Dear Muyiba Adetiba,
This article is my response to your article against the Nigerian medical doctors and their practice, which was published by Vanguard newspapers on March 12, 2016. I had wanted to ignore replying to that uninformed article, but when I reconsidered the negative impacts it could have on your readers and for the fact that you might have been sponsored by a group whose sole aim was to bring down the medical doctors in the health sector , I later decided to give it this belated response. There is a saying in Igbo land that he who was not around when a corpse was buried would always exhume it from the wrong side. The incessant strikes you see can be likened to a man who was married to a nagging and troublesome wife, whose life has been made a living hell. No one knows the pain he has been passing through but everyone frowns at him or blames him any day he decides to file in a divorce. Therefore, people talk without knowing the remote or immediate causes of his action or decision and what he has been enduring all the years he got married to such a bellicose wife.
You alleged that no medical body anywhere in the world down tools as often as Nigerian doctors but you forgot to add that no government in the world is also as insensitive and unreliable to her employees as the Nigerian Government. I cannot accept your assertion until you give me the source of that assertion. At the time of writing this article, the Imo State Government still owes medical doctors under her employment about three-month salaries. The story is not different in some states .People like you will definitely not see it, but immediately the doctors down tool, you and your likes make media and oral acrobatics to condemn the actions of doctors and other medical personnel. Just recently, two of my friends Dr Martins Ohabuike and Dr Kelechi Egbu died of Lassa fever. The late Dr Ohabuike was a medical officer working with Plateau state government while Dr Egbu (now late also) was a corps doctor still serving in the National Youth Service Corps scheme in Kaduna . Those two like many others who have died while discharging their lawful duties were bread winners in their respective families. These people died leaving behind aged mothers and younger siblings with no one to take care of them. Have you seen any media house that carried the news? I am not telling you what happened in 1725 or what was recorded in a history book or even a movie skit but what happened in our country about one month ago.
In case you don’t know, Nigeria is a country where professionals take instructions from politicians. A politician awards contracts to party members,family members and cronies who don’t know anything concerning health to build/renovate health facilities,to purchase medical equipment and other medical consumables. Again, in your comparison, you failed to show me where in the world doctors are owed their salaries for months and they still go on and render their services selflessly. What has Nigerian government done for Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh who sacrificed her life to save Nigeria and Nigerians from the scourge of Ebola in 2014, at least to serve as a moral boost for other medical doctors in the future? During September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the US many passengers on board the plane were ready to sacrifice their lives to ensure that Pentagon was not hit. Can you do that for Nigeria when you know very well that should you sacrifice your life no one would take care of the family and those you left behind? Have you not heard how the families our security agencies particularly the military were abandoned (after dying in active service? Worst still the same people are asked to vacate their quarters for others to move in almost immediately .
My dear, what we have here is government that is very insensitive. I will like you to show me countries where torch lights are used to perform operations because the politicians have refused to release money to fuel the generators since the national power supply has since been forgotten. If not strike, what do expect doctors or any other medical personnel to do? Should they take up arms and fight the government? You went ahead to state that it would have been easy to understand why they (medical doctors) keep going on strike if previous strikes had brought significant improvements to the health sector. I now seek your opinion on what we are expected to do in a situation where the government sends delegates for a meeting with delegates from the medical body (as you addressed us), and after different issues are discussed and deliberated upon with an agreement signed only for the same government to renege on its promise or the implementation of the agreement. Thereafter, reminders are sent to the government severally for more than two years but the government shuts its doors against the doctors. Ultimatums are issued severally and finally doctors succumb to strike as the only option. I need your advice here.
