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?
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