Date Published: 07/21/10
A Cry Out to President Jonathan to Take Speedy Action on Nigeria’s Extremely Bad Health Care By John Egbeazien Oshodi
Mr. President, you are fully aware of the deeply held culture of indifference that filters through our public institutions and especially, our hospitals.
The psychological and cultural realities of the Nigerian institutions are not strange to you and should not therefore, be much of a surprise to you.
As you know, Nigeria’s institutions are degenerating and wallowing in corruption, while religious and ethnic strife are a threat to good administrative governance and public sanity.
However, as the President of a country that is a part of the global economy, both you, other open-mind Nigerians, and our global partners should be in shock at life expectancy and the standard of health care in Nigeria.
Take a look at the ongoing horror-filled news from hospitals like the General Hospital in Agenebode, Edo State where patients undergo surgeries with flashlights, as in the most recent case where the Chief Physician, Dr. Monday Obawonyi, in near darkness and with no air conditioning, performed a surgical operation on one Mrs. Mary Alugbe.
There is the case of dead babies from the premier Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) being packed into bags, moved through the streets of Lagos on the way to be dumped in bushes.
It seems that there is no end to this national nightmare, to the extent that some in the Nigerian leadership who are quite familiar with the reality of life amongst the people, are beginning to believe that societal upheaval may be the quickest way out of this national distress, in order for constructive and drastic changes to occur.
Voices of Warning
An Economist, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria in a recent lecture at the Faculty of Social Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, seemed to predict that should the current economic woes continue, the people could seek self-help through violence, and bring the needed change that some in leadership have always resisted.
In addition, with an air of frustration, a nationally revered Constitutional Law scholar, Prof Ben Nwabueze at a recent Book launch, in Victoria Island, Lagos, posited adequate transformational change only taking place through Bloody Revolution.
His Co-member at the Presidential Advisory Council, retired Lt. T.Y Dajuma stated that at this time there is no leader to help transform the nation and fears that revolution as the only path for change would be too costly in terms of money and the lives of the Nigerian sons.
Even the current Federal Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Chief Nduese Essien in a recent speech at a London business summit celebrating Nigeria’s 50th birthday sees the nation as being in a state of deep structural degeneration and seemingly hopeless.
A Way Forward
However, there is a much more forthright path in which the President can immediately take the country to put to rest these predictions of disappointment and doom.
Mr. President, declare a national state of emergency across some public institutions in light of the fact that no matter how much money is poured into a system, most of it gets converted to personal use.
As such, few projects are completed in Nigeria, and fewer come out right. In the process, the consumers of the intended public services suffer.
Mr.President, the blunder is not with the buildings; it is with those who occupy these buildings and handle the customers who seek help from these institutions.
In fact,the fault lies mainly in the heads and minds of some of the workers, officials, supervisors, clinicians, consultants, contractors, and managers of these institutions.
Sir, you must familiar with as one who has held public service for years and are familiar with how you break away from other powerful Nigerians who are entrenched in the system. This is an issue for you to grapple with, and it will not be easy. You will need help.
Help in the Diaspora?
It is time to summon the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs , Foreign Embassies in Nigeria and the Nigerian High commissions and Consulates in countries like United States of America to help in the mass recruitment of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Bringing them in with their experiences will be less costly than the status quo and what might eventually result from its continuation and eventual public frustration.
Personnel blending or displacement will certainly be more tolerable to those likely to be displaced compared to the apparent appraoch being called for by the likes of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, and Prof. Ben Nwabueze,
I would suggest that you cannot ignore these nonviolent recommended paths to institutional-personnel renewal as you work on creating on a healthier institutional environment.
Sir, in order to have an idea of the type of sound governance that many Diasporan Nigerians could bring in, you only have to spend some time browsing internet News Papers and Outlets in the likes of Thewillnigeria.com, Nigerianinquirer.com, Saharareporters.com, Xclusivenigeria.com, UkpakaReports.com, Huhuonline.com, Pointblanknews.com, TheNigeriaVoice.com, NigeriansReport.com, and others.
Within these news outlets are essays, comments, and inventions from Diasporan Nigerians who dearly love home. Many of them have mostly spent credible periods in foreign public-oriented careers and professions, while some are consequences of the Brain Drain-from the public and health care sectors, in Nigeria, especially.
The Shambolic Healthcare Sector
With the idiocy over the zoning issue, there are now grounds to believe that uncertainty could lie ahead as the electorate look towards the forth coming national election.
Mr. President, while focusing on the public institutions, the health care sector in particular can no longer be left in the hands of predatory commercialists, politicians and administrators.
It remains shocking how the nation has failed those dead children, having been loaded into street bags in the hands of a so-called contractor while the hospital medical executives, administrators and management seemingly look away and stand in a state of ignorance or denial.
If one of the best teaching hospitals—Lagos Teaching University Hospital (LUTH) could showcase such unethical/possibly illegal actions, what about all other much less noticeable medical centers across the nation?.
If the parents of these seventy-plus dead children are reportedly abandoning them within a short period of two to three months, where are the police reports on parental abandonment?
Could some these deaths be suspicious, or unexpected as they relate to possible child abuse and parental neglect? In that case, where are the documented calls from hospital staff and follow up police investigations? Are some of these deaths due to signs of physical trauma, medical accidents or criminal acts, and where are the autopsy reports from the pathologists?
Could some these deaths could have being prevented with the active presence of ethically minded workers/contractors and sustainable resources? How many child deaths happens due to intentional or gross neglect in order to enable staff to illegally supplement their salaries with bribes from morbid contractors?
How many corpses are dumped in residential and industrial bushes as corpses are turned away on contractors who cannot further pay inflated fees and bribes to cemetery care takers having bribed hospital workers and officials’ in order to remain in the job?
How many street and unlicensed contractors are allowed to manage the disposal of decomposing bodies in the midst of possible health hazards to the living and public environs?
Where are the Federal and State Ministries of Health in terms of procedures and practices for monitoring the handling of unclaimed bodies at different morbidity units in various hospitals?
Do public health officials have the educational and training fliers to guide parents and hospital officials on child related issues? Do these various local governments and large teaching and Specialist hospitals have Children fatality Review Board to assist in examining child fatalities?
Mr. President, surgical operations are always high risk in Nigeria, whether due to blackouts or inadequate supplies. Added to unreliable electric power and few medical supplies, there are few monitoring devices, no functioning oxygen plants, no adequate trauma care centers, no active stationary phones, no refrigerators to store medicines and food, and no workable toilets
Patients lay down on inadequate mattresses with no pillows. They overflow into corridors due to too much heat; X-Ray machines are AWOL; there is lack of running water, few good roads, no enforceable traffic regulations or dependable emergency transportation to hospitals.
Mr. President, public trust is weakening, in these crucial times and in the face of blatant extortion of public funds by a tiny fraction of the society.
Taking Bold Action
With all the recovered monies by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EECC), some of the confiscated monies could be directed to procure high-powered generators, functioning morgues, effective X-Ray machines, create workable cemeteries. Funds could be directed towards the mass return of Diasporan Professional who will only come if there perceive strategic insights into, and commitment towards solving these issues.
As the 2011 national election draws near, will the public hospitals and other medical institutions be ready for cases of trauma and other emergency related crises?
You must take action to convince Nigeria’s citizens that their health needs will be met in the short term, even if some form of national health care emergency has to be declared. Time is running out and many would say: “hurry up, Mr. President”.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D, DABPS, FACFE, is a Clinical/Forensic Psychologist, and the Interim Associate Dean of Behavioral Science, Broward College, Coconut Creek, Florida. Joshodi@broward