Majority of respondents said they were aware of prevalence of quacks
Typhoid, malaria fever, pregnancy/childbirth care have been identified as the top medical conditions for which quack medical practitioners, particularly self-proclaimed doctors, render services.
This was contained in a study carried out January 2014 by NOIPolls Limited.
NOIPolls is a country-specific polling service in West Africa which works in technical partnership with the Gallup Organisation (USA), to conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria.
Their latest study revealed that 2 in 10 Nigerians (24 percent) may have been victims or know someone who has been a victim of sub-standard or quack medical practitioners. Also majority (50 per cent) of the 24 per cent were treated for typhoid/malaria fever, followed by 11 per cent of respondents who were treated for pregnancy/child delivery care cases and 7 per cent who were treated for headaches.
In addition, four per cent were offered treatment for injuries; while three per cent each were treated for heart pain, abortion and eye treatment. Thirteen per cent were treated for various ailments such as: Skin infections, Diabetes, Food poisoning, Epilepsy, Pneumonia, Toothache and Chicken pox amongst others.
The study revealed that typhoid and malaria fever were identified as the most prevalent ailments for which patients fall victims of sub-standard or quack medical practitioners.
Unfortunately, the experiences of victims mostly end up in bitter tales as majority of respondents (71 per cent) admitted that the health conditions of victims become worse after treatments by quack medical practitioners.
Reports also reveal that these sub-standard or quack medical practitioners, tend to be filling a critical vacuum necessitated by inefficiencies of the country’s health sector; particularly for the socio-economic class (SEC) and income groups, who become victims of the incessant industrial actions in public hospitals and cannot afford the cost of health care in private hospitals.
Recent media reports in Nigeria have also observed an upsurge in the prevalence of sub-standard or quack medical practitioners, with attendant effects on the physical wellbeing of the populace and life expectancy of the average Nigerian.
In 2013, there were several reports of arrests made by the Nigerian Police Force in various states. For instance, the Rivers State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said the police arrested 12 quack medical doctors, while illegal hospitals in the state were also shut. Similarly, several hospitals in Lagos have been closed down for practicing without medical licenses.
Other cases include that of Gabriel Onyema and Stephen Nwankwo, who were arrested for causing the deaths of a number of pregnant women, while performing illegal surgical procedures in Lagos.
Despite annual budgetary allocations to the health sector by various levels of government, the sector still grapples with several challenges: poor funding of the health sector; quality of graduates emanating from medical schools; deplorable conditions of health facilities and infrastructure; and poor remuneration and emoluments for medical workers. All these, have resulted in incessant strikes and labour actions, thus encouraging quackery.
Some Nigerians still ignorant about quacks
Findings from the study, however, indicated majority (44 per cent) of the respondents think sub-standard or quack medical practitioners are “practitioners with incomplete qualifications”; while 35 per cent of respondents believe they are “individuals that pretend to have medical knowledge”’.
Eight per cent said they are ‘individuals that use unproven and unscientific remedies; two per cent think they are ‘student practitioners’; while another two per cent said they are ‘Native Doctors’.
However, about eight per cent of those polled do not have a definitive idea about quack medical practitioners.
Also, majority (79 per cent) of the respondents answered positively to being aware of the growing prevalence of sub-standard or medical practitioners in Nigeria, while 21 per cent of Nigerians said they were not aware of the prevalence.