Nigeria’s Healthcare Sector: Need for attitudinal change of medical personnel, by Professor MK Othman

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Deep thought with Othman

In Nigeria, attitudinal change is needed in all facets of human endeavours. Relatively, however, the attitudes of some medical personnel leave much to be desired. Sometimes, I ask myself, “Where is the humanity in our Medical Personnel?” I couldn’t find an answer because of several cases I have witnessed or being aware of.

Far back, in 2003, I visited a hospital after receiving news that a wife to my friend and her family members were involved in a fatal accident. We visited the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Unit of the hospital; the victims were placed outside as the unit was filled up beyond its designed capacity.

The victims were visibly in deep pain due to injuries and some were in a comma. We were all distraught and helplessly confused. It was then I noticed that the medical personnel were unperturbed and casually taking their time to attend to the victims.

As we were waiting, a medical doctor came, watched the victims on a bare floor, and uttered loudly to our hearing, “oh, these guys can’t make it”. True, like a prophet of doom, that he was, all the victims died one after the other within few days including the friend’s wife. Was the “doctor” supposed to utter such a statement to the victims and us? Is it in line with the ethics of the medical profession?

In a second case, a lady was admitted into the labour room, had a CS and the baby was removed but unfortunately, the baby died. When the lady came out of a coma, she demanded to see her baby, the medical personnel casually announced to her that the baby was dead; unfortunately, the lady couldn’t stomach such bad news and had a cardiac arrest and died.

Case number three, a driver of a hospital ambulance was sent to bring a doctor on call around 8 pm to attend to an emergency case. The driver met the doctor, told him about the emergency, and was told to wait but the waiting continued endlessly, the hospital kept on phoning the driver and the doctor without a response from the doctor.

After four hours of endless calls, the driver out of frustration decided to blow the siren of the ambulance thereby creating a scene, disturbing the neighbourhoods at midnight. This driver’s ingenuity forced the doctor to come out.

Case number four, a younger brother to another friend of mine was admitted into a hospital, after the preliminaries, the doctor pronounced that patient was to be operated on and agreed to be done at 7 am the following day. The following morning, the doctor did not show up, the endless waiting of the patient and the family continued from 7 am to 7 pm. My friend had to search for the telephone number of the doctor, sent an SMS with a passionate appeal without response. Around 7:30, my friend younger brother passed on.

Case number five involved another friend who fortunately cheated death by the whiskers. He was driving from Suleja to Minna in 2013 and ran into arm robbers unexpectedly and was stopped by the rain of bullets. He came out of the car and lay down with his face on the ground as instructed. He surrendered all he had, then felt moist oozing out of his body. He touched and realized it was his blood. The bullet passed his car screen, entered into his body, passed in-between rips without touching the sensitive organs, and came out of his body.

This happened at around 2 pm. After a deepening silence, he got help from Minna after a delay. He was carried in an ambulance to Hospitals in Suleja and Gwagwalada, which refused his admission on flimsy excuses but was finally admitted to a Government Hospital, Abuja.

Meanwhile, he was all the way bleeding and after the admission, the blood bank had blood reserve but was not allowed for usage until blood donation comes. Does one wonder what the blood reserved was meant for? All the medical personnel refused my ailing friend in an emergency condition to be transfused. Luck shined on him when one of the personnel realized the patient was a lecturer from his Alma-Mata. It was almost 9 pm when my friend was properly attended (transfused) and eventually survived it.

Case six happened this year, 2021, a pregnant woman walked into the labour room to deliver in the night. The nurses attended to her. However, something went wrong beyond the ability of the nurses and had to call the doctors on call, none was available. One particular nurse was observed running helter-skelter from one ward to another looking for any medical doctor to rescue the lady without success.

Unfortunately, the lady and her unborn baby were dispatched to their graves, no thanks to the unavailability of doctors at that critical time. Doctors, as we all know, habitually embark on strike demanding fat salaries and allowances that are hardly justified. The lady’s husband came in the morning expecting to receive his wife and new baby but was confronted with her corpse. The man emotionally broke down and uncontrollably wailing “it is not true, she couldn’t die…”.

There are many cases similar to these, which make us wonder whether humanity in our medical personnel has eroded. Could it be the training or overworking or witnessing the deaths of several people daily that removed the compassion and milk of human kindness from our medical personnel?

Certainly, not all the doctors and other paramedical personnel exhibits this bad attitude but the few with this habit are damaging the image of the medical profession. The need to have an attitudinal change of our medical personnel in the face of the Covid-19 Pandemic cannot be overemphasized.

Nigerian Medical Association and other regulatory professional bodies must wake up to correct this bad attitude. They should sanction the erring medical personnel as Nigeria is tired of losing human lives out of negligence and carelessness in this important sector.

Prof Othman writes from NAERLS, ABU Zaria and can be reached via email: mkothman@gmail.com.

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