Editors’ Note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, exposes the decay in the Nigerian medical scene. Weaving her tale, she outlines the various ways in which some of the actions of certain individuals in positions of leadership in the medical profession, lead to the ‘preventable deaths’ of many Nigerians.
The man was very ill. As he lay in the hospital ward, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) awaited the call of his death, so he could instruct the hospital to lay claim to his body until his relatives coughed up the hospital’s total fee.
However, the young doctor, unusual in his empathy towards his patients, decided that another death would be one too many. He could not in good conscience preside over another ‘preventable incident’. So he chose to do the unthinkable, and stepped in to save this life.
He passed the information to the patient that there was a drug in a different state that could save his life. He managed to get the drug direct from the source, and the man’s health was restored. Like Lazarus, he rose up from the grave!
But as the man’s family and friends called the doctor to thank him for what he had done, the CMD called…angry. Why had the doctor stepped in? Who gave him the audacity to prescribe a drug which came in from somewhere outside of the hospital? More importantly, what gave him the presence of mind to dare ‘interfere with the hospital’s cash flow’?
And so while the man was healed, the doctor was suspended.
But why had the doctor chosen to go rogue? What made him put his job on the line in such manner? Was it simply to save a life, or was it because he was fed up with the institution of medicine in the country?
You see, the doctor had graduated top of his class. He had taken the ‘Hippocratic oath’ to save lives; but yet, the same profession had turned him into an ‘Angel of death’.
How many times had he watched his drug prescriptions being changed at the pharmacy and downgraded to a lesser version, simply because that particular drug wasn’t in stock, and the pharmacy did not want the patient to spend that cash somewhere else? So instead, they chose to give a different drug that only prolonged the illness and sometimes led to death.
How many times was he asked- no, ordered- to prescribe ‘expired drugs’ to patients; simply because the drugs in the store had to be accounted for…they had been costed after all, and that money had to reflect in the financial statements. So, the patients had to be given the expired drugs…if they died, well, such was life in the country. They just became added statistics!
What of the illegality at the nation’s health insurance scheme. The government had designated a particular cost for that particular drug; yet, the scheme would downgrade the drug and still present costings for the initially specified drug.
Then they would purchase the downgraded versions, and take the money from the government. The difference in the initially specified drug and the eventually purchased downgraded version would be pocketed by the MD of the scheme and some other corrupt officials.
So, everyday, the nation wakes up to the news of another death that could have been prevented. Families bury loved ones that should not have died in the first place. Life goes on.
But then, one day, the oga at the top, who was also responsible for many deaths, had an incident. His son had fallen ill, and it happened so suddenly, that there was no time to fly him out of the country. He had to be taken to the same hospital where his father had overseen the deaths of so many less-fortunate individuals…directly and indirectly.
The doctor on call had prescribed a drug…an expensive one… afterall, the patient was a big man’s son. However, the drug was unavailable. There was a big pharmacy nearby, but the on-call staff at the hospital pharmacy did not want that money to go elsewhere. So the prescription had been downgraded, and issued, while the doctor stepped away to handle another situation.
As the drip entered into the veins of the young man, something went terribly wrong. There was an adverse reaction. Before there was time to get to the root of the matter, the patient had died. Just like that.
As the big man buried his son, he felt for the first time, what other parents had felt like, when they had to bury the ones they loved, over a situation that could have been handled effectively. He told himself the truth for once: “As I did unto others, it has been done to me.”
P.S.: In loving memory of Eric Arubayi, and all the other Nigerians lost due to medical negligence.
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.
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