I’m truly sorry that I’ve been away for so long. I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks. Hope you and yours have been well
I’m deeply unhappy as I write; I’m almost heartsick. Nigeria is trying to break my heart. Over the last month or two, people on Twitter have been asked to raise almost 20 million Naira for 4 different people with different ailments. First it was #SaveOke, then #SaveFunmi, now we’re trying to #Save both Meka and Debbie; and all I can think is, where does this end?
For every Funmi or Debbie or Meka or Oke with enough media savvy friends to work to raise money to save their lives, there are millions of other Nigerians, suffering agony from one ailment or the other, waiting for death, with no one to start a #Save campaign for them. Where does it stop?
Why is it so hard for us to develop basic healthcare in Nigeria? Going to the hospital is no guarantee of a diagnosis, much less correct treatment. We have people in charge of this nation’s health, people whose jobs it is to craft policies that will make good quality healthcare available for all. Where are these people? How many Nigerians will die before our health sector gains the transformation it needs? How many more will we lose?
I was chatting with a friend about Debbie and she told me something that shocked me. She carries out a specific medical test routinely when she travels to the US for check-ups –I don’t remember the name, but it is a routine test for her age. She couldn’t travel for her check-up at some point and so went to a “good” hospital here in Nigeria to do her tests. Upon scanning her list of required tests, she noticed that this routine test was not on the list. When she asked her doctor why, he said to her “but you don’t need it, you’re ok aren’t you?”
I avoid hospitals like the plague. On one trip, I was admitted with a very bad migraine. The doctor did a blood test and prescribed malaria medication. This wouldn’t have been a big deal if the nurse on duty had not come in 5 minutes before to tell me that there had been no malaria parasites in my blood. On another occasion, I went to a hospital suffering an allergic reaction. I was prescribed malaria medication “just in case”, despite my assurances that I knew I didn’t have malaria. I endured 3 days of itching like a nutcase and liberally coating myself in calamine lotion till I looked like a Nollywood ghost. I count myself lucky. People have gone in for routine issues and did not come out.
I’m not here to claim that all hospitals in Nigeria are bad. There are several gifted and dedicated medical professionals and institutions that pride themselves on a job well done. But I must be honest; it seems to me that they are in the minority.
I’m tired of hearing that so-and-so equipment is not available in Nigerian hospitals. I’m sick of hearing that people are admitted for malaria and don’t come out of the hospital alive. I’m tired of hearing about misdiagnoses and various forms and variants of medical malpractice. It breaks my heart.
Our healthcare is one aspect of our inadequacies as a nation. We have one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. People still die of cholera. Ghana has started to ask for yellow fever cards. Where does it stop?
Everywhere I look, I see disillusionment and cynicism from my compatriots and disregard from foreigners. I don’t know how to fix our healthcare system; I don’t know what it will cost, or what it will require. What I do know is that there are people who do know; where are they? There are people who can afford to set up world-class hospitals in Nigeria; where are they? Where are our NGOs and health advocates? Where are the people who know what is wrong and how it can be repaired?
President Obama believes we are the world’s next economic success story, and so I look around me – at bad roads, at epileptic power, and hospitals with neither doctors nor medication, at the waste of our natural resources and policies that no one bothers to explain to the average person.
I look around and fight the urge to weep. It’s hard to keep believing in the possibilities of Nigeria. It’s so hard.
How long will we #Save people? Until we become jaded and stop caring? Until someone decides that it would make a good scam and spoils it for everyone else?
How long will we continue to patch what is very obviously a very broken state of affairs?
When will we start the process to #SaveNigeria’s healthcare?