By Donu Kogbara
THANK YOU to all the Vanguard readers who kindly sent commiserative emails and text messages when they discovered, via last week’s column, that I had been very ill. Many comments were made about the fact that I only started to recover from my ailment when I was flown out of Nigeria and handed over to British doctors.
Find below the most comprehensive and thought-provoking reaction I received. It came from Otunba Abiodoun Abbey Olufowobi (firstname.lastname@example.org), a Lagos-based lawyer
Na wa o. We thank God for saving your life o! About 10 years ago, I went out with some friends, including one who was visiting from abroad. While we were eating pounded yam, a morsel got trapped in his throat, so we took him to the General Hospital in Ikeja. He was not attended to in the four hours he was there and the poor soul was lost!!! Many such sad and incredible stories abound in Nigeria.
No gainsaying that the state of healthcare in Nigeria is in dire straits. The prognosis is fearful. I will not want to take much from our medical practitioners but it is a fact that they do not have the basic tools of their trade. For whatever reason, most of the diagnoses are faulty and cases of mis-diagnosis are rife and I will not be surprised if medical negligence becomes the next money spinner for the legal industry – once the Nigerian Bench agrees that a medical personnel owes the patient a special duty of care – since human life is involved.
For a long time, the bottling industry stood their ground and evidence of even a full cockroach in a bottled drink will not avail any pecuniary damages compensation and also the “almighty” PHCN and its precursors could do no wrong in the eyes of the law– all until recently when the Nigerian Bench started to yield to the logical and lawful mantra of consumer protectionism.
On a personal note, I was almost sent to an early exit from this world sometime ago when, contrary to the will of God, a medical specialist mis-diagnosed me with a chronic kidney condition.
I faulted this “diagnosis” because I felt it was predicated on a faulty indication – the consulting room blood pressure machine was returning a strange measurement of my BP level – I knew the measurement was wrong and contended so but the specialist, who appeared not too comfortable with my temerity to challenge his judgement (an inalienable right of every patient but which you are readily denied here) maintained his diagnosis.
The BP machine is not one-for-all time measurement equipment but one that is needed to be calibrated regularly for them to return correct results but how many facilities ever do that in Nigeria? It’s akin to keeping a fire extinguisher in your car for years without recharging it – the potency may not avail you when fire strikes.
I had to run many parallel tests in Nigeria and when it appeared there was a conspiracy of strange results, I sought solace overseas namely in Israel and the USA. At the end of my “medical tourism”, my fear was confirmed – the faulty regime of inefficient tools misled the Nigeria specialists into palpable error of diagnosis(misdiagnosis) and I can only offer my pity for a system where academically sound professionals were hindered by the lack of an efficient basic tool for saving lives (diagnosis).
Both in Israel and in the USA, I met Nigerian medical practitioners who held very high positions at the medical facilities.
The laboratories that abound in Nigeria lie prostrate to fake reagents and the dearth of the other current tools, hence a routine test may not yield the correct result. I am currently pursuing some cases of mis-diagnosis on behalf of my clients – some had died from these grave and fatal error of judgement and those who survived did with sheer providence and the fact that they were able to afford a second opinion and treatment overseas.
Was our First Lady not flown overseas for undisclosed treatment recently? The Senate President was in Israel about the time I visited and many others would rather do the medical tourism to other climes rather than die a cheap death in Nigeria as a result of medical negligence. Cases of mis-diagnosis abound in Nigeria today, especially with the influx of the “Asian tigers” into the business and it appears government can do with the looming population reduction through avoidable medical negligence, hence its criminal abdication of its responsibility to its citizens.
Finally, a last word from V.O. Efeakpor (+2348023018952):
Sorry for the near death experience you had in Port- Harcourt. Thank God you are opportuned to have access to health facilities abroad. l want to seize this opportunity to beg the National Assembly to amend the Constitution to ban government officials from going for treatment abroad.