Thursday, 25 September 2008

Set For A Show Down

Nigerian medical Association, NMA, rejects the National Universities Commission, NUC’s planned introduction of PhD as baseline qualification for medical doctors in teaching hospitals

By Nathaniel Jonah & Juliana Uzoka

Saratu Yusuf, a 13-year old primary 5 student of Science Primary School, Kuje had no premonition of any evil when on April 2nd this year, she went out with her brother to a nearby kiosk to purchase some staple food items. Saratu was hit by a reckless truck, which left her unconscious in a pool of blood. She was immediately rushed to a nearby private clinic by her brother for medical treatment. The doctor on duty demanded a down payment of N1,000 before any treatment could be administered to her. Saratu and her family however, got more than what they bargained for. She told Newsworld on her hospital bed: “The doctor administered an injection (on me) which I thought was to stop the bleeding, but which rather made me sleep off. When I woke up, I discovered my two hands had been amputated. When I asked why, the doctor said he had to do it so that I don't die.”

In Benin City, Edo State, Helen Eromosele was still having pains in her bowels two weeks after a surgical operation for her appendicitis. Preliminary abdominal scans revealed that there was a face towel tucked inside her intestine, which was forgotten there by the surgeons during the previous operation. She was hurriedly rushed to the operating theatre for another operation to remove the towel. Helen survived the medical ordeal through the skin of her teeth.
Saratu and Helen are but a few victims of wrong medical diagnosis, which has often times sent so many innocent souls to their untimely graves.
Medical records also show that maternal deaths are on the increase. Health index at the ministry of health Abuja indicates that the nation records about 53, 000 deaths every year as a result complications during pregnancy or childbirth. This was blamed on poor work attitude of nurses and midwives towards pregnant women.

Hadiza Umaru, a food seller told this magazine that she was almost denied attention at a federal staff hospital in Abuja when she went into labour because the doctors claimed they did not have her medical history. Umaru, who was already drenched in her amniotic fluid at the time she was rushed to the clinic told Newsworld that the medical personnel in the hospital told her that because she did not registered with them nobody would attended to her. According to her, the doctors insisted that she either made a deposit or go to where she attended antenatal. The woman said she registered in Jikwoi where she lives but “I went into labour in Garki where I sell food to people who are engaged in construction work.”

Another woman told this magazine that nurses in one of the hospitals gave her an episiotomy during labour and was accused of laziness, which resulted in her baby's death. “The nurses were beating me, climbed my back, while I was yelling with pains,” she alleged. It was her first pregnancy and the baby weighed 4.5kg.

The deputy director, Reproductive Health at the federal ministry of health, Mrs. Osutogun said it is wrong for women, who are in labour to be turned back, where they are not registered for antenatal. “The health personnel should help deliver them of their baby. They are in no way in danger, because as health care officers, they know what to do to protect themselves,” Osutogun stated.

Investigations have shown that unskilled medical doctors have taken over the nation's hospitals. The acting registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, Dr. Abdulmumuni Ibrahim declared recently at a one day stake holders' workshop on medical education that the nation's health sector is infested with fake medical practitioners. According to him, the influx of incompetent doctors in the health system was a violation of the decision of the council that all medical schools should conform to the quota of medical students allocated to them.

Although Ibrahim attributes the declining standards to the incompetence of many new doctors, investigations however, show that the infiltration of quacks into the medical practice is an off shoot of the systematic neglect of the health sector by successive government administrations in Nigeria. Dr. Shehu Abubakar, an Abuja based private medical doctor observed that “no health policy or plan has been adhered to for more than 10 years by any government and some of these policies are well articulated if only they are implemented. Poor budgeting allocations over the past 20 years to the health sector at between two to three per cent have not helped matters.” He noted that when the health sector suffers poor funding by the government and special attention is not paid to standards, the result is half-baked doctors and drop outs from medical schools, who could not pass their medical examinations parading themselves as qualified health practitioners.

The National University Commission, NUC, has made moves to arrest the ugly situation. The commission has made acquisition of a PhD degree mandatory for medical doctors working in teaching hospitals across the country. This has however, elicited sharp reactions from the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA. In a communiqué at the end of its national executive council, NEC, meeting in Awka, the association decried this moves by the NUC and maintains that the postgraduate medical fellowship, which is indeed higher than a PhD is the standard worldwide in the medical profession.

A medical doctor at the defense headquarters' medical center, Asokoro, Dr. Kingsley Obiaku condemned the planned action of the NUC. According to him: “It shows once again that the Nigerian society is over dependent on paper qualification, which has not taken us anywhere in the past. What should be done if the government is serious about eliminating quacks from the system is for the appropriate authority in conjunction with the government to radically revolutionize the medical schools in such a way that products of these medical schools can favorably compete with their counterparts all over the world and, this can be done through adequate funding for research programmes and increased budgetary allocation to the health sector.

Dr. Abraham Apata of the Brooks Hospital, New Nyanyan argued that instead of mandating the medical doctors to acquire PhD which might amount to little or no improvement in the health sector, “the government should as a matter of urgency put its acts together and commence the process of radical reformation of the Nigerian education system which of course includes that of the medical colleges. It is only when our leaders begin to have confidence in our health institutions and desist from traveling abroad for medical treatment that the nation's health sector can significantly move forward.”

To the National President of the National Medical and Health Workers Union, NMHWU, Ayuba Wabba, the steady neglect of education sector by government is responsible for the unsavory development. In his opinion, “if government had listened to the cries of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which has constantly reminded the government of the decay in the nation's university system, perhaps the situation would not have degenerated to the present state.

"Generally, there is a fall in the standard of education and I think that the government has a responsibility to look into these issues. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU has been crying about the steady fall in the standard of education in the country. This has led to the mass movement of our best professionals out of the country," he stated.

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