You should have, like every other proud Nigerian, been embarrassed, maybe even sad and disappointed, when you learned that your president, Shehu Yar Adua, was hurriedly whisked to
You should have even been doubly embarrassed if you learned that your president’s ailment had been repeatedly “misdiagnosed” in
There was a time in Nigerian history when the University College Hospital (UCH) in
Today, those three hospitals are shells of themselves – old, cruddy, empty shells. I have not been inside the LUTH or the ABUTH in a while, but I was at the UCH in 2007, visiting an ailing relative. It was the sorriest state in which a university teaching hospital could be. Should I talk about the sparse patients’ rooms or should I mention the apathetic attitude of the young doctors and nurses? Or maybe I should talk about the decrepit condition of the hospital as a whole – massive cobwebs in patients’ rooms, thick enough to trap an elephant; paint, faded and peeling off; the stench, oh, the acrid stench that permeated the air. You could get sick just by visiting that hospital. A doctor friend, who went through the UCH in our university days over 20 years ago, told me that there was less equipment in the UCH today than there was when he went through. Wow!
Technology in general, and medical technology in particular, have made many advances, nay, revolutionary strides, that it is criminal for our foremost medical establishments to remain consigned to pre-historic medical practices.
Already, Nigerians have had to live with the embarrassment of the wife of a sitting president, Stella Obasanjo, dying in a foreign hospital bed while undergoing a “tummy tuck” – a cosmetic operation that is so very routinely performed in many countries.
What if Yar Adua had died (God forbid) in
In 2002, my friend’s sister and another young lady – Bukky (not her real name) – about 25 years old, visited my friend and I at the D’Rovans hotel in
About two days later, my friend and I visited the so-called hospital to see Bukky. It was not a hospital. It was one of those private clinics set up in residential neighborhoods by young doctors barely two years out of medical school, whose parents are wealthy enough to fund it. They specialize more in performing abortions than treating malaria. But to many people, it is a “private hospital” and it is synonymous with private care – something long absent in government hospitals. The problem with those kinds of private clinics though is that the doctor is usually inexperienced, has limited reference materials, has no colleague on whom he could bounce ideas about treatment, cares more about paying his clinic rent and so charges exorbitantly, and comes to work only when he feels like it.
On the day we went to see Bukky, she had been in the clinic for about a week. The doctor had seen her only once since the day she was brought in. Her condition was terrifying, to say the least. If I had never seen her before, I would never have known how much she had deteriorated. The gorgeous lady that we saw at D’Rovans had been reduced to a hollow, frail, wrinkled and dying body. She must have lost about 20lbs. in 4 days. Her eyes had sunk into their sockets, lips pulled apart and cheeks rarefied. The strangest thing was her abdomen. It protruded like she was 6 months pregnant! Just above her head was the Intra-Venous (IV) bag that was connected to her arm. This clinic was located in the Mokola area of
Her mother, who did not know who we were, told us that she had not eaten for days and the drips were all that she had received. I just KNEW that Bukky would never make it. My friend and I asked to speak with Bukky’s mother outside. We asked her if she could remove her daughter from that clinic and take her to a government hospital. She resisted at first, afraid that Bukky would be left to die at a government hospital. We pointed out to her that Bukky was dying in the private clinic anyway. The family, she said, had spent everything they had on Bukky. The clinic charged N2000 per day for the bed alone and they now owed N12,000 total. The cost of the drips and the doctor’s fees are charged separately. In fact, she said Bukky’s father had just left to borrow more money from friends. My friend and I offered to take care of the clinic’s bills if Bukky would be moved.
Bukky was moved to a government hospital in the Onireke area of
Bukky looked at us and said softly: “thank you, sir.” Her mother, ever present at her side, also thanked us. Bukky had gotten back most of her strength and radiance in just three days! She was slightly embarrassed to be seen by strangers in her weakened condition, but we assured her that she was just like our sister. Just as we were about to leave, the doctor walked in. He must have been at least 60 years old. He was making his second and final round, checking on his patients before leaving for the day. He exuded experience and confidence. I thought I wouldn’t mind dying in the care of someone like him. I asked him what the problem was with Bukky. He told me he would let the patient tell us herself, but all he had to say was that she had been “miss-diagnosed” and therefore “miss-treated” at whatever medical facility she had been. “If she had not been brought here when she was, she would surely have died”, he concluded.
Bukky was one of the few who manage to survive common medical emergencies in
President Yar Adua needs to get well, wake up from the anesthetics that seem to have numbed the senses of successive administration officials and fix these issues. Sanda and Adekale are based in
“The sad reality is that our professional fore-runners have created a gulf between them and the future generations of doctors. When resident doctors started agitating for better training opportunities in the mid-1980s it was those first generation of Nigerian doctors that betrayed us and made sure that the erstwhile mandatory overseas one year training for resident doctors at the level of senior registrars was not sponsored by the government and was stopped. This second generation of doctors that trained or graduated in the 1980s and early 1990s left the country in droves. The result is that the first generation was out of touch with new medical innovations and taught the third generation outdated stuff. I recall late Professor LJ Egler lamenting around 1995 that his knowledge of HIV research was 4 years behind because the medical library had no relevant journals in the preceding 4 years.
“I know the ex-President you were referring to…” (This was another previous Nigerian president that was misdiagnosed of his ailment until the diagnosis proffered by Dr. Adekale, which was ridiculed and rejected by his superiors in Nigeria at the time, was upheld in France and in Germany and the then ex-President was correctly treated in France!). “… And I know your eminent senior Professors at the time. These are the same grandiose men and women who would never admit to having gone wrong let alone admit that a junior colleague could be right. I recall the former chaplain of ABU protestant chapel, Cyril Okorocha ThD, lamenting the fact that Nigerian leaders would climb a height and then remove the ladder to make sure that nobody else caught up with them. This is the legacy of our medical forebears in
“Just recently a colleague from medical school had to bring his sister-in-law here in
Since the ABUTH, UCH and LUTH have been relegated to the status of glorified clinics, I visited the website of the so-called doyen of
Here is their “Mission Statement”: We are the flagship of the medical institutions in
The “flagship of medical institutions in
The problem is not that our doctors are intellectually deficient. Lack of resources in our medical establishments, to include even the lack of modern equipment in our teaching hospitals, seems to me to be a major contributing factor to this malaise. I know too many Nigerian doctors, young and old, who come to the United States after being denied employment, pay raise or even promotion, take the requisite certifying Board examinations and pass in flying colors on their first attempt, and go on to become indispensable in their fields. Dr. Sanda reminded me of Dr. Janeth Chiaka Ejike, based in