Anti-Snake Serum supposed to be Free but Cost Ghc1,600 in Northern Ghana

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The plight of patients suffering from snake bites in the Northern Region of Ghana seems to be sweeping forward…There is always a surge in the cases of snake bites during the rainy season due to the flooding of burrows of snakes.

It is well to note that, most of the cases of snake bites in Northern Ghana are from rural areas due to farming activities as well as sheanut (Northern cocoa) picking. Poverty in these areas for the want of better words ran rife.

Anti-Snake serum also known as anti-snake venum is the single most effective antidote for snake Venom. Not only is the Antivenom expensive but it is in short supply most of the time, a situation clearly evident in the West Gonja Catholic hospital in the Northern Region. Worthy of note is the fact that, the vaccine is a program drug supposed to be administered for free, but in most of the cases, it passes through the system and ends up in private hands somehow and sold to patients at cut-throat prices.

Checks at the hospital show that a total of 51 known cases of snake bites and four unknown cases have been recorded so far in 2018. Out of this, four deaths have been recorded.

This is against a total out-patients morbidity rate of 101 and in-patients morbidity rate of 68 recorded in the whole of 2017. There were two in-patients related deaths within the same period.

2016 saw a total of 69 out-patients cases and 49 in-patients cases being recorded.

In 2015, the in-patients mobidity rate was 80 and out-patient mobidity was 77. A total of two in-patients mortality cases were recorded.

Remy Nyewie, the Administrator of the hospital feared it was early days yet to be recording such figures in 2018. The hospital according to him, is challenged in containing majority of the cases due to the short supply of the Anti-snake serum, revealing that they had made an initial requisition for the Anti-Snake Serum but only received 40 vials whilst within the same period, Bole Government hospital was given 100 vials.

On May 23, they requested again for 150 vials from the Regional Medical Stores but have since received only 10. A number he said was woefully inadequate considering the number of cases they record on a daily basis. A single patient he further stated can take the whole of the 10 vials.

He lamented that their status as CHAG (Christian Health Association of Ghana) could be what is affecting them, adding that, patients have had to be referred to get the vaccine from outside due to its short supply at the facility. He added that the vaccine is supposed to be administered for free and not for sale.

Nzemba Moses is from Bawuna, a farming community in the North Gonja District of Northern Ghana. He is currently taking care of his middle aged brother on admission for snake bite at the hospital and narrated his ordeal to this riter.

According to Moses, they were initially compelled to message for 2 vials of the vaccine in Tamale at a cost of Ghc 600 because the hospital had run out of stock. A further request for two vials cost them Ghc 500, and a third request for two vials again cost them Ghc 500. This adds up to a total cash amount of Ghc1600. He disclosed that he and his other brother had to ‘squeeze’ the money to message for the Anti-Snake Venom from their little savings and borrowing from relatives and friends.

Out of financial frustration, Moses wrote to the hospital requesting that his brother be discharged so they can go home and continue with the local treatment. His reason being that they had spent enough and were cash-strapped, and couldn’t afford even a single night of the bed fee in the facility any longer.

Stephen Kubbour, a staff nurse at the hospital explained his decision could be dangerous, since the venom in the body of the patient needed to be cleared, explaining that if that is not done, a little cut can cause him to bleed to death due to poor blood clotting.

Moses however, wouldn’t take that for an explanation due to the financial burden and frustration.

The story of Moses and his brother, Mahama Baffo (the victim of the snake bite) is just one out of the many.

The affected patients when spoken to, appealed to the government to respond promptly to the requisition of the hospital management and check the leakage of the vaccine in the open market.

The checks of this writer reveals that the vaccine, even though, needed most at the rural areas considering the season which happen to be their season of gathering is rather prioritised in terms of supply at the centre and hardly gets to such areas most needed but rather finds its way to the open market for sale.

Source: Ananpansah B. Abraham

Ghana News Online

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