Is it negligence or inefficiency?

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With Aisha Jallow

At Ndeban Clinic on Tuesday 3rd of January 2023, a lady went to complain of a pain on her heel. Her foot had been disturbing her for a while as a result of a  fall which resulted in a fracture. She was treated for that but the pain persisted. She hesitated going to hospital for fear of the poor services in the hospital. A friend prevailed upon her to give it a try as she doesn’t know how long she could withstand the pain.

Well, she arrived at the hospital at around eleven in the morning and the first problem she encountered was the security at the gate telling her that as Ndeban is a referral hospital, she cannot just come there on her own. He told her that she had to go to any of the clinics and get reffered. She insisted and was allowed in. She went in an bought a form, filled and submitted it and sat down to wait.

Emergencies were coming and being taken care of while she waited. But of course, she understood that because she knew that those ones had to be given priority. What was of concern was the long wait, no information was given about what was going on and she just sat there waiting. After about five hours of waiting, (around four o’clock) she decided to take the bull by the horn, so to speak.

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She went in and asked the nurse on duty what was going on. She was told that the doctor who was there in the morning had gone home as his replacement had not yet arrived. She was surprised as she had expected that as patients were still there, the doctor could have – should have continued till his replacement arrived. Well, that was not the case at Ndeban Clinic, or so it seemed.

She enquired about her case and the nurse offered to look into it. She checked and found no form bearing the lady’s name in the tray containing forms of patients to be seen by a doctor. The nurse asked her again if she had registered. Yes, she said, I registered and filled a form. The nurse checked the tray containing the  names of patients who had already been treated and found this lady’s form there marked ‘SEEN’. The nurse told the lady that the form indicated that she had already been treated.

‘No one treated me,’ the lady said, ‘I have been here since morning but no one checked me.’ The nurse checked the paper and saw that the person (who had purportedly been treated) had complained of chest and back pain. Drugs for that had been prescribed and dispensed already. This lady said that that was impossible as she had only complained of a pain on her heel and no doctor had seen her. How could they prescribe medicine for back and chest pain? Besides, her name was clearly written on the form.

The nurse told her that she had to buy a new form and fill it. She complained that she didn’t have to buy another form as the mistake was not hers. She had done what was required of her. After a lot of push and pull and dilly dallying, they provided her with a new form. She filled that one and was told that she should sit and wait. The nurse had taken this new form and placed it under all the others that were in the tray. The lady complained that she should not have to wait any longer as she was there before all the others and that the mix up was that of the staff and not her. Why should she wait again?

They insisted that she go to the waiting room and sit down, that her name will be called. She was however too angry to compromise any further. She therefore took her form and walked out. She has gone home with her pain, having wasted an entire day waiting for a call that never came and would have never come as her form was dumped in the tray of those that had already been treated.

One wonders how such a thing can happen in this day and age? Isn’t there any system in the Gambia that one can rely on? Any professional can make mistakes without much consequences but not health professionals as any mistakes on their part can lead to the untimely death of citizens. There must be a way to remedy this type of issues if we are to avoid unnecessary deaths. But first we must know the answer to the question: Is it negligence or Inefficiency?