals available to the public, but they are all more expensive thant he police hospital so most locals end up there. The unfortunate part is that there is definitely a big difference between how police and normal citizens are treated. No matter how big the line up is in the outpatient department, if a police officer comes through the door he or she will be seen first. Also, treatment is free for police officers, as well as, security guards, military, BNI (which is the Ghanian version of CSIS or CIA), etc. Because the treatment is not free for the normal citizen, patients must wait along time to be seen and only after they have waited in line to pay for the treatment. Also, this means that the poorest people have no way of paying for treatment and therefore cannot be seen. This is just what I've heard so far, I'm sure I'll soon see this first hand since I'll be starting work in the oupatient department tomorrow.
Mr. Viero is a high ranking police officer and therefore must be greeted everytime he is seen by volunteers with something like, "Good morning, Mr. Viero. How are you today?" Likewise, any police officer whether they are a junior officer (blue uniform) or a senior officer (khaki uniform) must be acknowledge everytime someone sees them. If I did not greet an officer with a 'good morning' they would take it as an insult and would be less likely to treat me kindly in the future. At least I don't have to stop and give a full solute to the senior officers like the junior officers do. All this beginning said, Mr. Viero is an extremely nice man. After a short meeting in his office to establish which things I would like to see and hear about protocol, Mr. Viero gave a tour of the hospital and introduced me to each of the officers in charge of the wards I will be working in. He was very careful to establish that I was a first year medical student rather than a pre-medical students, which I was thankful for. But at the same time, he explained that I shouldn't sit back and expect the doctors or nurses to invite me to do things. Apparently, even asking if I can try sometime wouldn't really work. He said that instead I should just say, let me help with that or please let me assist you and proceed to do so unless they tell me not to. So, we'll see how that goes since it's completely different from what I'm used to.