Public hospitals in Nigeria are widely assumed to lack equipment and manpower to provide adequate care for the large volumes of patients that troop into them on daily basis. For this reason, people who can afford it rather patronise private hospitals or travel out on medical tourism for their health care needs.
In spite of the poor public perception, however, public hospitals continue to record huge patronage around the country. This is also the case in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital territory. However, public hospitals in the territory are surprisingly largely well-equipped and staffed, and enjoy appreciation of most of their patients.
An inspection tour by a PREMIUM TIMES reporter of some of the public hospitals in the satellites towns of Abuja revealed their true state.
Most of the hospitals visited have clean environments, and are relatively well equipped and managed. At least two ambulances were seen in each of these hospitals, except in Karishi General Hospital where the management said one of the two ambulances was undergoing repairs.
The first stop was at Nyanya General Hospital, a satellite town in FCT which is largely populated by middle and low class public workers. The reporter observed a large number of patients at the hospital, a development which a staff member described as the norm with the facility.
With a large and well-constructed building, the hospital sits in the middle of the town, a few kilometres from the highbrow Asokoro district of Abuja.
The hospital was neat and organised as patients were seen sitting in halls waiting to be called into doctors’s offices and consulting rooms.
A patient, Rakiya Sani, said that she had been using the hospital ever since she relocated to Nyanya several years ago.
“This hospital is good; it serves people of this place well and also people from other places,” Mrs. Sani told the reporter.
“Most people from Nasarawa State visit this hospital for treatment. Everything here is orderly. When you come, you pick up your card and the nurses over there (pointing to two women in white uniforms) will check your BP (Blood pressure) before you sit in this place and wait for the doctor to call in the next patient.
“Though the crowd here is always much, the service is fast because it is orderly. You spend about one hour and 30 minutes or sometimes less to see a doctor.”
Blessing Kudu lives at Mararaba, a town in Nasarawa State. She said she usually attended the Nyanya General Hospital “because the service of the hospital is a fair one.”
She said: “This hospital is well-known around this place and people living in Nasarawa State come all the way for treatment. I have two kids and I gave birth to them in this hospital. The nurses and doctors are nice, but not all of them. Some are strict but if you follow them nicely, they will attend to you and you will see the doctor.
“About drugs, not all drugs that the doctors prescribe are sold here. You have to get some in your area,” she said.
Patients speak largely in the same vein at the Karishi General Hospital when the reporter visited.
Shola Akindele, who lives in Jikwoyi area of Karu, said the staff of at the hospital treat patients well.
“I gave birth to my second child in this hospital through (Caesarean) operation and I did not really pay any major fee. I visit this hospital all through my ante-natal period, so I am familiar with the environment and I love their services here. They attend to patients like it is a private hospital,” she said.
Roselyn Adebayo, who lives in Orozo, said she attends Karishi General Hospital because it is the nearest to her place of residence.
“In Orozo where I live, we only have a primary health centre and they only have nurses there, no doctors. So I have to come to Karishi to see a doctor. So far, I enjoy their services here. But I come very early so I can see a doctor early and go back home. If you don’t come before 8 a.m., you will be delayed as so many people would have arrived before you”.
A visit to Kuje General Hospital, however, showed there are still some things the authorities need to paying attention to, to improve the quality of services being rendered at public hospitals.
A mother of four, Abosede Makinde, who resides in Kuje, said she had been attending the hospital for several years. She described the services rendered and attitude of the staff towards patients as “above average”.
“In public hospitals and hospitals generally, there is always room for improvement,” she said. She suggested that more doctors should be employed so patients can leave the hospital early, “instead of waiting in endless queues on regular basis.”
Another patient who would only volunteer information that “I a mother of five”, said she had no complaint about services at the Kuje hospital, except that the hospital recently rejected her 26-year old son who needed an appendicitis operation.
“We rushed him to this hospital but we were asked to go to Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital. The reason the nurses gave was that there was no surgeon in the hospital as they have all been transferred to other health facilities.
“For a general hospital meant to render health services to the whole population of people living in Kuje and its environs, it is bad not to have at least one surgeon. I thank God nothing happened to my son, as he has recovering fully now,” she said.
A nurse and a doctor at the hospital who would not want their names in print, however, denied the claims that the appendicitis patient was rejected.
“We don’t reject patients in this hospital, we only refer to Gwagwalada Hospital when we cannot handle a case,” said the nurse.
“It is possible her story is true but the reason she stated is not true. As of last week, though, there are no surgeons in the hospital. But when the need for a surgeon arises, we will call on one of them.
“The reason she was referred was because of the scarcity of fuel presently affecting us. The doctors said they cannot rely on PHCN to perform an operation and there is no diesel in the generator, so it will be safer to go to Gwagwalada for the operation.”
Explaining further, the nurse said: “Most general hospitals don’t have surgeons because it is very difficult to get one, not to talk of affording one. You can go to Area 11 (Garki, at the FCTA headquarters) and ask the authorities of FCT why they have not been employing surgeons and posting them to public hospitals.”
The doctor also said it was necessary for the authorities to employ more surgeons in public hospitals to reduce the number of referrals to other health facilities.
Although public hospitals in Abuja satellite towns are daily under the siege of patients, they appear to be coping well with providing basic care for those who choose to patronise them or cannot afford to go elsewhere.