How Mr President’s Recent Medical Tourism Abroad Has Vindicated Resident Doctors!

By Dr paul john
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One of the demands of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) is: Timeline for the revamping of our tertiary health institution’s facilities and equipment. Surprisingly every Nigerian seems to be happy with the way things are going in our health sector. At times I will ask God why he created me an African, see Obama beaming with smiles as he handed power over to Donald Trump after ‘only’ 8 years of democratic rule, now compare him with Jammeh who refused to hand over power to a democratically elected president of Gambia after 22 years of autocratic rule but was busy manipulating the members of his parliament. He only accepted to disgracefully vacate office when he saw ECOWAS soldiers entering his country and were ready to oust him from office militarily. When people talk about hell and heaven, I believe that God will not be so wicked that He can put sinners from Africa into the same hell with their counterparts from Europe or America because Africa itself is either nearer to hell or hell itself. Nigeria occupying the 187th position out of 191 countries in the 2015 WHO ranking of the healthcare systems of different countries is itself a form of hell. When Mandela was sick he was admitted in a South African hospital. The same happened to Pele of Brazil. Between late last year and early this year, the queen of England was treated for cold in England. I have never seen any of them admitted in a hospital outside their respective countries.

When Yar’ Adua was sick, he was flown abroad, the same was the case for other leaders before and after him. Do we continue like this, I thought they promised us a change and not continuity? These leaders through their obnoxious policies and administrations destroy our health sector. Having known what they did to our health sector, they would always run away to other hospitals abroad because the Igbos say that ‘Ogbu mma adighi ekwe ka ewere mma ga ya n’ azu’, which means he who kills by the sword does not allow anybody to wield a sword behind him. Our leaders know how they have run down our health sector hence it will be illogical patronizing the same place they have run aground. Who authorizes the award of renovation of our hospitals, building of new ones or the supply of medical equipment and hospital consumables to party members and cronies? The party members and cronies are free to do what they like with the contract(s) given to them after all their connections are from above. Technically speaking, there may not be a tertiary health institution in Nigeria if I am allowed to compare what we have here with what they call tertiary health institutions in other countries of the world. Our leaders are aware that what we call tertiary institutions here are what they call secondary health institutions abroad. Our secondary health institutions here are what they call primary health institutions abroad. Our own Primary health institutions here are their road side first aid facilities abroad.

The resident doctors being the future leaders of the medical practice in Nigeria, are saying things cannot go on like this because it is their future that is being played with .In view of this they have explored all avenues for our government to revamp the health sector but our federal government has refused to yield. In view of this NARD had a NEC meeting recently and released a communiqué ( NARD communique1 , NARD communique2 , NARD communique3 ) . In response to that communiqué and in suppressing mode, the federal government through the federal ministry of health issued threatening letters to all Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of our Tertiary Health Institutions, click here( Fg on NARD strike ) to read the threatening letter. I want to thank NMA for her timely communiqué on the ongoing NARD nationwide warning strike, click here ( NMA on NARD strike1 , NMA on NARD strike2 ) to read the NMA communiqué. Our legendary Fela said that ‘Nigerians smile when suffering’ hence when you expect Nigerians to shout, they will keep quiet and when you expect them to be silent they will shout.

I have been following the news since Mr President embarked on a 10-day medical tourism abroad, Nigerians are only praying for his fast recovery and no one has the courage to ask him if there are no more hospitals in Nigeria or what informed his medical tourism abroad where there are specialists of equal statuses in Nigeria. When Resident doctors finally decide to embark on an indefinite strike, Nigerians will shout and describe Nigerian doctors as professionals that are insensitive to the plights of their patients, inhuman ,wicked and et cetera without knowing that ‘ every smoke has a fire producing it’. The members of the press will then do their mathematical calculations and tell us that the numbers of patients who have died since the NARD strike began were greater than all the killings by Boko Haram and ISIS added together. The day I travelled to Calabar through Aba, I shed tears because at times vehicles would pass through someone else’s compound because the federal road was in a deplorable state and there are Councillors, State Assembly member, Federal House of Representatives member and Senator representing that section of the federal road. They will only come and give the people bags of rice and tomatoes during campaign period and disappear thereafter till the next campaign, in four years’ time, and the people are happy with that arrangement.

Mr President is a man that encourages us to patronize our locally made goods. May be he thinks that importation is only when one buys goods from abroad; he may not know that importation can also be importation of services. To him travelling abroad with taxpayers’ money to pay for medical expenses is not the same as importation of rice or other commodities into the country. How will they know that, when ordinary O’level certificate is still a subject of litigation in our court. No matter how the whites convince us that there is no racism in the world, they still see us as ‘black monkeys’ because our reasoning at times in this part of the world is still primitive and backward. How will the president of a country promote his locally made goods and services when he travels abroad for medical treatments, serving his visitors with foreign rice and French /Spanish wine? No wonder they say the change begins with us and not with them, so we can eat locally produced rice and visit our local hospitals while they enjoy foreign hospitals, rice, wines and et cetera. Donald Trump said on his inauguration that ‘time has gone for politicians who talk but do nothing’. Recently, Mr vice president called for the implementation of PPP (Public-Private-partnership) in our health sector. I believe that is the end of that call. All we have here is flagging off this today and that tomorrow with no implementation or follow up. The same President that travelled abroad, was he not the same person that flagged off Kuchingoro health centre few weeks ago? Why did he not go there or is there anything he is not telling us? I need nobody to inform me that his health problem requires a tertiary health care and not a primary health care because we have National Hospital Abuja and other tertiary health institutions in Abuja very close to him. There is a difference between calling for something and implementing it.

