As Ghana celebrates some 212 recoveries from a total of 2,074 infections, one issue that remains a grave concern to health authorities and government is their reintegration into the society.
There have been media reports and personal accounts of those who were previously diagnosed with the COVID-19 but have overcome the infection being stigmatized on their return.
From being shunned in communities to being avoided by colleagues, the stories as having been told are ones that make survivors develop some psychological issues and make difficult the work of health professionals dealing with the virus.
The latest, of such instances, has been recounted by Dr Titus Beyuo, the Deputy General Secretary of GMA in an interview with Accra-based Starr News.
According to him, a recovered male (name withheld) was discharged from the treatment center after having fully recovered from the virus but the sight that met him at home was enough to make him call the centre to take him back.
He simply met an empty home – no family member was around. They had all moved out of the house when news got to them he was returning.
According to Dr Beyuo, this is not an isolated case as many more individuals are reporting same treatment.
“The feedback we are getting across the communities is really bad. There is an instance is a hospital I don’t want to mention names where a patient who recovered was sent to the family this week, when they got there they had moved everybody from the house. No one was there. Even the person’s kids had been moved by the relatives and they were not willing to take the person in so the person had to report back to the hospital to be admitted.
“Everybody who knew that the patient was coming had left, nobody was willing to receive the person. So this patient has moved from the treatment centre back to the hospital where he was being managed. Where he was originally referred from to the treatment centre. Nobody wanted to receive him and they had moved even the children away. This is the family of the patient, not the community members and so the patient had to return to the hospital just to keep him in the ward while they try to do more community engagement to see how they can bring the person back,” he disclosed.
In another instance recounted by the Deputy Director in charge of Monitoring at the Ghana Ambulance Service, Yaw Osei, land guards were allegedly employed to chase out a recovered patient from an unnamed community.
The Ghana Medical Association believes these instances of stigmatization if left unchecked could cause cases to escalate and lead to more deaths.
With even medial practitioners being avoided by their colleagues, Dr Titus Beyuo insists there is the need for more education so Ghanaians will know COVID-19 is not a death sentence.
“It’s a real serious issue, we have colleagues who have unfortunately even been infected with the condition and you will hear all sort of comments. I heard an account of one colleague who pleaded anonymity saying how from the hospital itself people were stigmatizing against her thinking she has brought the condition to them
“The message that should go out is that this is just a flu. It’s a respiratory illness. It’s not like a disease people have gotten because of something bad they’ve done and secondly it doesn’t stay with you for life. It’s not a death sentence. So just like we get common cold and we are cured of it and we are cured forever unless we re-contract it again, once it leaves you, it’s gone. All the people going back to their family are safe to return that is why they are sending them back. They have checked their throat, their airwaves and found that there is no virus there, they’ve coughed nothing is coming out, that is the only reason why they are being brought back so I’m not sure exactly what explains this fear,” he noted.
According to the Medical Association, the subject of stigma is one that they are largely interested in and therefore they will begin an education in communities to put an end to this situation.