By Bose Adebayo

A septuagenarian was lying ill in her one-room apartment and refused any attempt by her daughter to take her to hospital for treatment. She said her personal doctor would soon come to give her the necessary treatment at home.

She was still speaking when a woman arrived with a basket on her head. The visitor  made straight to the septuagenarian’s bed and after a while, she brought out a Thermometer and BP Check to test her patient’s temperature and blood pressure.

She also prescribed some medicines as well as declared  that this ‘patient’ needed Ogun Eje (blood tonic) to enable her regain weight since she was looking emaciated.  The septuagenarian later brought out  N1,300 to pay for the home service while her daughter stood speechless.

*A drug marketing scene in a Lagos commercial  bus.
*A drug marketing scene in a Lagos commercial bus.

After the ‘doctor’ left, the septuagenarian brought out the medicines to show her daughter but rather than the “blood tonic” that was recommended, the envelop contained a mixture of multivitamins tablets. Strangely enough, the medicine packs bore NAFDAC registration number, though there was no denying the fact that the prescriptions were wrong. All the daughter’s pleas to convince her ailing mother to discontinue such treatment proved abortive and sadly enough the mother gave up the ghost some days later.

Even though medical services in  Lagos State have improved significantly and are relatively affordable at the moment, most Lagosians would rather patronise drug hawkers or quacks rather than take advantage of such services. Although, drug hawking has long been declared illegal in Nigeria but the business has continued to boom rather than reduce, especially in Lagos. The illegal business takes place in nearly all the nooks and crannies of the state, be it inside buses, at bus-stops, on the streets or from house to house, depending on the location.

In the evenings, some of these hawkers display their wares on the tables, while others hawk theirs with baskets and often succeed in deceiving their victims, especially the unlearned ones with their sugar coated sales talk. Many of them ensure that they have with them  some relevant medical equipment to convince their victims about their professionalism.

When Vanguard Metro went to town to seek public reaction to this trend, some of the respondents attributed it to the prevailing poor economic condition in the country, while others said it was due to the nearly comatose of the health sector.

“If you make any attempt to go to government hospitals for treatment, you will come back with another trouble because the queue alone is enough to snuff life out of you. The doctors are always scared of such crowd and at the end of the day, they don’t discharge their duties well,” said a trader who gave her name as Lilian.

A marketer who simply gave her name as Mama Bee said there is not much difference between most hospitals and these hawkers. “As far as I am concerned, most hospitals and these hawkers we are talking about are the same. My only son of 10 years died as a result of a mistake from a government hospital. That was in year 2006 when I took my son to a health centre for malaria treatment.

The nurse in question took my son to the inner room for injection, I watched the scene as the injection was being given but few seconds later, the nurse muttered in Yoruba dialect, ‘Mo gbe, wrong injection ni mo apply’, meaning I am finished, I have applied the wrong injection.

I never knew I was the victim until few minutes later when my son started jerking on the bed before he gave up the ghost. He walked to the hospital with his legs and he told his father to buy Mr. Biggs. My husband rushed to a near by Mr. Biggs but came back to meet his son stone dead on his hospital bed,” she lamented.

To a seamstress, Madam Arisekola, most of the hospital personnel are not alive to their responsibilities.  “I took my three years old son to a government hospital one day but was surprised at the doctor’s prescription. I was about giving my son the drug when my husband demanded to see the content. We discovered the drug was meant for an adult, it was boldly written ‘not to be taken by children’. When I went to the hospital the following day, the doctor had to apologise and thank God my son had not taken the medicine. A family doctor later said my son would have suffered paralysis if he had taken the medicine,”  she said.

“As far as I am concerned, I no longer put my hope in any hospital, be it private or government because a lot of them commit terrible mistakes which are deadly to their patients and the masses are always at their mercy because the rich would always travel abroad for medical check-up and treatment.

More so, the drug hawkers have a registered association, is it not the government that collects the dues of its members? Most of the doctors in government hospitals operate private hospitals on the side. And in many cases they refer patients to their own hospitals; if you refuse to cooperate, you may not be attended to,” Jolaade Remi told Vanguard Metro.

‘’There was a day a private hospital recommended Lagatin for me when I complained of Insomia, the nurse put ten of these tablets in the envelop and wrote 111-111-111 when ordinarily I should have been given two tablets. Thank God that I went back to the doctor to show him the dosage and he screamed before sending for the nurse and gave her a verbal query. I could have slept to death if I had not gone back to the doctor,’‘

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.