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Of Presidential Bed Rest And The Rest Of Us



When the news was leaked that the first lady had taken ill and had to be flown abroad for medical attention, there were many speculations about the state of her health as the presidency had kept Nigerians in the dark about the whereabouts of Mrs. Jonathan. We heard of a burst appendix and then that was replaced by uterine fibroids. As Nigerians were left scratching their heads and wondering which news to believe, the president was hush hush about the whole matter, with the spokesman of the first lady, Ayo Osinlu telling Nigerians that the Mrs. Jonathan had only gone for a bed rest in Germany after hosting the African First Ladies Summit. It is more than two weeks since the news broke and yet, and Nigerians continue to depend on the grapevine and newspaper reports to stay informed on the whole situation.

While most of us wish the president’s wife speedy recovery, Mrs. Jonathan’s trip to Germany has exposed once again the dismal state of our health care system in this country. If the stories are to be believed, Mrs. Jonathan was misdiagnosed by the Aso Rock medical doctors with food poisoning before a trip to Dubai, and another one to Germany showed her to be suffering from appendix/uterine fibroids or whatever ailment the German doctors are currently treating. This will not be the first time we are hearing of Nigerian doctors giving a wrong diagnosis to a patient. The late legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi was misdiagnosed with pneumonia before a trip to England revealed he was suffering from lung cancer. Sunny Okosun, a famous singer from the 70s-80s was also misdiagnosed in Nigerian until trips abroad showed he had been suffering from colon cancer. There are several other fatal cases involving ordinary Nigerians where doctors diagnose patients wrongly, leaving whatever sickness is ravaging the patient to do its damage.

There have been several desperate calls from different quarters for the government to rise up to its responsibilities and do something about the sad state of the health sector, but nothing is yet to be done. Not only have the facilities not been provided, the sector is overrun with doctors who have no idea how to diagnose patients correctly. All over the federation, government hospitals that should boast the best doctors and facilities are left to run on restricted budgets, leaving the hospitals nearly empty and reeking of hopelessness and premature deaths. Even the private hospitals themselves are not without their own problems. While most of them are pricey, the doctors running them are not even better than their counterparts working at government owned hospitals. In spite of all these problems, most Nigerians have no other choice than to patronize these hospitals, putting their lives at risk.

It is baffling why the government finds it difficult to introduce reforms that will bring the much needed change to the health sector. It has been said that Nigeria loses 100 billion naira annually to medical tourism as wealthy Nigerians and government officials leave the shores of the country to seek medical attention in foreign lands. Mrs. Jonathan, like her predecessors contribute to the loss suffered by the health sector and unless something is done, more money will continue to leave the shores of the country to the benefit of foreign hospitals. The health sector needs intervention. If adequate attention is given to it and money invested in it, there is sure to be a drastic improvement in the sector. There will be doctors who know their trade. There will be facilities to take care of patients and there will be a healthy productive populace to govern.

That being said, I can only continue to wish Mrs. Jonathan a quick recovery and hope that her short stay in Wiesbaden, Germany, has given her a short time to compare the quality of care the German doctors have given her to the ones the doctors at the villa gave her. Maybe she will think about the rest of us. Maybe she will become an advocate of the people, having been at the receiving end of poor medical service from highly paid Nigerian doctors. Maybe she will wonder about the rest of the masses who have to put up with far less qualified doctors, or at worst, quacks. Who knows, she might even spare us a shudder when she thinks of the inhuman conditions we have to put up with in poorly ventilated hospitals with cramped spaces. Then she might go ahead to advice the president that the rest of us cannot afford presidential “bed rests” in Germany, and that we too are humans like them and deserving of excellent healthcare. I hope. I truly hope.

Of Presidential Bed Rest And The Rest Of Us

Was Published On On September 17, 2012.