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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to be a part of this movement.
You may say the dream is something that has never been dreamed before. A nut case. An illusion. A gold mine filled with land mines. A far-fetched entity.
But today, I dare say that it is in fact the beginning of a reality. The very thing that will wipe out the facade of uselessness, corruption (the world bank defines corruption as use of public office for private profit), and lack of integrity. The beginning is merely the notion that a dream such as we have as our mission statement is possible with our generation. Yes, it all starts with a dream. Small or big. A one-person dream or the dream of a Nation. A single dream or multiple dreams put together. It was what propelled Martin Luther King Jr. to speak on a threshold that will one day change the mind of Americans. Out of a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (most corrupt), Nigeria has a corruption perception index (CPI) of 2.0-2.4 (HERE). What does this tell you? It is one huge mess! It does not matter whether there are 31 Countries with a worse corruption perception index. How did Denmark gain a confidence range of 9.2-9.6? The world has a high confidence in Denmark. We can learn from Countries such as the ones with a high confidence scale! What are their Citizens doing?
This brings me to our dream teams, the famous 19 project teams. Made up of fellow Citizens of Nigeria. You can sit back and whine, roll around on your couches, and stuff yourselves with gestures and remarks about the ill-mannered politicians in your Country. But what roles have you played towards the development of this oil-rich Country? A land flowing with a wealth of vast and rare natural resources? The dream of having 19 project teams is to open up a platform to discuss real projects. This is not merely a discussion forum, it is a forum that will open up creativity for the average Nigerian. Take this as your sewing table, your architectural design, or your fashion designing template. Here's your mic. What project do you have in mind. 19 projects were formed stemming from 19 divisions of academic majors. Your academic study should fall under one of these.
The plan is that you, as a citizen filled with ideas, will take concepts from what you learn at school, and then think of a particular area in the Country you will like to work on. If you are a member of the Facebook group, you will post your idea on the message board and a phone conference meeting will be held on the Saturday after your post to determine the actual tasks that will accomplish your idea.
Rome was not built in one day. Neither is any task expected to be achieved in one year. But if you are not trying to gather the sticks and stones, Rome may never be built. It definitely took Singapore a while to knock down the gates of corruption, and now on the CPI, they are #4. Hopefully, if you read this piece you will be inspired to join a project team, dream up a project, and post up your idea on the message boards. You can even comment about your idea in response to this post, and it will be well seated with one of the members of the group. Someone can take your idea and run with it. You just may never know until you begin to have ONE VOICE.
With excitement as to what the future holds, we welcome everyone to our new platform for discussions. The administrators will post blog topics here and we will love your full-blown participation.
Also, please feel free to join our Facebook group (by clicking on the logo on the right), where members are given the opportunity to start their own message board topics, and where team members can have a platform to design their projects to change Nigeria.
Our website is under construction and we will let you know when it is established.