By Adewale Busari
Doctor Opoola, may God bless him wherever he is now, he used to work with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, I met him about 18 years ago, when someone very dear to me was on admission. I remember how we (families of patients) used to run after him to attend to our patients.
On this particular day, I saw Dr. Opoola at a ward close to the LASUTH Gate, as usual with people milling around him for one medical assistance or the other.
He was very attentive and attended to our needs while standing, sweating and using his lab coat to clean his sweat, sweat I mean and this was about 8 in the evening.
When the pressure was much for him, he told us categorically that he was not supposed to be attending to us because he had closed for the day, but he emulated Jesus Christ, although I am not sure whether he is a Christian or not, but his compassion gave us the relief for our loved ones as he braced all the odds to attend to us.
There are many good men like him at various hospitals in Lagos, at least I am familiar with the General Hospitals in Lagos. Many may disagree with me because of bitter experiences with medical personnel at the General Hospitals especially in Lagos. Why did I go this memory lane? It is because of the state of the health institutions in Nigeria.
Before you blame the personnel, we really need to understand or be familiar with the state of these facilities and the conditions of service.
At one of the proceedings in a suit between Nigeria Medical Association, Lagos Branch and the State Government before the National Industrial Court presided over by the then President of the Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, the aggrieved doctors unanimously assured the judge that his scheduled medical needs can be met by them in Lagos, then, he had an appointment with an Indian doctor either in the UK or US, I can’t really recollect.
But alas, there is no right environment to display their skills, they are overwhelmed and lack the basic tools to practice their trade.
So many years down the lane when the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige who is also a medical doctor boasted that the brain drain is as a result of abundant doctors in Nigeria. Many observers like me were not amused but only felt ashamed and disappointed.
A visit to any General Hospital will attest to the fact that Nigeria still has a a long way to go. Shortly after he assumed office as the then Governor of Lagos State, Raji Babatunde Fashola led prominent Nigerians to the commissioning of a cancer centre at the LASUTH. One of them is the General overseer of the Redeemed Church Of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the tambourine-bearing clergyman appealed to all other state governors to emulate the Lagos State Government in paying attention to the health sector, I don’t need a soothsayer to believe that they never heard him well.
I am also aware that the Lagos State did a follow-up with the upgrade of of some hospitals across the local government areas to the status of LASUTH, at least to decongest LASUTH. But, were these interventions enough to cater for the need of the common man? The answer is capital NO. I used the word COMMON MAN because our big men until the outbreak of COVID-19 rarely uses these facilities commonly refers to as public. This was why I was not happy when government started establishing well equipped special centres to treat those down with COVID-19, and my fear then was what would happen to all these equipment after COVID-19?
I was hoping that these equipment and centres should be domiciled at the General Hospitals, so that members of the public can benefit from them after the pandemic which forced the big men to share the facilities with COMMON MEN.
The uncommon Governor, Godswill Akpabio, built a world class hospital, but part of his severance package that became controversial then was a N100m set aside for medicals and these treatment are not in Nigeria, so he never believed in his WORLD CLASS FACILITIES. And just like our President, many of the political leaders have resumed medical tourism after the lifting of travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, it’s not all of them though, at least Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had knee surgery recently, telling us that such feat is doable in Nigeria, but at what cost?
The VP had the surgery in one of the top private hospitals in Nigeria, Duchess International Hospital and had about seven medical personnel attended to him, at least we saw their picture, so the question is how many Nigerians can enjoy or afford such luxury?
We also saw Oshoko, the former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose being attended to after a back surgery abroad, this is another pressure on the sick Naira as the demand for Forex will increase to take care of Ayo Fayose.
We all remember the cry of our First Lady, Mama Aisha Buhari concerning the State House hospital deplorable conditions, that is the State House hospital with annual budget running into billions of Naira if am not exaggerating, so if this could happened to a hospital right a stone throw from the President’s bedroom, then those attending the General Hospital in Abuja should keep their complaints to themselves, Baba is hapless.
Sadly, none of the top contenders for the highest office of the land is telling us how they intend to address this, I won’t blame them because they are not even familiar with the state of Nigeria’s health institutions.
Believe it or not, qualified Nigerian doctors are ready to be taken as slaves just to escape the harsh working conditions here, they continue to leave in droves, during the height of the pandemic, a Nigeria doctor lost all the hope in Nigeria when he met one of his instructors at an interview conducted here in Nigeria for doctors seeking to work abroad.
A large numbers of doctors were forcibly returned when without travelling papers boarded a plane, taking them abroad for a greener pasture, just like Asa, the singer said there is fire on the mountain, but this time around the doctors are running.
Popular Nigerian singer Eedris Abdulkareem sang Nigeria JAGAJAGA and the then President Olusegun Obasanjo disagreed with him. I believe that song will be resounding in the singer’s head now, as he needs about 48,000 pounds for kidney transplant.
Nigeria is really a dying nation in need of serious lifeline in the health sector. Sadly, no one seems to care, many have died for ailments that ordinary N50,000 can take care of, many would have been saved if there are enough personnel with the right facilities and tools, many would have been saved if the hospitals are not demanding for police report, many would have been saved if the government had prioritised the health sector. If the environment is GREEN, we won’t be talking of brain drain.
Anyway THE REMAINING SUN IS STILL CAPABLE OF DRYING CLOTHES. If everyone return to the drawing board and demand accountability and ask questions, one of those questions is why would Minister Adenike Grange and those before her returned or shared unspent monies budgeted for the sector, the sector that is begging for a lifeline.
The masses are only begging for good health to be strong enough to serve the leaders, for me I don’t think this is too much to ask.
ADEWLAE BUSARI is a Lagos based Journalist