Saturday, September 20, 2008

We can do better!

Just How Sick are Nigerian Hospitals? by Simon Kolawole

...Two weeks ago, my driver called me to say his father was ill. He suspected typhoid. Take him to a general hospital, I told him, because I don’t really trust many of the private clinics which often lack the expertise but would eagerly wave huge bills in the face of unfortunate Nigerians. He took the man to Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos. This was in the evening. The person who was supposed to issue registration cards had taken a stroll. The lady in sight, whose duties my driver couldn’t really define, advised them to sit down and wait because “issuing cards is not my duty”. After waiting for an hour, with his father in pains, my driver finally sighted the card issuer. Card issued, they waited for another one hour to see the doctor. The lady, who said she was not a card issuer, was obviously the one who would grant them access to the doctor, but she was busy talking and gisting on “MTN Xtra Cool” (as my driver put it). “I could not believe my eyes,” my driver said. “She must have been on the phone for 50 minutes. In the process, the doctor had resumed work. I didn’t know. It was another nurse who came to advise me that I had to keep troubling the lady before we could see the doctor.” Reluctantly, the “MTN” nurse allowed them to see the doctor who did a good job of informing my driver that his father would need a surgery. There was a little problem though: there was no bed space, so he would refer them to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, which I understood the Tinubu administration had turned into one of the best in the country today. Midnight, they set out for LASUTH. On getting there, they were told once again that there was no bed space, so they headed for General Hospital in Surulere. Early in the morning the following day, I called him to find out what the situation was. The same story: no bed space.

“Go to LUTH immediately,” I ordered him, and then joked seriously: “You see now, if you were a big man you would just take your father to St. Nicholas Hospital or Reddington and deposit N5 million. The operation would have been done by now. Better still, if you were a governor or a minister, you would have flown your daddy to Germany or London by air ambulance for operation.” He got my point easily because I always use him as a sounding board anytime we are going to office. I normally pour out my frustrations about the contradictions in this country on him.

LUTH was the final straw. When I called him to get the situation report, he gave me a very sad picture. “LUTH is the worst so far,” he said. “The lady who attended to us was so merciless. She said we should take our father out of the reception area, that five people had died there while waiting for bed space. We begged her and said that was the fourth place we were being rejected. She shouted on us and told us to go away, asking if we expected her to become a bed. We begged and begged but she got angrier, saying what she hated most in her life was being begged. While we were still begging, one lady brought her father who was obviously in need of urgent attention. The nurse shouted on her. Right before our eyes, the man gasped and died. No first aid. Nothing. The nurse became more agitated and told the confused lady to take the corpse out of the reception immediately. I decided there and then I had seen enough.”

He moved his father to a private clinic across the road where he was asked to deposit N150,000 ($1300)before treatment would commence. Please don’t ask me how much he earns that he would have saved N150,000 to attend to the health of his father. The doctor wanted the money deposited before he could start any form of work. My driver deposited N50,000 later in the day. For the two nights the man spent there, he only received drips and a few tablets before the doctor advised them to go to one specialist centre at Ikeja. At this stage, I told my driver to move his father to a reputable private hospital on Lagos Island (I wish to withhold the name). The life of the man was in serious danger and everything must be done to save him now.

The hospital first turned them back, saying there was no bed space. But eventually, the man was admitted. My driver got a very strong hint, unofficially, that the man was in serious danger and might not survive. Surprisingly, perhaps because of the money the hospital was going to make from this case, they said they wanted to conduct their own tests before operating on the man. “Before we knew what was happening, they said they had done a scan that would cost us N60,000. They said they were going to do another scan. That’s another N60,000, not counting the other charges,” my driver told me. At this stage, he decided to withdraw his father from the hospital, but for inexplicable reasons, the doctor was never available for him to discuss with. He became desperate to withdraw his father, at least to cut his losses, but the hospital would not play ball yet the man’s condition was getting worse.

Last Wednesday, early in the morning, he received a call informing him that his father had died. Don’t ask me how much the hospital told him to pay for the five days of “treatment”. Don’t ask me how the poor boy mourned the two losses – one of his father and the other of the monumental resources that went down the drain. Sadly, the story I have just told today can represent the experiences of thousands of Nigerians everyday. Nigeria. What a country.

I read this and felt sick to my stomach.

How can we allow this to happen?

Are we satisfied with the health care system?

What can we do to change the health situation in Nigeria?

Nigerians 4 change is not a political group. We are ordinary people that believe we can do extraordinary things to change our country for a brigther tomorrow. Please e-mail us at to be a part of this movement.

Thank you,
N4C crew


curvyice said...

I also read the post and needless to say, i am dissappointed at how dilapidated our health system has become and the negligence and non-challance of the health care personnel is even more annoying. i believe we can do something but i too am still trying to figure out what exactly needs to be done.May the good lord help us.

simeoneomobaba said...

i repeat the last sentence by curvyice...where exactly do we start from..?

