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How poor attitude of health workers is killing healthcare delivery in Nigeria

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BY CHIOMA OBINNA

Today, the impact of the negative attitude to work by health care providers in public and private hospitals in Nigeria, is particularly worrisome. Years of poor attitudinal problem particularly in the public sector has further endangered lives of patients, many already in critical condition.

Investigations by Good Health Weekly show that attitudinal problem is at every level of care.

There is no exemption. All cadres of healthcare providers are guilty of this negative attitude, even at the slightest provocation.

Unfortunately, Nigerians seeking medicare in any of the hospitals, daily have their fair shares of the worrisome trend even in t he face of the most life-threatening emergencies.

It does not follow, whether a dying patient is in for emergency room treatment, routine doctor’s appointment, a laboratory test, or any appointment for that matter, the negative attitude seems to have become a way of life, doing more harm than good to the health sector.

There have been arguments about legitimate expectations of health workers for better conditions of service, but this only puts the patient on the firing line. It appears healthworkers tend to quickly forget they are in business only because of the patient – “to care for patients, to ensure that the human person is maintained in the best possible state of good health in terms of their mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Has there ever been a time health workers went on strike for the sake of the patient, either to protest the long waiting hours at the outpatients department, or the lack of drugs?

In most other countries of the world, the patient is central to health policy. Whether it is about the basic

package of care that is guaranteed, the waiting times before treatment, access to life-saving medical interventions, or vaccination coverage, the patient is always central to policy. But in Nigeria, a patient is more likely to die of heart attack as a result of the despicable rudeness by health workers than from the ailment that brought him or her to the health facility in the first place.

Critical observers are of the view that health institution is losing its focus of genuine concern for patients rather employers are shifting on to material possessions. They now consider the patient a nuisance. They see them as too demanding, a bother and waste of their time.

Perhaps this explains why Nigeria records significant number of patient deaths even before they are attended to at the various hospitals.

Former Health Minister, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, once remarked that health workers were largely responsible for the death of patients recorded in various health centres across the country in 2009. Only recently, a 26-year-old pregnant woman reportedly lost her life at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital apparently due to the negligent attitude of health workers at the health institution.

The woman was said to have arrived the hospital hale and hearty hoping to have her baby in one piece, unfortunately, she was said to have fallen off a theatre table during labour, sustainig head injuries in the process.. She developed a complication and died on the fourth day. Under normal circumstances, a pregnant woman under going labour ought not fall off a theatre the table, if the health workers had been present. What caused her death? Was it the negative attitude of health workers ? Critical observers believe so. Health watchers say it is this poor attitude to work most of the time, that puts the patient’s life in jeopardy. They also believe that health workers are partly responsible for the decay in the healthcare syste.

They opined that it is a major flaw that requires not only urgent re orientation of the workers but to put measures in place that will monitor the activities of these professionals.

In more civilised countries, healthcare is humanitarian, therefore professionals there also carrying out their duties believing it is more of a calling. Inability of a patient to pay is what often brings out the worst. It’s payment before you get attention.

But some health professionals put the blame on shortage of healthcare professionals. They are always quick to add that the aggression is mostly due to the fact that, there are too many patients and not enough carers to attend to them.

Records show that on the average, in most public hospitals, one doctor may attend to up to 200 patients. Most of the facilities are often overstretched as a result of the overwhelming crowd that requires medical services from those facilities.

President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Dr. Omede Idris, notes that there are 39,000 medical doctors serving 140 million Nigerians against the World Health Organisation’s ratio of 1 to 600 persons.

In the view of a 22-year-old nurse at the General Hospital Lagos, Ososipe Henrietta Oladuni, society has not been fair to the profession.

According to her, the public should encourage health workers instead of criticising their efforts. She said contrary to WHO’s stipulation of one nurse to four patients. “We have shortage of nurses everywhere in Nigeria even in the private hospitals. When these nurses are over worked, they are bound to present a negative attitude but we are trying to reorientate the nurses in order to save more lives.”

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