Accident and Emergency Care in Kumasi

Late one evening in the summer of 1996, Akos Mary, the Ghanaian wife of Kwame Mainu’s English friend, Tom Arthur, fell unconscious after being cursed by a fetish priest. She was rushed to Komfo Anokye Hospital in Kumasi where there was only a skeleton staff on duty. They found other patients waiting and progress was very slow.

‘This is going to take all night!’ shouted Tom in anger. ‘You may be right,’ Kwame said, ‘but trying to speed things up will only make them slower.’

‘Kwame’s right,’ said Comfort, ‘The doctors and nurses feel insulted when people expect them to work faster. They are kings and queens in their palace and demand humble respect from their patients.’

Now it was the turn of the old gentleman who had given up his seat. Kwame helped him over to the nurse. When he returned there was a place for him on the bench. One by one the patients were admitted to the doctor’s inner sanctum. The nurse escorted the pregnant woman to the maternity ward and the old man was given a prescription and told to take it to the pharmacy when it opened. He turned to go, muttering to Kwame that now he must look for a loan to pay for the medicine. Kwame slipped him a fifty thousand cedis note and said that he hoped it would reach.

Akos Mary’s turn came at last. They were told to bring the patient to the doctor’s consulting room. With difficulty, Tom and Kwame carried Akos Mary into the small room and the doctor indicated a waist-high couch where she should be laid. ‘Has this lady, Mrs Arthur, been ill for long?’ the doctor asked. ‘No, she collapsed just this evening, or rather yesterday evening,’ said Tom, looking at his watch. The young man scowled as though he thought Tom was making a joke at his expense. This isn’t going at all well, thought Kwame. ‘How did it come about?’ asked the doctor. Kwame knew that it was best not to disclose the source of the problem but before he could warn Tom he had blurted out, ‘She was cursed by some juju man.’

‘I am normally reluctant to treat such cases,’ the doctor said, ‘but we can admit her to the women’s ward and keep her under observation.’ He called the nurse to show them the way and the nurse brought a trolley to transport the patient. Tom recoiled at laying his dormant wife on its bare aluminium surface but Kwame pointed out that it was the only way she would be admitted to the ward. Comfort had brought a nightdress which she now folded and placed under her sister’s head. They pushed the trolley gently along a corridor to a lift and the nurse pressed the buttons for an ascent of several floors. Kwame caught Comfort’s eye, marvelling that the lift was working and the power was on. He wondered how they would have fared otherwise.

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