Nigeria is widely acclaimed to be the largest black nation with a re base economy that looks great couple with great potentials to be a leading economy if things are done right. It is obvious there is no perfect nation, economy without its teething challenges. Even the so called super powers have a lot of issues they are battling with. The problems range from homelessness, crime and citizens’ apathy in some cases. The only difference is that their government make a commitment to a change and citizens’ well being. Human rights is given a pride of place and a strong commitment to ensure citizens’ welfare.
Nigeria is daily losing millions to capital flight, either positively or negatively. In medical tourism, Nigeria may be considered as one of the leading nations on the earth that loses hundreds of Million Dollars annualy. No one who can afford it wants to be attended to in the country. With slight headache or small wounds, top government officials who have access to state cover board a plane to seek medical attention as if Nigeria has no trained medical personnel. Our public hospitals here may just be a shell of its old glories. Outdated equipments, expired and fake drugs, over stretched manpower with outdated skills are all over. Quack gained stardom as they have opportunity to establish private clinics with little or no supervising.
Governments at different levels also seem to have turned the other eye. Our policy and Executive arms know they can get better value if they travel hence they do not care to monitor equipments, money budgeted for appropriate. In some cases, new equipment bought with government’s money soon fizzle into the thin air with no one asking questions. Our doctors sometimes are confused or overwhelmed through pressures they daily go through. No wonder, there is one industrial strike or another within few months of calling off one that lasted for months. In this show of power, the average Nigerian patients without financial capacity die cheap deaths every day.
Interestingly here deaths of hundreds of valuable lives here appear like a drop of water in an ocean. Yesterday, another industrial strike kicked off in the Federal health sector. This includes medical and para medics. In all these, the patients have no say. But suffice to say the doctors have bonafide rights to demand for their rights. Our major concern here is not even when they are on strike, but the harrowing experience patients go through here is enough to question if it is evil to be born a Nigerian on a Nigeria soil.
With patients’ right, there seem to be no such thing in the Nigeria medical lexicon. From what we have seen, it appears, the medical profession always believe they are lords here. They always forget they are hired to offer services. They also seem to forget the oath they took after their graduation. As an individual, I knew what it means to start going to hospital early in life to address an abnormal growth on my face. I knew what it means to go to hospitals and spent the whole day.
I knew what it means to be abused without apology. As I grew up, I remembered been given appointment to come for consultation, on a normal school day when I should be in school, only to get to the hospital and be lined up as patients medical students on training would use for examination purpose. In many cases I have witnessed how these medical students then would used the same ‘stick’ to open mouths of a cross section of ‘examination specimen’ called patients without regards to personal hygiene. After sitting down for a whole day without my consent to be used as examination specimen there would be no apology or compensation for my time. I also knew what it means to do as I say when you were given drugs to use and you asked question what was the purpose of that drug, side effect etc and someone told you not to teach him his job. I also knew as well as have heard of several wrong diagnoses especially when you do blood test here. You go somewhere you are told you are AA, and then another place you suddenly become AS or something else as if your genes keep changing.
I have sat down in a consulting room where there are three doctors consulting. The one I was consulting asked questions in English and I was able to describe what my experience was. In the course of time, the other guy was seeing an illiterate old man with an accompany who bearly speak English.
At the end, the doctor quickly dispersed the old man with a long list of prescribed drugs. While doing that, the doctor I was seeing asked if he had asked the man if he had history of hypertension or not. The other doctor said he did not. Apparently, one of the drugs could do harm to patient with hypertension. Interestingly when he asked the man before he left , the old man said he was an hypertensive patient. What a colossal waste of life that could be.
Another case of patient’s right was when a hit and run driver hit me in front of our office in 2006. The driver broke my femur among other bruises. Kind hearted people rushed me to one public teaching hospital in Lagos. The crowd that day was something else. It was as if the spirit of auto accident went hay wire as many people were brought to the hospital. Unfortunately those of us who ‘appeared to be alive were not given attention until five to six hours after.
I pleaded for urgent attention should there be a case of internal pleading etc. I could not get attention until a friend of my had to do a lot of phone calls here and there who connected him with a highly placed officer in the said hospital. Many cases of personal and extended patients right abuses. What about women who had suffered from hands of ‘doctors without moral’. They complain of headache and they are asked to take off all their clothes for examinations. I mean patients’ right here had been thrown to the wind.
This does not mean there are no great doctors here, but they are rare. Nurses, doctors shout on patients especially those in public institutions. I used to think this was the norm until I had the opportunity to travel for medical attention. Things are done differently over there and I do think our doctors need to change.
Medical reports after surgery or any other attention should be something a patient can asked for. Here you will have to know someone, bribe, pay and wait till God knows when. Why is it that our doctors here feel medical reports issuing is a big deal. When a patient do tests, the hard copy of what he paid for are collected from him/her to be kept in his file. In some cases, the result tests are soon to vanish from the patients’ record while in abroad, patient keeps keeps such stuff.
Patients are firmly warned not to even open the test results but must be handed over to the consultant. What a nation, what a professional practice? In the other clime, the doctor would have seen the soft copy even before the patients have access to the hard copy. The patients are therefore allowed to keep the hard copy that is not sealed in an envelope.
The world is changing, patients’ right must be given right of place. Nigeria Medical Association must jealously guard this. Immediately a patient died here, their files and medical histories are ‘confiscated’ so to say. They vanished from records. Is someone afraid of shame of being exposed because he or she did not do the right things? Are there no mistakes in advanced countries, they are but in such cases, they acknowledged and pay for damages. How many cases here have seen the light of the day without cover ups?
On the path of government, patients rights are denied when government refuse to train, retrain and expose doctors to modern practices. In my first surgery abroad in 1998, I was afraid they allowed me to eat egg and have a cup of tea with it in the morning of a nine hour surgery. Meanwhile here, one will be ‘purged with hot water’ a night before such surgery. Nigeria doctor must listen, be civil etc. Abroad, patients have access to their doctor’s phone, email etc so they can send text, access them when need be. Ask your doctor in many public teaching hospitals such detail if you are not going to visit their own private clinics and you will hear the story of your grandfather’s birth.
Time to change. Patients’ right is part of fundamental human right, Nigeria cannot afford to be behind.
Photo source: lifegate