That healthcare in Nigeria is in a precarious state is no longer news. Ask a day old child who didn’t get enough oxygen to assist his respiration and is unfortunately destined to live the rest of his life with cerebral palsy, he already has a lot of stories to tell; or you can ask the pregnant woman who died in labour because there weren’t enough facilities near her to have an emergency CS. Oh! She wouldn’t be around to tell her own story.
The question however is who is to be blamed for this menace? Of course, I know the usual culprit we will all echo – the Nigerian government. I will however want us to examine this from another pivotal angle. Even though I agree that the government may deserve a large chunk of the blame, I believe the poor state of healthcare in Nigeria can also be attributed to many other things, chief among them being the poor attitude of Nigerians towards their own health and in case you need me to use just one word to describe it, then it will be nonchalance.
A couple of weeks back, Aljazeera Investigates published a report that Nigerians may not be proud of but unfortunately paints a true picture of the poor state of healthcare in Nigeria. Some fake doctors were caught on camera through a carefully orchestrated investigation that had a patient pretend to be sick with some fake doctors invited for home consultation. Of course, the usual diagnoses for every fever in Nigeria were hastily given by most of them – typhoid and malaria – without any examination or laboratory investigation. They were however quick to prescribe expensive drugs that only they can provide.
The report nevertheless agrees that, “while there are many legitimate private health providers, there are many more that are completely bogus; unaccredited, unregulated 'quack' doctors - con artists and criminal scammers for the most part - who ruthlessly exploit the credulity, ignorance and desperation of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society”. It is unfortunate that our health system can be described in such terms but looking at it critically, you will realise that the large portion of the blame belongs to Nigerians that still patronise these quacks and not just the government. They are the reason this group of people remain in business.
The truth remains that there may be many quack doctors in Nigeria but there are also many licensed doctors that are easy to find. In fact, looking at the video that was recorded in the report, you need no binoculars to know that these men were fake doctors. Why then should anyone patronise quack doctors? If the reason is cost, then public hospitals are available which are cheap and affordable. The comprehensive facilities may not be sufficient but there are lots that can still be done with the limited resources available. Many however through ignorance patronize these quack doctors who give them medications that may cause more harm to them. Only a trained doctor can interpret accurately even the subtlest of symptoms which may be an indicator of something very serious going on.
According to Professor Alex Dodoo about fake doctors, "If one is not licensed by the state, anything that one does is illegal. Going to see them is dangerous. Period! Would you sit in an aeroplane where the pilot says 'OK hello, I'm the pilot, but I've not been licensed?' No way! You put your health at risk and you can die." Several Nigerians have however proved, through their indifference about who gives them care, that they wouldn’t mind boarding such a plane handled by a pilot without a license.
In conclusion, it is important that Nigerians take their health seriously and not just visit any quack doctor whenever there is a need for medical attention. If everyone does this then we will not need the government to stop this menace, because we will have been able to drive them all out of business. Your health is golden and you should not give an untrained hand to handle because this can have very dire consequences.
Reference: Nigeria’s Fake Doctors. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/africainvestigates/2014/11/nigeria-fake-doctors-20141126132723604457.html
Photo Credit: www.daily.bhaskar.com