On Saturday, September 22, 2012, some members of the Nigeria Muslim Forum, UK, attended the Annual General Meeting of Africa Healthcare Development Trust (AHDT), in Manchester. Both organisations are registered charities, and their entire members work voluntarily in order to contribute in one way or the other to the development of Nigeria. AHDT under the leadership of Dr Ibrahim Hassan Jalo, particularly focuses on healthcare intervention in rural areas, and providing training through partnership with Nigerian doctors and teaching hospitals.
One of the speakers at the meeting was a senior lecturer from the Faculty of Medicine at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Dr Aminu Bakari. Dr Bakari’s presentation, which dwells on the challenges of healthcare provision in Nigeria, captivated the audience. It reveals why there is need for serious intervention in the Nigerian healthcare system. What particularly caught my attention in the presentation was what Dr Aminu described as “New hospitals” in Nigeria. These new hospitals which are springing up in different parts of the country are established by foreigners, and Indians seem to lead the way in establishing those hospitals.
There are several reasons why people should be concerned about those hospitals. First of all, how qualified are the medical doctors to practice in Nigeria? Secondly, which is equally worrying, is that some of these hospitals are so quick to refer to even the most basic cases that can be handled by the local doctors to foreign countries. This is something that every concerned citizen should think about. The third reason is the horrible experience that Nigerians face when applying for visa, and on arrival at the foreign countries.
While the foreign doctors come and establish hospitals in Nigeria, whether for business purposes or otherwise, the blame should lie in the doorstep of Nigerians, who from different accounts invite some of the doctors to establish hospitals in Nigeria. And if the foreign personnel refuse to do their bidding, they threaten them with expulsion from Nigeria, or revocation of their visa.
In all this, it is not the corruption, or the medical tourism that is of major concern. The key issue is that human life is at stake. Many people lose their lives either because they have been given the wrong prescription, they have been treated by under qualified doctors, or cases have been referred abroad, and by the time they arrive the foreign country, whether it is India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, United Kingdom, it is too late to improve their situation.
But one thing I learnt from my interaction with medical doctors, whom I can confidently say constitute almost the highest percentage of settled professionals particularly in the UK, is that the problem of healthcare in Nigeria is not necessarily about medicine itself. But about the attitude of healthcare officials.
One of the participants at the Africa Healthcare Development meeting, and a highly experienced consultant in the UK, Dr Bukar Wobi almost broke into tears as he was comparing the decay in the Nigerian healthcare system 30 years ago, and what obtains today. It was sad to hear that one of the state governments in Nigeria actually donated a meagre 100, 000 Naira to one of the teaching hospitals in the State even though the teaching hospital is the main centre for healthcare intervention, not only for that state, but for the neighbouring states as well.
Although I am not a medical doctor by profession, but I certainly know that if there is one area that needs improvement, not only in the health profession, but in other areas as well, it is the need for us to change our attitude to work. What has been happening recently, in terms of the treatment of Nigerians in the hands of Saudi authorities, the treatment of Nigerians in South Africa, United Arab Emirates etc, is nothing but a reflection of our attitude. The lackadaisical attitude of both the leaders and the led has created an image of unserious nation. So rather than being angry when other countries treat us harshly, we should look inward and reflect. Let us think where we went wrong and take measures to address our shortcomings. But as long as we continue to shift the blame to others, the more we will continue to humiliate ourselves and our country.
Dr. Yusha’u (firstname.lastname@example.org), a former staff of the BBC, teaches journalism at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, England. He is a weekly columnist for PREMIUM TIMES