By Kele Chukwumu
Mrs Victoria Iheme’s son was born with a testis abnormally located outside the scrotum and so needed a surgery for correction. From the Health Centre where she lives in Ikorodu, she was refered to Ikorodu General Hospital for surgery. There and then her trouble began.
According to her, “I came to this Ikorodu General Hospital for almost two months before it was my son’s turn to see the consultant. After seeing the consultant at the surgical section, we were given 2 weeks appointment. The two weeks appointment became a routine with series of tests, scan and xray. It took almost 2 years before my son was eventually booked for surgery. Just when we thought the stress was ending, they said they couldnt find his folder. I was devastated. The doctor refused to attend to him with a temporary file but insisted we start afresh with diagnosis or provide copies of all his tests results which we didnt have. We were later advised by a particular friendly doctor to bribe the staff working at the card room to help us out. That wasn’t strange as I’ve heard about the bribery and corruption going on in public hospitals. Surprisingly, after tipping one of them, my son’s case file was found.”
The long and short of Mrs Iheme’s story is that her son’s surgery was successful but not without her quarreling with one of the doctors who gave them another one month appointment instead of just rebooking the boy for surgery. As a pay back, the doctor she quarreled with, extended her son’s surgery by another one month.
The health sector is undoubtedly one of the most important of all sectors in countries all over the world. Unfortunately, here in Nigeria just like other important sectors such as education, power etc, it has not received adequate attention hence, the incessant medical tourism by the high and mighty in the country including the current president, Muhammadu Buhari who turned out the worst culprit after swearing to end such tourism once elected president.
The effect of such capital flight, grossly aided by politicians and their cohorts, is the price the poor who is left to contend with lack of quality health care, has to pay.
The rot in Nigeria’s health sector, is nothing but the result of a faulty system and bad governance characterised by corruption of the highest order, which has remained the bane of the country’s development.
Lagos State, which is the main focus of this exercise for now, may pass as one of the few states all over the Federation which has made some progress towards improving the health care system through upgrading as well as infrastructural development. But to say the truth, edifice can never make a good hospital.
There’s so much rot in the Lagos State health care system which the government may not be aware of.
What we have is a ‘mega’ Lagos with an overwhelming population and ‘mega’ hospitals which in actual facts, are like whited sepulchers.
What’s the need upgrading a health Centre to a general hospital or a general hospital to a teaching hospital, when people cannot access quality health service either because they have to, wait for a whole day on queue in the hospital even as out patients before they are attended to or given another appointment; bribe their way to see the doctor; is killed or nearly killed due to wrong diagnosis by careless and or over stressed doctors, while some others had their medical procedure punctuated by loss of case files etc.
It might interest you to know that loss of case files especially at the General hospital Ikorodu, has sadly become a normal abnormality. It mostly occurs once a patient is booked for surgery, or close to being booked.
A young lady, Mercy after suffering the effect of loss of her case file twice, simply concluded that it was just a means of discouraging people from the east from accessing health service.
Understandably, her conclusion was merely derived from the mindset of a patient under immense stress but what would you say, when in the cause of discussion with some other patients, it was discovered that about four more patients with similar experience, hailed from the east.
In the case of Mrs Iheme’s son, she revealed that the friendly doctor helping out, suggested to her to ask the lady working in the card room whom she bribed to help recover the lost file, to in addition to searching the card room, search the drawers of a particular doctor who according to him, was fond of hiding people’s folders for whatever reason.
These and more ugly occurences are rampant in public hospitals in Lagos State.
It’s hard to phantom the reason most health personnel and other workers in hospitals are hostile to their patients. This is not in anyway typical of those working in Lagos State. It’s an unfortunate phenomenon in this part of the clime and I used to think that only nurses fall into the category of hostile health workers which has actually earned them a sterotype not until patients began exposing ill treatments in the hands of some doctors.
