ACCESS to quality health services is a human right and the Government is working towards achieving that goal by, among other things, introducing the National Health Insurance Scheme, whose Bill is currently under debate in Parliament.
Quality health care encompasses the need to offer that service in a timely manner, in a clean environment, by competent and caring personnel, which the Patriotic Front Government has coined as the three Cs.
Undoubtedly, the Government has been making frantic efforts to ensure that patients are attended to in a timely manner of constructing more health facilities to decongest the existing ones and upgrading clinics to first level hospitals coupled with the recruitment of more personnel.
However, despite those efforts, some ‘bad eggs’ in the health sector, particularly at clinics and hospitals, have been trying to frustrate the Government’s efforts of rendering health services competently, in a caring and timely manner.
If a health practitioner is competent and caring enough, he or she is supposed to know that an emergency medical case is supposed to be attended with the urgency it deserves.
We are, however, saddened to learn that barely a month after it was reported that a woman of Chief Chinunda’s area in Chipata District gave birth in a soya bean field because health officials at Chanyumbu clinic turned her away, another case has surfaced, but this time involving Chilenje First Level Hospital
In the case of Chilenje First Level Hospital, which President Edgar Lungu commissioned last year, accident victims were denied emergency medical services before obtaining a police medical report.
That incident, just like the one in Chipata District, is inhumane and that is why we welcome the decision of the Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) to institute investigations and we hope that the medical doctors who were involved are punished.
According to ZMA secretary general Francis Mupeta, there is no law in Zambia requiring a police report to be produced before a health worker can provide medical attention, but that it is the responsibility of the victim, if they wish to press charges, to ensure they obtained a police report to assist with the legal process.
Dr Mupeta said a medical provider was not mandated to force the victim or patient to obtain the police medical report form before attending to them and that medical doctors were on duty all the time and were required to offer treatment to victims of emergency cases.
We are further elated that Dr Mupeta agrees with our observation that sending away victims of trauma of any sort from emergency rooms if they had no police medical report was against the standards of good medical practice and principles of medical ethics.
It is heartening to note also that the association would not shield any of its members who was not upholding principles of good medical practice in cases of emergency.
Dr Mupeta’s appeal to the Ministry of Health and Health Professions Council of Zambia to develop guidelines on reporting systems for medicolegal cases cannot go without praise because it is high time that sanity is restored in the delivery health care thereby guaranteeing universal access.
We echo Labour and Social Security Minister Joyce Nonde-Simukoko’s recent remarks that those charged with the responsibility to offer a service to others should leave their problems at home to avoid them venting their frustrations on their clients while they are on duty.