Vanguard (Lagos)

8 December 2012

Nigeria: A Tale of Two Countries

analysis

This is a tale of two people close to my family who had serious car accidents in two different countries in perhaps two different eras.

Over 15 years ago, a career diplomat was on a posting in Ghana when he had a near fatal accident. His unconscious body was brought to a hospital where it was discovered that he had serious head injuries in addition to broken bones in different parts of his body.

The doctors in Ghana battled to save his life. Eventually, he was stabilised enough to be flown abroad where a slow but steady recovery took place. Being a bright star in the service, the Ministry of External Affairs stood by him and transferred his posting to Europe so he could be near good medical care.

He had to learn how to walk again, how to talk again, and how to put names to faces again. It was a long slow walk to near full recovery. A highly cerebral individual, he recovered most of his mental, if not physical prowess,and rose to become an ambassador, the pinnacle in his chosen career.

In many ways, he was a lucky man. But what made me to tell this story today, was the way the doctors in Europe commended the work done by their Ghanaian counterparts during the 'touch and go' period to save his life. It was perhaps a high tribute they paid when they said even they in Europe, could not have done a better job to stabilise him.

Now, fast forward to last year in Lagos, Nigeria when a young man who had just graduated from one of the private universities and was waiting for his Youth Service call up, undertook an errand for his mother that ended in a bad accident along Ikorodu road.

He was rushed to a nearby hospital and eventually found himself in Lagos State Teaching Hospital in Ikeja where it was discovered that he had fractured his hip bone along with some mainly surface injuries.

His recovery took a different route from my earlier story. While the diplomat was in a life and death situation for weeks, this young graduate was already cracking jokes in days.

(I visited him in hospital and we exchanged some banters.) While the diplomat was fed liquid food for months, even after being stabilised, this young man ate choice food within days. To top it all, he had age on his side. (He is younger than the diplomat's last child.)

So who do you think would make a fuller, more complete recovery? If your answer is what I think it is, then you are wrong.

After the discharge, it was discovered that the leg where he had the hip operation was horribly short, (about four inches) and the pain in the hip kept increasing until it became clear to his parents that this young man might not lead a fully productive life if care was not taken. So the parents consulted with friends and elders and decided to take him to the US.

Last month, the US doctors came up with scathing report. The operation in Nigeria was horribly done.

The bone would have to be broken again and reset. (Even the inserted iron rod was not properly affixed). All the previous efforts - in time and money - went down the drain. More was still to come.

It would cost the parents between eighty to a hundred thousand dollars to get the boy up and about. Money that the parents should not have had to spend. And in any case, money that they don't have.

But more worrisome for our country, is the comment of the lead surgeon who said he was embarrassed and ashamed that professional colleagues any where in the world, could have done what the Nigerian doctors did on the poor boy's leg. It was a damning assessment of a shoddy job.

Juxtapose that with what the Italian doctors said about their Ghanaian counterpart, over 15 years ago, and you have a tale of two different countries, two different sets of professionals, and two different eras.

May we remind ourselves, that LASUTH is a teaching hospital. One that Lagos State has reportedly poured millions of tax payer's money to upgrade and equip. May we remind ourselves that LASUTH doctors were among those who downed tools asking for higher remunerations so that they can, maybe, come to parity with the politicians who are bleeding the State.

Then there is the story of a young woman who had a caesarean operation in a private hospital only to have her intestine punctured and sewn up without informing her. It was when the pain became unbearable that she went to theUKand was told. She's had since had two corrective surgeries. Not unexpectedly, the doctors in theUKare incensed.

Can we be right to say that these doctors seem more interested in their pay package than in dedication to their profession and quality of work? Or are they mere examples of the malaise of mediocrity pervading the entire country -from politicians to journalists?

I think we need to decide as a nation what we want to bequeath to the next generation - whether it is mediocrity or quality. There is no use in building hospitals and equipping them without investing in quality personnel.

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