Our president is out of the country on another medical trip.
I am not angry at that.
Why would I be? If I had the money, I would not even treat a headache in this country.
Well hello, are you familiar with our healthcare?
Have you ever had a prolonged stay in a hospital or have a loved one stay in a hospital?
If it is a private hospital, you will pay through your nose. The services may not be hampered by government hospital bureaucracy but they will milk you of every kobo they are not worth.
In the government hospitals, you stand a chance of seeing a lot of experts but infrastructure is poor, patients are many and hands are few.
In 2012, my son was quite ill. He could not keep food down and this went on days. I was not in Lagos where we have our regular hospital. A friend gave me a contact at the paediatric unit of a teaching hospital. I will not mention names. We were attended to swiftly and I assume it was because we had ‘connections’. While the doctor was seeing my son, my brother in-law was getting a file. I was quite impressed with the sense of urgency of the doctors. My 2-month-old baby was in tow and every single doctor that came to the ward asked to start with my baby (he was not the patient… but they showed that they prioritised babies). My son downed some Lucozade boost and promptly emptied it at the feet of the resident doctor who jumped in time to avoid splatter on his suede shoes. They decided to admit him.
The woman on the bed next to me had a son that had diarrhoea and vomiting… he had swallowed some pills lying around in the house. Her husband had gone home to get clothes because the boy had soiled everything. The poop leaked out of his pampers. Unfortunately, he pooped on the fresh bedsheets. The woman asked a nurse for a change of sheets and that was when the drama started.
The nurse refused.
This woman stood looking at the bed and her son. The faeces was reeking and she did not know what to do. I told her to tell a doctor. A pretty doctor came by (no idea why I had to qualify her with this verb). I told her. To my shock, she was hesitant. She spoke about the attitudes the nurses had and that it was always a problem to get things done. She then called a nurse and instructed her to change the sheets.
Did it end there?
Nope, it did not.
The dark stocky woman came angrily with a bed sheet in her arms. She snapped at the woman to carry her son and started changing the bed. She punctuated every movement with an expletive or insult aimed at this poor woman. She said she was old enough to be the woman’s mother. She spoke about how long she had worked in the hospital. She talked non-stop. The woman was on the verge of tears and looked close to an emotional burst. I signalled at her to be calm. When the nurse left, I told her to focus on the important thing. She got the bed changed.
We were discharged in the night. But asked to come back for the results of a test.
When we came back over 24 hours later, right there on the floor was the orange stain of the Lucozade boost my son had vomited well over 24 hours ago!!!!
In a ward with babies, toddlers and little children.
I will not talk about light supply. I will not talk about bathrooms with huge dark puddles of water and probably bodily fluids. I will not talk about mosquitos. I have been in a hospital where once it was midnight, a porter will knock on each room and hand over a rechargeable lamp. The generator will go off till 6 am in the morning.
Should we talk about equipment? I was in a teaching hospital that could not carry out an echocardiogram. No equipment. We had to take our patient (who was in the throes of chest pain ) around town to find one. We learnt then that there were just a few machines in the city. The one we got seemed so analogue. We were told we could probably get an EKG done in Abuja or Lagos and our patient could not travel.
I know of two guys working in my office that had an accident. They were taken to a hospital and both needed oxygen. Only one unit was available. They gave it to the younger man who thankfully survived. The older man died.
Have you ever had to carry a patient in and out of the hospital because they need tests that these hospitals cannot conduct? Mecure and Clinix in Lagos have chopped money well well.
My greatest fear is having a loved one face a medical situation that this whole giant of Africa cannot handle. We have watched people sell everything they own to raise money to go to India. Crowd funding is the in thing. Every week, I see at least 2 new calls for medical fund assistance on social media. When Americans are talking about national healthcare plans or UK people are talking about NHS, all I can do is envy them. Whatever the kinks that need to be worked out, there is a national conversation on making healthcare accessible to all.
Nigeria, I love you so much even if all about you threatens me every single day. I do not plan on living in another country but if I will ever leave, the state of your health care will be the determining factor.
I must say this to ease my conscience that not all is bad. I had cause to go to Isolo General State Hospital and I was shocked at how neat and efficient they were. They had working CCTVs and seemed well equipped. It shows that it is possible to rebuild infrastructure and turn things around in this country.
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