By Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri
Of course, there are more than enough reasons to make one sad in Nigeria; but it never crossed my mind that my Monday morning (3/12/12) could start on such a very bad note. Yesterday morning, I found out that it is “normal practice’ for the sick, the weary and the afflicted to be sent off to die patiently, while their names adorn the waiting lists of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital. I am shouting because there may be so many out there on “death row” who can’t afford alternative medical care; who don’t have the voice to complain, and who may never get heard.
I have been struggling with a throat infection, popularly known as tonsillitis, that has defied treatment. After frustrating months of seeing countless doctors, taking drugs that only provided temporary relief and indulging in creative self medication, i decided to submit myself to an elective surgery to remove the goddamn tonsils. Google searches and literature seem to suggest that tonsil removal is the only sure path to lasting peace.
Although my doctors at the private hospital I use in Egbeda, Alimosho Local Government Area advised against surgery, they gladly referred me to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja to see another (ear, nose and throat) ENT specialist that would conduct a more robust medical examination, and give a second opinion regarding the need for surgery. Armed with a referral letter, I excitedly raced down to LASUTH, trusting that my problems would be over in a few hours. I was dead wrong!
First of all, i went to the ENT department where i was redirected to the Client Services Unit (CSU) to get formally booked to see the consultant surgeon. At the CSU, I submitted my referral letter and patiently joined the pretty long queue of patients waiting to get booked for an appointment. It eventually got to my turn, and to my greatest shock, i was booked to see one Dr. Batholomew at 8 a.m. on May 5, 2013! So, that means i have to either live with my affliction till the next 6 months, or perhaps die while waiting to see a doctor! As i was still fuming with rage, another patient quietly explained that there was a conspicuous shortage of ENT doctors across the country, and the few available ones are always over-booked. Imagine!… Years of bad governance have now conditioned citizens to make excuses for bad governance and view inefficiency as normal.
Brightly-colored statistics and fiscal calculations often bandied around by state and federal officials portray Nigeria as a country with a very strong economic base, with improving access to basic services, including healthcare. Long waits to see a doctor for a mere re-confirmatory medical assessment, in my view, are signs of bigger governance failures. Not only do long hospital waits and appointment dates sharply contrast with the annoying statistics of progress advertised to the world, but also evidence the harsh social and economic realities millions of Nigerian face on a daily basis. The long waits at LASUTH are longer than ideal response times, and flout wide-ranging international standards that espouse healthcare as a human right.
Come to think of it, not long ago, Lagos State Government threatened striking Lagos doctors with sack letters. Were they planning to sack the few available expertise within the grossly under-performing healthcare system in Lagos State? What were they thinking? What is more…Eko oni baje – whatever that means – makes no meaning to me. At all!
HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT!