A Corruption Watch (CW) investigation has led to the release of a new mum and her newborn baby from hospital detention and a refund of a part-payment of illegal bills paid as cost of a Caesarian Section (CS).
The release and refund followed an order from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to Management of Taifa Polyclinic where the two had been detained over failure to pay an unlawful bill.
The ordeal of the mother and child at Taifa Polyclinic, located in Accra, came to the attention of CW following the release of the PAY OR DIE! The Agony of Pregnant Women in Hospitals documentary which empowered the public to report such incidents.
The patient (name withheld), and her newborn baby had been detained by the Taifa Polyclinic over failure of her dependent, a 75-year-old (name withheld) grandmother of the victim to raise a complete GHC 2,034.00 total bill which the facility said was the cost of her CS after she was discharged.
Although the patient was a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) card holder, the facility rejected the card which was supposed to fully cover her entire maternal healthcare bill under the Free Maternal Healthcare Policy at the facility.
The grandmother had pleaded with the facility for clemency to release the first- time -mum from hospital detention and be given a grace period to pay the GHC1,334 outstanding bill in instalment, a plea the management of the facility rejected.
The detention was accompanied by emotional torture on the part of nurses in the maternity unit who, despite diagnosing her of suffering from postpartum depression, asked the detained patient to relinquish her bed for a plastic chair instead, to make her bed vacant for new patients as she was only occupying space unnecessarily with her continuous stay in the ward.
Dr Joseph Tuffour, Senior Medical Officer in charge of Taifa Polyclinic, was captured on tape during an undercover investigation at the Taifa Polyclinic, stating that the only reason the new mum and her baby were still in the facility was they owed.
I first discharged her in documentation in expectation that you have cleared the bill, we expect that by the time we tell you we are done you would have paid the bill for her to go home because as she is here now, she is due to return home, she is only occupying a bed, waiting for you to pay the bills. We are done providing her care, it’s about her bill, he said.
The hospital had rejected the NHIS card of the patient based on the claim that NHIS does not cover CS at the Taifa Polyclinic due to the fact that their facility falls below the status of a district hospital.
A claim Corruption Watch found to be false after reporting the ordeal of the two to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
Action by the Ghana Health Service
Following the report made to NHIA by Corruption Watch, NHIA liaised with the GHS which commenced immediate independent investigation into the findings.
Upon confirmation, GHS ordered for the immediate release of the detained patient and her newborn by Taifa Polyclinic six days into her detention.
Taifa Polyclinic was also ordered to refund GHc700.00, the facility had unlawfully taken from the patient as part-payment of the GHC 2,034.00 bill she had been given.
Action by NHIA
Officials from NHIA also visited the facility to investigate why the facility, which is a public health facility, was offering CS services without being credentialed by the NHIA.
According to the NHIA, the claim by the Taifa Polyclinic that CS was not covered by NHIS in their facility because they fell below the district hospital status was false as all credentialed public health facilities of all statuses with the capacity to conduct CS are fully covered by NHIS.
During NHIS’s visit to the facility, it was found that the Taifa Polyclinic had established a theatre and were already offering CS services without making NHIA aware of their new status to be properly credentialed to allow pregnant women enjoy their right to free CS.
According to the records available to the NHIA about Taifa Polyclinic, CS cases were supposed to be referred to other public health facilities where pregnant NHIS subscribers could enjoy their entitlements.
The NHIA, hence, ordered Taifa Polyclinic to cease offering CS services and refer all CS cases until they are credentialed by NHIA to perform CS.
Reaction of the victim’s family to the release
The 75-year-old grandmother of the victim, narrating her experience at Taifa Polyclinic in an interview with Corruption Watch, said she was told her granddaughter was being taken to the theatre but had no idea it was for a CS. She said she only got to know she had undergone a CS only after the Ghc2,034.00 bill was handed to her as the cost of CS.
“They could have at least given us prior notice of the fact that NHIS won’t cover her care, and be given the opportunity to go to a facility where she would be covered because we didn’t have the money. Because she is an NHIS subscriber, we didn’t expect a bill of this nature,” she said.
According to her, the bill came to her as a shock and since she had no money, it took her days to raise Ghc700.00 through loans from friends. She said she lost hope after several failed attempts to get more loans to clear the outstanding bill when they were detained.
According to her, she was in disbelieve when she was called to rush to the facility and upon her arrival, was invited to the office of the Senior Medical Officer and rendered explanations and apologies, then asked to go back home and return receipts given her for the GHc700.00 part-payment earlier made, for a refund.
“I didn’t believe it until the entire Ghc700.00 was counted back into my palm. I just can’t thank your institution enough because not only have the children been released to me but I can also return the loans I had taken from people over this issue.
“No woman should be allowed to experience the trauma and humiliation we have had to go through these past days over a bill we were not supposed to pay in the first place,” she added.
Taifa Polyclinic’s response
In an official interview with Dr Joseph Tuffour, Senior Medical Officer in charge of Taifa Polyclinic, he denied detaining the patient over unpaid bills. According to him, she was detained for further medical observation despite being captured on tape stating his reason for detaining her in the facility as unpaid bills.
He, however, admitted that Taifa Polyclinic was operationalising its newly acquired theatre and conducting CS without applying to be credentialed by NHIA to conduct CS which will allow pregnant women to enjoy their NHIS cover.
At the time of this incident, Taifa Polyclinic only had the accreditation for Spontaneous Vaginal Delivery but not Caesarian Section.
According to Dr Tuffour, they didn’t take steps to get accredited to run a theatre service because they didn’t know that they could get accreditation for CS as a Polyclinic so they became aware only during the visit of NHIA officials after their operations were exposed by Corruption Watch
According to him, the theatre became operational in April 2021 and had been rejecting NHIS card because they couldn’t submit claims to NHIA due to their failure to apply to be credentialed until Corruption Watch blew their cover leading to the shutdown of the theatre to CS.
According to him, they have filed the required application for upgrade following the NHIA visit that directed them to refer all CS cases and have since been referring all CS cases pending accreditation.