What is the "cost" of a life in Nigeria


by ndubisi edeoga

There they go again. I read in the papers that 4 teaching hospitals were slated for renovation….again. The last renovation was done sometime back by the famed VAMED Engineering GmbH and Co kG of Vienna for US$291million….

A friend of mine who is a cardiologist in one of the teaching hospitals that was renovated in preceding round of renovations called me a couple of weeks back and needed information and assistance in buying parts for a HP sonos 2000 ECHO machine. Extremely surprised….I asked…“I thought you guys got brand new ECHO machine some months back from VAMED“. He responded that the new machines are there but they are useless, so useless that he would rather spend his money and time to fix the more than 10year old Sonos machine, that he has used for many years, and has been satisfied with the performance.

What does this say about government funded renovations in Nigerian teaching hospitals?

Similar scenario; 2 years ago I was in New York in a general hospital that serves the Harlem Community. The hospital planned to replace their aging CT Scan machine for newer ones. What did they do. The hospital bigwigs narrowed the options down to two, based on cost, functionality and other factors, then they got all the radiologists and radiology technicians and made them go to two sites that had the different machines and work with the machines on two different days and get a feel of each and they were given the leeway to decide on which machine they felt would better for them to use.

In Nigeria the decision on what to buy is made hundreds of miles away, with little or no input from the end users; doctors and technicians.

In one instance they supplied equipment that was too big for the existing room at the teaching hospital and since then the equipment has been in the store room waiting for another round of renovation like this for them to build a bigger room for the supplied equipment.

I have read so many articles and posts about “physician assisted deaths” or “outright murders” in Nigeria, and I still ask…

What is the “cost of a life in Nigeria”?

One month ago I got a call from Alex; young, up coming banker, ambitious, with dreams aplenty. We talked about the stimulus package in the US and the need for stimulus 2.0 in Nigeria.

Two days after our conversation, I got a call from Nigeria at 3.00am (you better start praying, who is dead now, who got kidnapped,what bad news).

And I was right like always; Alex is dead…..what dead…..what…he went for a surgery…..what surgery…….TONSILLECTOMYTonsiWHAT…..by now I was screaming (apologies to my neighbours).

The story was that this young man that I spoke with 2 days before he died, (he sounded good to me over the phone), went for an elective “TONSILLECTOMY” in a private clinic in Garki Abuja, on a Sunday morning.

Well the good doctor who did not think that he would need oxygen, or any other form of resuscitation equipment, called in a fellow doctor and they both “MURDERED” this young man. He did not make it to surgery…they anaesthetised him and he died on the table while they were “waiting” for the anesthesia to knock him out.

So….what really is the cost of this life in Nigeria?

Where are the lawyers when we need them? When you watch our beloved NTA news at 9 pm you see hundreds of them, with their wigs et al defending our gubernatorial aspirants as they fight for the spoils of public funds. Here in the US, I pay a substantial part of my income in insurance (and yes I moan about this every month).

The fear of malpractice suits is the beginning of wisdom…

It is time that a few examples are set by the courts on the consequences of medical malpractice. Lets not leave judgement to God. Lets start right here on earth. Right here in Nigeria.

Maybe, just maybe…we might start finding out what the cost of life in Nigeria really is.

To Alex’s young widow and 2 children I say take heart, and to my dear friend Alex I say Adieu!!


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Discussion1 Comment

  1. I agree, the lack of liability in Nigeria has left many medical professionals, doctors, nurses and pharmacists able to cover up serious clinical or medication errors and covers up incompetence leading to patients needlessly suffering and dying in some cases from very minor procedures. I agree there have to be mechanisms put in place for full accountability.
    Healthcare professionals have a duty to the care to their patients but as long as the system allows people to cover up errors we are going to be in the same place.
    A simple start to solving the problem would be independent autopsies by a coroner every time a patient dies, not only would that help identify where mistakes are made, it will enable lessons to be learned. If we don’t know what is killing patients, how can we improve our clinical competence?

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