Imagine a situation whereby a patient, Mrs Kehinde went to the general hospital due to a swelling, only for the doctor to say “we’ll cut it off”
Remembering that the doctor who refered her to the general hospital, assured her that there were drugs that could treat her ailment, she inquired if there was no alternative to the ‘cutting off’, like drugs, again, the doctor simply replied, “Then you have to wait for us to manufacture the drugs”, and without even looking at her, called the next patient.
This report is not in any way aimed at tarnishing the reputation of these healthcare providers because the fact remains that Nigerian doctors possess internationally marketable skills and have been making huge impact on both local and foreign countries’ health sector.
I mean, Nigerians can never forget how former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration swiftly contained the spread of Ebola in the country, in 2014. That feat wouldn’t have been achieved if our doctors weren’t competent.
In others words, these doctors who perhaps, shunned the alluring greenness of foreign pastures, are to be commended and rewarded for their contributions towards an improved healthcare system. But then, it’s necessary to point out that since they have chosen to operate within the country, they must show nothing less than 100 percent commitment.
But in sincerity, why would a doctor see over 65 patients in a day? That in my mind is indirect slavery. And these doctors are forced to go on strike at some point, which is supposed to be anathema, because they are poorly treated.
Any need trying to decipher why there are avoidable deaths in the hospitals?
If the deaths are result of carelessness, then it is grave danger for we must understand that a careless doctor can kill faster than the worst epidemic ever experienced by mankind. Such doctors must be stripped off such carelessness by whatever means, for safety of lives.
While committing these errors, they have little or no time to interact with their patients because of long queues. Most often, they end up being too rude to patients who in actual fact, they are supposed to show love and care to encourage their speedy recovery.
Every healthcare provider must know that his or her job requires some level of humaneness which ofcourse may not necessarily be acquired through formal education. Theirs is supposed to be a calling, a vocation.
While observing one of the surgical clinics which holds every Thursday at the Ikorodu General Hospital, Mr Taofeek shared the story of how one of the doctors gave him wrong medication. “I was referred to Ikorodu General Hospital from Igando General Hospital for swelling on my throat. After series of tests, xray and scan, they just said it’s goiter and gave me option of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja or Ikorodu General Hospital. To avoid going late as I was told that there are always long queues, I chose Ikorodu General Hospital because I have a relative living very close to the hospital.
I didn’t know it could be this stressful because I’ve spent close to a year now coming on appointment.”
Taofeek explained. According to him, it was during one of his appointment days that one of the doctors prescribed a drug for him. “I called my uncle a medical doctor living abroad who actually, was the same person that asked me to visit the hospital to know exactly what the swelling was. He asked me to send a copy of my Thyroid Function test, TFT, and the name of the drug. My uncle did not waste time before calling back saying that thank God I’ve not taken the drug, otherwose, the goiter would have grown bigger with speed. To confirm if my uncle was right, on my next appointment, I approached a different doctor with the prescription. After going through my case file, he simply said I should not take it in case I had bought it already.”
Is anyone still wondering why many people visit hospitals to get well but end up worse off or dead? .
Due largely to the rot in public hospitals, many who can afford the exorbitant charges at private clinics do not even wink before turning to these supposed saviours, a large percentage of which lack adequate funding required to be ranked as standard hospitals.
Mr Stephen (not real name) decided to patronise a private hospital with the aim of getting quality and speedy service but alas, he got the opposite.
It was at one “Specialist Hospital in Lekki, on the 12th of January 2019. As I walked in, it was like a mad house, everywhere appeared unkempt. I walked to the counter and showed them my medical card. It took another waiting for about one hour to see the doctor. To my greatest surprise as I walked in, the doctor did not raise his head that was directed on a computer. He was watching a home movie. Without lifting his head he asked me “what can I do for you”. After the explanation, he raised his head , took a piece of paper, scribbled something on it , and went back to the movie.He never checked my complaint. At the reception, they told me to go to another hospital in VI. I left for home feeling disgusted at that shabby treatment.” He explained still feeling disgusted.