RESIDENT Doctors Association of Zambia (RDAZ) president Dr Brian Sampa says the trend of patients abruptly leaving health facilities against medical advice is an indication that the Ministry of Health is not providing quality health services.

During a Covid-19 briefing recently, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Dr Kennedy Malama raised concern that some patients were leaving health facilities against medical advice.

Commenting on this in an interview, Dr Sampa said the patients could not be blamed because they felt they were just waiting for their death owing to the lack of availability of medical personnel to attend to them.

“We have got a lot of examples which are proven. Just today, we received a call where someone was complaining that they were called by UTH in February that their cervical cancer screening results came out. After they went there, they were given another appointment to come back in November. Now are you telling me, in November, is that cervical cancer going to be waiting for November? They are not even sure, maybe in November again they will be told to come in March next year. So why should people stay in the hospital when they are just going to wait for their death? It’s not like when they leave the hospitals they go home, most of those people go to private hospitals because that is where they have seen that quality health services are being provided. So this is an eye opener and it is not supposed to be about blaming patients. It is an eye opener to the Ministry of Health that something is very wrong. Why are people running away?” Dr Sampa asked.

Dr Sampa said it was unfortunate that the University Teaching Hospital lacked medical supplies such as cotton wool.

“So let us take this positively. It is a positive move in the right direction to open our eyes that something is very wrong. Let us employ more health care workers. People need to be working in these hospitals. Let us buy medication. Two months ago, if you may wish to know, at UTH, there was not even a single cotton wool, not even spirit. People were even improvising removing cotton diapers and using them. That is what they were using in the hospital. Where have we gone wrong that we can be this desperate?” Dr Sampa asked.

“We cannot even have simple and cheap gloves and no medicine. The way COVID-19 is being treated at Levy is different from the way it is being treated in Chinsali or Kitwe because they do not have the medication. So people must stay in these hospitals to die? We cannot allow that to happen because people have the right to choose where they feel they will get the quality health services. That is why they are running away and not choosing government facilities because they have seen that the services are pathetic.”

Dr Sampa said the Ministry of Health needed to introspect and make public hospitals attractive to the patients.

“The thing here is that before we can start blaming patients and encouraging them to come to the hospital, we need to ask ourselves, are we providing quality health services? Is there medicine in these hospitals? Do we have enough doctors and other health care workers? Patients want to go to the hospital to be healed. They want to get better when they are in the hospital. So what we are seeing about patients running away, it is a sign to us that something is wrong with our health system which needs cleaning up. So what we need to do instead of calling the patients, let us make our hospitals attractive to the patients. The way it is in the private sector, you find patients are told to leave, but they decide on their own to stay because they feel they are getting better. There is enough medicine, there are enough doctors seeing them and there are enough nurses,” Dr Sampa said.

“What we see in the government sector is that hospitals are like death beds. Patients would be there the whole day but they are not seen until 17:00 hours because there is no one to see them and we do not have enough health care workers. Patients want to be in a place where there is hope for them to get better or they run away. So we cannot blame them. We cannot be removing a stick from someone’s eye when we have got a log ourselves in our eyes. As the Ministry of Health as well, we are supposed to do an introspection. How are our services? Are we providing quality health services which will make these patients stay in bed for five or 10 days? The answer is no.”

He urged government to conduct a thorough clean up in the Ministry of Health administration.

“So we need to pull up our socks and we urge the government to look into the health system as soon as possible. The clean up needs to be done and it should be a complete clean up otherwise we will continue to have these problems. The indicators are the patients because health care services are centered on the patients. So the patient is the one who is supposed to appraise the health care system but the patients are already disapproving. So we cannot force patients to be in the hospital, it is us who need to improve and once we improve, that is when we see that the patients are now going to appraise us. They will be appreciating us,” said Dr Sampa.