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A tale of two tragedies

By Donu Kogbara
IN the past one month, two members of my extended family have been killed by the scandalously inadequate Nigerian healthcare system.

One of these victims – a cousin and the kind of highly skilled professional who added value to every place he worked in – collapsed and died in Port Harcourt, shortly after he had been discharged from hospital and given a clean bill of health.

The other victim – an in-law and adored matriarch – died in the Indian hospital to which she was rushed when it became obvious that the doctors she was consulting in Lagos were bunglers who didn’t have a clue what was wrong with her and were giving her drugs that were weakening rather than strengthening her.

When this Madame arrived in India in a very fragile condition, the doctors there were flabbergasted. They couldn’t understand why their Lagos colleagues had messed up so badly. They said that she had an ailment that should have been easy to diagnose and treat. And they quickly tried to salvage the situation. But it was too late.

When she passed away, her children were told that her death would have been “totally avoidable” if her case had been handled properly at an early stage.

Both of these much-missed individuals would have survived to ripe old ages if Nigerian medical establishments were up to scratch.  In this our so-called “Giant of Africa”, many doctors are ill-trained and even those who were trained well find it extremely difficult to perform well because most hospitals are ill-equipped. The end result is that people constantly die because of illnesses that need not be fatal.

I am absolutely disgusted by the selfishness of the people who run this country.  When our VIPs get sick, they jet off to receive state-of-the-art treatments in wonderful foreign hospitals…instead of regarding it as a sacred duty to provide  such facilities on their home turf, so that those of their compatriots who cannot afford the luxury of international travel can enjoy the same level of care here.

Nigerian politicians will not have to rig elections if they give us what we want and need. We will kiss their feet and voluntarily vote for them if they look after us properly. Furthermore, EVERYONE will benefit if our rulers do the right thing.

Even if you are a billionaire, a minister or whatever, it is immensely risky to waste several hours on an aeroplane when you need urgent medical attention. You are more likely to stay alive if you can receive top-class treatment within minutes.

Money cannot always buy life or time. Death doesn’t always take note of the size of your bank account. A considerable number of sick people who possess – or can access via friends or employers – the resources to travel long distances (my own father included) have given up the ghost while travel arrangements are being made

We  have a Head of State who is no stranger to health problems and should have a strong interest in beefing up our healthcare system as speedily as possible.

Let an enthusiastic commitment to alleviating the suffering of sick Nigerians be one of President Yar’Adua’s legacies. Let him give us a reason to cheer loudly every time we glimpse him in person or watch him on TV.

Let him inspire us to love him deeply, respect him profoundly and beg him to run for the top job again in 2011.

Punishing carelessness

Last week, a Spanish tribunal jailed the Spanish plastic surgeon who performed the operation that caused the death of our former First Lady, the late Chief Mrs Stella Obasanjo.

The verdict was involuntary homicide. The sentence was one year. The surgeon has also been fined and suspended from practicing medicine for three years.

During the trial, a Spanish forensic scientist described Mrs Obasanjo’s 2005 death as avoidable. A Spanish police physician said that she wouldn’t have died if the surgeon had detected the complications that killed her. The Spanish public prosecutor accused him of “a heap of negligence” and a “lack of analytical strength…lack of follow-up [and] lack of interest for the patient”.

Some of the Nigerians I have spoken to since the surgeon was jailed think that the surgeon is only being punished because his actions led to the demise of a high-profile patient and potentially jeopardised Spain’s economic interests in Nigeria.

I beg to differ. Europeans tend to apply justice equally to all categories of human; and I believe that this surgeon would have been punished even if he had caused the death of an ordinary Spaniard or ordinary Nigerian or ordinary anybody.

No sane doctor sets out to harm his or her patient. But some kind of punishment is necessary when incompetent doctors screw up. And I think that incompetent Nigerian doctors should, at the very least, be temporarily barred from practising and forced to retrain, so they cannot inflict any more destruction on society.

Responses to: donzol2002@yahoo.co.uk or 0802 7476458 (text only)


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