Nigerians always make uninformed assertions. I grew up with the notion that University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu workers were heartless and inconsiderate. At least that was what my grandmother thought. What happened? In those days, my grandmother’s clinic day was on Tuesdays. She would be told but maybe she was not free on a Tuesday and when she came another day, she would be turned back and another Tuesday appointment would be given to her. She would try to tell the nurses that she came all the way from Onitsha to Enugu that they should at least allow her to see the doctors since the mistake had been made but the nurses would refuse. In view of this, she thought that the workers in the hospital were very wicked. However, it was when I later trained in that same hospital which is now my alma mata that I understood why my grandmother should keep to her days of clinical appointments since the unit managing her only consults on Tuesdays and the unit would be busy with other activities any other days. This, the nurses and probably the doctors explained to my grandmother too but she would always want the hospital policy to be bent for her.
You went ahead to claim that there is deterioration in terms of quality of personnel. How many foreign trained medical doctors who want to practise in Nigeria passed the Assessment examinations organised by Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) once? The problem with Nigerians (including you and me) is that though the whites granted us political independence in 1960 we have refused to free ourselves from the shackles of mental slavery. Hence, your quick and unverified preference for foreign trained doctors. How can you explain why our own engineers who are more academically brilliant than expatriates are allowed to go and teach mainly in secondary schools and extramural O’ level classes whereas their expatriates counterparts are paid in dollars and they occupy juicy positions in our oil companies? To tell you how the white man still colonises us mentally, a patient was being prepared for a surgery, the anaesthetists were discussing with him about the proposed surgery, immediately the man heard that the anaesthetists intended using Local Anaesthesia for the surgery. The rich man got annoyed and could not wait for the anaesthetists to explain what they meant by local anaesthesia, the patient told them he would not allow them to treat him with anything local. Thus, he asked them to write the drugs since he had relatives in America and UK where he hoped to get the drugs within 48 hours.
In view of the foregoing, I did not bother when you joined other Nigerians in the mental slavery the white man has placed us. Again, I ask, how many times does it take Nigerian trained doctors who want to relocate to the USA or UK to pass their USMLE or PLAB professional examinations respectively since you believe that we are inferior to the foreign trained doctors? As for the Nigerian trained doctors practising abroad, are they not doing better? How come the sudden mutation? Give us working conditions that mirror those of the people abroad and see our wonders. In February this year, juniors doctors in England embarked on strike (http://www.bma.org.uk/news-views-analysis/news/2016/february/junior-doctors-press-ahead-with-industrial-action) when they could not agree with the government delegates concerning their demands .That was a strike because agreement was not reached. Now, consider our own plights in this part of the world where we negotiated with the government, had a written agreement which was properly signed; sent reminders to the same government as part of the bargaining process and after about two to ten years of playing what could be described as “hide and seek” with the government, we were left with no other alternative than to embrace the strike. Expectedly, neither you nor the journalists out there will ever see that but when a Nigerian trained doctor messes up abroad, the news will make headlines nationally and internationally.
Give us constant power supply; save us from constant kidnappings; let all hospitals have the required equipment with provision for their constant maintenance; pay us our rightful salaries promptly and see if we cannot overtake our colleagues abroad. We read the same medical books that others read. The difference lies only in the medical equipment and the type of motivations these people receive. How many of our tertiary hospitals have functional MRI, CT scans and other modern scanning equipment? Upon all these discouraging conditions, you went ahead to ignorantly state that an x-ray film was used in UK to make a prognosis( and possibly diagnosis) for somebody with breast cancer. Here, my dear, is where you goofed. In the first place, breast cancers are neither confirmed nor ruled out by x-ray but rather breast biopsy. That, my friend, is the gold standard globally but as a biased and uninformed writer as you are, you went ahead to concoct more fictitious stories in order to nail Nigerian doctors.Are you aware that Radiotherapy centres in Nigeria are few and most times they are not functioning ?
You went ahead to ask how many people have died due to wrong diagnoses, wrong drugs and on the table. Where were you and your likes when the former minister of information was diagnosed of a cancer by Nigerian doctors in UNTH and a surgery recommended since the cancer was still at the early stage amenable to surgical procedure, but she sought a second opinion abroad where they told her that she needed no surgery because the ailment was not cancerous. Did she not die of the cancer UNTH doctors diagnosed earlier? With mental slavery, whenever foreign advice is inconsistent with advice obtained locally from our professionals, the foreign advice prevails and that locally obtained advice is discarded as if it can amount to nothing. This is why private school operators now employ hunger-stricken Lebanese, Filipinos and other expatriates in their schools as part of their marketing and advertising strategies as parents will naturally want to send their children and wards to where ‘white men’ teach. When shall we secure our mental independence from these white men?
