18 May 2018

Nigeria: What We're Doing to Improve Patient-Doctor Relationship in Nigeria - Medical Practitioners

Some medical doctors in Nigeria say they are working to reverse the poor relationship between patients and doctors in public hospitals in the country.

The spokesperson for the Society for Family Physicians of Nigeria (SOFPON), Uyo zone, Sophia Usuwa, said family physicians in the country have introduced "patient-centred care model" to make the patient the most important person in public hospitals across the country.

"Patients, and not the doctors, are the most important persons in the hospital. And yet there are relegated to the background," Mrs Usuwa, who is a doctor at the Department of Family Medicine, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), Uyo, said on Wednesday during an interview with Inspiration 105.9 FM Uyo.

Mrs Osuwa was at the radio station to talk on the 2018 World Family Doctor's Day which is celebrated this Friday, May 18.

She was accompanied to the radio station by another doctor, Daniel Okeke, who is overseeing the planning for the celebration.

Mr Okeke is also a staff at the UUTH's Department of Family Medicine.

During the radio interview, Mr Okeke identified lack of clear communication as one of the factors responsible for poor patient-doctor relationship.

"There are instances in the hospital where patients don't even know what is wrong with them, they are like passengers inside their own vehicle," said Mr Okeke.

"The patients don't know what's going on; if you ask them, they'll just tell you they went to the hospital and a doctor give drugs to them. Ask them, and they can't tell you what those drugs are for."

Patient-centred care model would help solve lots of problem in Nigerian hospitals if adopted by doctors and other health workers, the two doctors said.

"Generally, what we have around here is the model where a doctor disses out an order to the patient and the patient follows, the patient isn't really carried along in his own treatment. He doesn't really have a say in his own treatment," Mr Okeke said, adding that the model isn't going to conflict with the doctor's expertise.

"But even if it does there are ways of resolving it," he said.

"In this model, the doctor, apart from attending to a patient's bio-medical problems, also wants to go into the psycho-social aspect, where he takes cognizance of the patient's fears, feelings, ideas, and expectations," Mrs Osuwa said.

She continued: "Sometimes a patient's reason for a counter may not necessarily be the doctor's presentation; when you dig deeper, it may just mean there was an abuse, it might be a sign of depression.

"So, in family medicine, we try to educate our colleagues and everyone on this patient-centred care model which you give required care that the patient needs and at the same time work in partnership with the patient.

"For example, a doctor can say you have diabetes, I am going to give you this particular kind of medication to be taken three times a day, and perhaps this patient works somewhere in which he may not have access to food to eat with that medication, perhaps in the afternoon. The patient, of course, would chose the instruction he wants to obey and leave the rest.

"But in the patient-centred care model, the doctor would tell the patient what he wants to do and ask the patient if it was convenient and comfortable for him. The doctor would want to know, for instance, if there are challenges that could affect the patient taking his medication," Mrs Osuwa said.

As part of the World Family Doctor's Day celebration, the society for family physicians visited a local school, the Community Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Oku Ikono, Uyo, where they taught the students sex education, menstrual hygiene, and the dangers of drug abuse.

The doctors gave free medical tests, consultation and counseling to the teachers, and also dispensed free drugs to them, as well as free sanitary pads to the female students.

"I wish they could be doing this here every month," the principal of the school, Rose Williams, said of the doctors' visit. "It's highly commendable."

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