We have often been critical of some of the health reporting in our mainstream newspapers in Nigeria but this morning I have found a well researched piece, simply and explicit that brings to life the horrific conditions in our tertiary care centres in 2010 Nigeria. We have always wondered why Nigerians are not angry enough at the state of their health care system, why our colleagues in the profession seem to be in denial about the prioritisation of their demands of government and why the the government itself chooses to focus on everything but the quality of care. I invite you to read this piece by TOYOSI OGUNSEYE in the Punch of Sunday May 9. I then invite you to send it to every Nigerian you know. It s the story of how OUR children are cared for in the Lagos University teaching Hospital Lagos, one of the country’s premier public tertiary health care facilities.
Below are some excerpts…read each one slowly. None of these will require millions of dollars to solve. None of these should be insurmountable in 2010 Nigeria, as we approach 50 years of independence. But be strong as you read, as if you do have children yourself it will be hard to hold back the tears. Each of these excerpts has one simple element that is solvable with a bit of will and leadership.
Common Nigerians…. don’t let this keep happening to YOUR children.
“While weary looking mothers sit on the wooden chairs in the reception area, the frequent shrieks from babies in the clinic unsettle everyone in the environment, which is a far cry from being clean. There are a few men around in this section of the hospital, which has only two dirty toilets, already flooded by water. There is no bathroom…”
“After a few minutes, his mother comes out of the hospital and screams profanities at the medical personnel on duty. She feels that they did not do enough to save her five-day-old baby. The doctors and nurses ignore her and continue attending to other babies who are in critical condition…”
“Each bed in the emergency ward, which was opened by former Health Minister, Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, in Aug. 22, 2001, has a minimum of two babies that are between a day and one-month-old occupying it…”
“It is important that their mothers hold their babies all the time because the beds in the hospital do not have side bars that can prevent the babies from falling off. Even when the drip is removed, I can‘t sleep because my baby may fall down…”
Since I gave birth to my child, I have not slept. Even if they allowed us to sleep in the ward, I doubt if I will do that because the mosquitoes there are too many. We use mosquito nets at night to protect our children. I have also not had my bath because there is no bathroom here…”
”When they admitted my child, I was asked to pay some fees and buy some drugs. Where I paid for the drugs was different from where I collected them; which was also different from where I was given a receipt.
”The pharmacy is a 10-minute walk from the bank where I paid the money and the office issuing the receipt is another 10-minute walk back to the hospital. I have had to make this journey several times because my baby needs new medication almost every day. I realised that if I did not device a means of sleeping, I will collapse.”
That scenario was what the mothers in the room needed to express their reservations about the doctor on duty. ”I don‘t know what is wrong with him. He behaves as if he is doing us a favour, but he is not. We are all paying; nobody is treated free of charge here and that is how the doctor gets paid. He acts as if he doesn‘t care about our babies, doesn‘t he have children?” one of the women says.
”Last week, a baby died because the nurse did not remove the drip in its hand early enough. Its mother called the attention of the nurses on duty to the drip, which had finished. She kept calling the nurses when she noticed that her baby‘s blood was flowing back into the drip. By the time the nurses attended to the baby and removed the needle, it was already very weak. The baby died.”
So, why do people stick to the hospital despite its shortcomings? Some of the mothers explain that they do not have a choice. They say, ”This is a federal hospital that has specialist doctors. Most of the private hospitals don‘t have specialists or equipment so we have to come here when our babies are in danger.
The hospital’s response:
”We have to keep three babies in one bed because we don‘t have enough beds. Is that not better than turning them back and allowing them to die? They say that babies die here but this happens because the mothers will watch the health of their babies deteriorate before bringing them to us. But we are not magicians. No one talks about the lives that we save.
We have a long
way but we can start somewhere. We can….
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