Saturday, July 15, 2023.
Last year, I was in the office of a senior staff of my hospital having a discussion with the person when a woman knocked on the door and entered. She had come to say ‘hello’ to the senior staff. She was introduced to me as a ‘retired senior member’ of the health service. She didn’t know me. She said she had come for screening at the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Centre (CCPTC) in the hospital. Though she had been attended to (and attended to well), she was not happy because she had to wait for others (she had met there) to be seen first. She believed that by virtue of being a ‘retired senior member’ of the health service, she deserved ‘protocol service,’ and had to be seen ahead of the others she met there.
I didn’t introduce myself. I had to control myself not to respond immediately, but I had a discussion on this with the senior staff of the hospital after she left. I couldn’t help asking:
- Where did this sense of entitlement not to join queues by Ghanaians come from?
When one goes to a public place, should one declare what position he/she holds or has held in the past to make the person jump a queue?
This woman didn’t know the people she met at the place who were there before her. Could some of them have occupied higher positions than her (or have contacts of more ‘powerful’ people than her who could have called for them to jump the queue but didn’t)? How would she have felt if someone she didn’t know was made to jump the queue because she ‘occupied a higher position’ when she was in active service (or she knew more ‘powerful people’ who could call for them to jump the queue)? She could go to a public place first but be the last to be seen because everybody who decided to access the public service that day (even without booking an appointment was ‘more powerful or more important’ than her)?
Why does this protocol service persist? There is scarcity. And there is greed/selfishness instead of thinking about the greater good of society. Can we all agree to work together to make things work? Even in some of the developed countries, their citizens wait for many months to get access to specialist services (consultations/surgeries) that are not emergencies. They do not book more than their health personnel can handle, so if it gets to one’s turn, the person gets quality care. Ghanaians who stay in these countries respect this and do not look for ‘protocol’ to jump queues. In Ghana, someone decides in the night that he/she must see a specialist the next day and without an appointment goes to the hospital and wants to be seen before people who have booked appointments weeks or months earlier just because ‘they are more important or that they know powerful people.’ Many will not take the option to go to private facilities and pay more to be seen earlier. People who by virtue of ‘being important or knowing powerful people’ do not have to book appointments. They can walk in any day and jump the queue, spend more time than the average person, leaving the average person to have suboptimal care because they have only a short time to be seen.
I have said this a hundred times: We may think we have the advantage today and use ‘protocol.’ One day the tides will turn and you will be the one having to wait for unrealistically long periods because others are using ‘protocol’ to go ahead of you. Let us build systems that give everyone a fair opportunity. It is to our own good.