THE BODY LANGUAGE OF OMONIGBO AND THE THANKLESS PROFESSION CALLED MEDICINE.
I was privy to the widely-broadcast mutilation of the scalp of an infant by some wild dogs....
....victim....Omonigbo's 3-year old son....
....aggrieved adult....a certain Mr Omonigbo....
....location....Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria.
Mr Omonigbo appeared on TV thrice on the issue of medicare to his son. On the first two occasions, he gave some thanks. He thanked God. He thanked the govt. He thanked the various individuals and organisations that had expressed concern and demonstrated goodwill on the matter....but conspicuously left out the medical and nursing personnel who were directly involved in caring for his injured son.
Although I felt pained by this ommision...and mentioning the fact might easily be construed as "ejo wewe"....I felt the best thing was to ignore this slight.
On his third appearance, he suddenly remembered to say "something" about the medical personnel caring for his son. He blamed the CMD and the consultant in charge of his son for leaving his son's "smelly wounds" open for "up to four hours". But doctors do not dress wounds...and smelly wounds connote infection by anaerobic bacteria. Leaving such wounds uncovered forms the bedrock of their treatment. We apply Hydrogen Peroxide. This causes oxygen release. We may even spray the would with oxygen all in an attempt to make the ambience unconducive for growth (replication) of anaerobic bacteria! The use of honey also simply means release of hydrogen peroxide.
But did anybody explain this to Omonigbo? As it is not enough to yell "Don't teach us our job!" when asked why his son's wound was not covered up. Of course our nurses are quite capable of such rude retorts. Their manners leave much to be desired and my purpose here is not to emblazon their bad attitude on the altar of sounding diplomatic! Perhaps a cool and level-headed explanation by a well-mannered nurse would have helped in reassuring Omonigbo and soothing his frayed nerves! That way, he would have readily given the needed cooperation to the nursing staff.... Omonigbo is not without his faults.
You see, I have an ominous dread of employers who remember to lay blames for faults but fail to praise.....as the patient....or paying relation may be likened to the doctor's (or the nurses') employer. For the good employer is that who deliberately seeks out opportunities to praise his employee. Because there is motivation in praise. The medical and nursing staff couldn't have been so uncaring since the day Omonigbo's son was admitted to hospital. They must have brainstormed and toiled endlessly to render the best of care to the patient....who is responding well to treatment.....as evidenced by the TV footage showing him playing happily with toys and friends.
Omonigbo's body language is painful....for how can a patient so readily recall the "exploits" of mere sayers of "sorry" but readily condemn his carers?
His case reminds me of the manner in which my immediate younger brother misbehaved at Redeemers Medical Centre (off Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere, Lagos) some years back. He rudely withdrew his son from admission and bundled him all the way to my practice in Ikorodu. After he shamelessly recounted how he insulted the hospital personnel, I told him straightfacedly that he had messed up! I could mentally visualize all he said over there....probably calling them a bunch of incompetents....and boasting that his elder brother is a doctor! So I tried to call the MD of the hospital but he dropped my call. I was trying to apologise and obtain a situation report on my nephew....since my brother in his angry exit failed to collect a referral letter! I then sent a text message.....what injectables... dose....dosing interval....next due time.....complete with the apology. You would say I so reacted because as a doctor, I could easily understand how medical personnel feel when we have the misfortune of being confronted by unappreciative and arrogant patients and relations.
Omonigbo has the mien of a company worker who is used to sticking his finger in doctors' faces, slapping doctors around and getting away with it....or demanding for spurrious sick leave certificates and having the company management summon the hospital MD for daring to refuse him. That hospital forms the topic of discussion in the staff bus the next day as all aboard conspire to excommunicate it!
Omonigbo also has sudden "powers" which he is ill-equipped to manage....unfettered access to the media.....who are already feasting on the story! So I can imagine him having the bearing of someone who could easily ruin careers by maligning medical staff in the media!
.....and letting medical staff know that fact....
So if I a doctor, is not given to such stupidity as to insult or malign my doctors....but explore ways of humouring them.... apologizing for my infractions.....paying my bills promptly....not forgetting to say thank you, how dare these patients visit their doctors with all this ingratitude and insult? How can a patient express the worth of his life in naira and kobo...just because he is paying?
And as for the govt on which Omonigbo relelentlessly showers his praises, it behoves the Lagos state govt to provide direct funds for this patient that it pledges free medicare. So much time has elapsed since the governor made this promise. We expect enough memos to have crossed tables and enough minuting by now as to formalize the release and availability of such funds. Not that govt would make convenient political statements at variance with what is on ground. Nurses cannot just approach hospital pharmacies and demand for drugs. The pharmacist has to balance his books!
Dr Tosin Akindele is a Lagos-based Medical Practitioner, a former Secretary of AGPMPN Ikorodu zone, a former Secretary of the Quackery Committee of AGPMPN Lagos State Branch, founder of Analytical Minds, a good health advocate and social critic.