Nigerians 4 change said...

This change will start in our generation. I believe we can start by participating in the health team, and taking baby steps (in terms of projects)...

Erere O.

Femi B said...

I was wondering if one could do some documentary shown on national tv of the lack of health CARE. YOu know..even if they don't have those resources....CARE FIRST. Im thinking hidden cameras..expose their asses and maybe some dead voices would be heard, and others can take it upon them to shake the health care system in naija. Sue some places in the process. AM I BEING OVER AMBITIOUS???
In all the professions of people in the diaspora..the only ones that never seem tO come back are the Doctors..... we are in deep trouble

Kaydey said...

So yes we can agree that the healthcare system is bad but can we step out a bit from the healthcare system built on biological thinking and see the bigger problems that contribute to a bad public health system.

What about the fact that primary care is nothing to write home about i.e people only come to the hospitals when they are in the bad conditions, what about the fact that most environments are not conducive for living, how about the fact that people are crowded in houses with a high number of people sharing dirty toilet facilities, how about the fact that people can't have balanced diets each day because they can't afford it, how about the fact that there are no jobs or capital incentives to even start businesses on your own? I am not going to be ignorant of the fact that individual attitudes of some people in Nigeria also shape their fate but I just wanted to point out that a healthcare system should not be looked at only in terms of the hospital facilities that do exist.
I will quote Laurie Garrett from the book am currently reading "Betrayal of Trust: The collapse of global public health"... The basic factors essential to a population's health are ancient and non technological : clear water, plentiful ,nutritious , uncontaminated food, decent housing , appropriate water and sewage disposal, widespread or universal access to maternal and child health , clean air , knowledge of personal health needs ...... and finally a health system that follows the primary maxim of medicine- DO NO HARM.

I apologize for the long post but i just wanted to throw that out so we can start thinking of tangible places to target.

Erere Ojakovo said...


I totally agree with you in the sense that the general contribution towards health care lies within caring about the factors of public health first: such as clean water, sewage disposal, good nutrition and the likes.

My dilemma is actually "where do we start from?" That is my personal project, and I hope to form a proposal soon, being that I am a member of both the medical sciences & Business project groups already, as opposed to just whining about the lack of this and that here and there...

I really hope that many people will look into joining the project groups, but not only that...that people will take SELF INITIATIVES to actually start baby projects of their own. The problem with some Nigerians is that they want someone else to start a project, then they would reluctantly join...but what about them? Which projects are they doing? What exactly are they involved in?

There is a big issue first with the lack of INITIATIVE amongst the youth today...

ShawnDaVinci said...

I have noted from the above comments that our main concern is where do we start from and how do we go about it?
Well I'd like to say that we should
1. look at the man in the mirror-You and I. Make a personal committment to positive change.
2. Talk about positive change all the time to ourselves and to everyone we meet
3.Refuse to get discouraged
4. Speak out against the mess in society. Dont keep silent in the midst of wrongdoing.

These are simple steps in the right direction. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lola Olaseinde said...

lol @ femi b.. Documentary is actually one of the projects I'm proposing.

If anybody feels strong about this, e-mail us at, or join our facebook group. Let us know you want to be in the medical team.

I plan on e-mailing the medical team by next week.

N4C Crew

Kaydey said...

Personally the phrase "Knowledge is power" has been in my heart for a while now.
I personally was thinking that we can focus on education of the youth ( borrowing femi b's idea through documentary) ... but more in the sense of asking what is known about their rights, their health, environment ( other ideas ?)
or using cartoons to get the younger audience ....

and i was thinking that it could be translated into different languages to reach a broader audience ......

Now things are making sense: i took a documentary class this summer ( now i can put my skills to use yay!!!)

Ade Adeyemi said...

wow how sad and extremely unfrtunate, we definitely need change ... I put it simple 'a brutal remodelling of our minds'... May his soul rest in perfect peace... thanks for sharing and shedding light on the situation!

Nigerians 4 change said...

Kaydey...we will possibly be contacting you soon concerning helping with a documentary that will be publicized in Nigeria. I love the idea of also translating our documentaries into different languages. Thank you.

Erere Ojakovo.

Kaydey said...

No problem....

ainadami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ainadami said...

Hello fellows, i am studying occupational therapy(OT). the main focus of OT right now is Prevention and holistic healing of self, if we as a people focused on change can prevent sickness and debilitating diseases from occuring, the health of indigenes would be much better and we would have a better country.

change is not focusing on the past or present it is focusing on how the future can be improved.

remember guys prevention is always better than cure and two heads are always better. let us all come together and make that change.

Thompson Oyonmi said...

Wow! Until now, I never knew the story the title entails. What a sad event and a bad experience!

How sickening!