You also claimed that drugs were given to your uncle by a Nigerian doctor hence he developed Parkinson’s disease. Please I want to know the name of the drugs and the doctor that prescribed them. I am sure you are ignorant of the possible causes of Parkinsonism,maybe you heard the name of the disease elsewhere without knowing that it is a degenerative disorder of the Central Nervous System affecting mainly the motor system . You equally alleged that your nephew was operated upon and the wrong screw inserted but you failed to tell us the name of the hospital and the unit that handled the case the same way a police officer can easily be accused of bribery but when asked to bring evidence all the accusers will take off. You talked of a friend’s aged mother who was killed by overdose resulting for wrong prescription. All these allegations are unfounded and I challenge you to come up with evidence if you have any. The MDCN has a disciplinary committee that punishes any doctor(s) found guilty of unprofessional or unethical practices but if it is later found out to bes a false accusation , the doctor(s) will definitely sue you for malicious prosecution and other possible damages. However, you must know that a bad medical case is a bad medical case, if you like take the patient to utmost part of this world. Why did American doctors not bring back Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of late Whitney Houston, who was in coma for months to life? You talked of your friend’s aged mother but Bobbi Krishna died at 22. I don’t even want to comment on the attitude of Nigerians who go to hospitals only when their cases have deteriorated and still expect medical doctors to perform wonders after they had wasted time in shrines, churches, mosques etc looking for miracles .
When late Nelson Mandela was admitted in a South African hospital, did the doctors there give him drugs stronger than his illness that made him not to survive? I am miffed whenever people naively or ignorantly try to justify their fledging idea. What do you know in geriatric medicine or do you believed that anybody flown abroad must come back alive? What happened to Stella Obasanjo? When Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu was flown out from UNTH, why did UK doctors not heal him? I don’t want to talk of other prominent Nigerians that have died abroad and no journalist will see that but if it happens to be one alleged malpractice against a Nigerian trained doctor you guys will give it the highest media hype one can think of . Why do we loath our own and have preference for what is foreign? One day,a rich man came to visit a doctor friend requesting a referral letter that would help him travel to UK to treat keloid( a disease condition commoner among the blacks) ,the doctor refused ,arguing that it would be unreasonable to refer out a disease commoner among blacks for treatments by non-blacks .When shall the whitemen have mercy on us by granting us mental independence ?
On a more serious and patriotic note, I suggest you tell your friends and relatives who have always sought second opinions abroad that those hospitals which they regularly visit abroad were furnished and sponsored by some individuals like them. As rich and philanthropic citizens of Nigerian, tell them that they can equally help the government in making our hospitals reach the current status of the foreign hospices. Advise them that they can help the government in fuelling generators in government hospitals, securing state-of the art medical equipment for our hospitals. Tell them that the so-called ‘touch and go’ treatment you claimed your friend obtained in the US did not fall from heaven rather that it was built over the years with the help of individuals like them though in Nigeria, the rich are ready to travel to the UK to treat a disease like malaria that is endemic in a tropic region forgetting that when the rich fail to help our hospitals, the poor will definitely suffer. Tell them that our medical services need their individual help after all some of the free treatments for and immunisations against some diseases are not borne by only WHO and the governments. Bill and Melinda Gates and other philanthropists have foundations which help to not only make health accessible to all but also ensure that the quality of health services are not sacrificed. Finally, you claimed that elevated minds should not be motivated by money and comfort alone. I then ask you shall we be motivated by non-payment of our little salaries for months and harsh working conditions? Why did you fail to compare our salaries and the working conditions with the foreign colleagues you cited?
Dr Paul John,Port Harcourt,Rivers