Today our medical graduates stay at home for years before securing placements as house officers and Nigerians see nothing about it. There are many post-NYSC doctors tramping the streets in search of jobs and the minister of health is not perturbed, provided that he enjoins the benefits accruing to a minister. What is happening in our health sector is more than ‘Apartheid’ government we once had in South Africa. Our government, now representing the white minority, is indirectly telling Nigerians that we have no right to healthcare and that our healthcare workers are meant to suffer permanently whereas they are the ones who have inalienable rights to healthcare services abroad. Regrettably, our supposed neighbours in the health sector are busy fighting the doctors as if the doctors were the government that destroyed our health sector just like other sectors of our economy. They are more interested in heading the health sector. I wonder what our insensitive government will do when everybody in the health sector embarks on strike in one accord. They will of course jettison the obnoxious and inhuman ‘no-work-no-pay rule’ immediately and revamp the moribund state of our healthcare system. But today, the government cashes in on the division and rivalry in our health sector to deal with all health workers the way she deems fit.

Let him go and come back, let me hear tomorrow that we should patronize our locally made goods and services; I will ask him if he paid them in Naira during his medical tourism abroad. Initially it was the treatment of his ear infection, ridiculing our Ear, Nose and Throat specialists in the country. Now it is medical treatment abroad, ridiculing not only all Nigerian doctors but also all Nigerians we were hoodwinked into believing that the change they promised us was a positive change. We now see that the change is a negative change because before they came on board, both our leaders and the citizens were financially buoyant to travel abroad for medical tourism but now it is only Mr President and politicians with few Nigerians who can afford such medical treatment abroad but the common man who used to afford it before they assumed power can no longer do that now because one US doctor is almost three times what it was before they assumed power. I get upset when ignorant fellows compare Nigerian doctors with their counterparts abroad. I always ask them if the commodity they buy with N1000 will have the same quality as the one they buy with N100, 000. Our healthcare system is at the level of N1000 when others abroad run at the levels of at least six digits. Most of our diagnoses in this part of the world are syndromic and clinical because there is no state-of-the-art medical equipment for aetiological diagnoses? Even if such medical equipment exists, possibly in our private facilities, how many patients can afford that? I need not talk about our health insurance which is a mockery and an affront to what we have in other countries of the world.

Majority of what we read in the books or were taught as medical students then cannot be seen during our clinical practice because the government has refused to make our hospitals to be on a par with other hospitals they visit abroad. Consider the frustration of a cancer patient who badly needs Radiotherapy; he travels from Port Harcourt to a government centre in Lagos, after borrowing money from friends and relatives, only for him to be told that the machine is not working and he is referred to another government hospital in Abuja, on reaching Abuja he is told that the machine is in bad state and the foreigners to repair it are yet to arrive the country and even if the machine is repaired immediately(which is impossible) that there are about 2000 patients ahead of him. Will the fellow continue staying in our expensive Abuja hotels forever? The right thing for him is to return to Port Harcourt and before you know it one religious leader will tell him that what is happening to him is spiritual and not medical. The cancer patient will agree because there is no other explanation for all our government-owned ‘primitive’ Radiotherapy machines in the country to break down at the same time if not due to a spiritual cause. The X-ray machines and CT-scan machines ,among other radiological machines, currently used in our tertiary hospitals were used in foreign countries in 1920s and Nigeria is now a dumping site for all old and’ medical equipment and Nigerians still want Nigerian doctors to perform magic with such old machines bought by out governments through their cronies and party members?

Once that person agrees to that crap, his burial countdown begins. How will Mr President personally ascertain the rot in our health sector if he does not patronize our hospitals? Chief Obasanjo said in his book, My Watch volume one, that his experience during his incarceration in Yola Prison made him understand that some crimes people go into were because of poverty hence one of the things he did as a president thereafter was for him to increase the salaries of all prison staff nationwide. If Mr President sits down in Aso Rock and waits for his aids and ministers to tell him the true and pathetic states of our hospitals and health sector, then he is joking as they will always tell him what he will like to hear because nobody wants to be sacked. In Nigeria, during the inauguration of a president, citizens beam with smiles not because they love the change of leadership or because they are patriotic but they beam with smiles because the leader being inaugurated is their party member or that they are going to selfishly benefit from that leader and his administration. In America, the citizens beam with smiles because of their love for their country with no personal gain expected. To our honourable minister of Health, I will humbly tell you what Mordecai told Queen Esther in the bible when Esther was playing politics and treating with levity the imminent pogrom/genocide that was about to happen to the Jews( which queen Esther was part of) as it is contained in the book of Esther 4;1-14. In Mordecai’s words I will respectfully say: If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews (now represented by the Resident doctors) from another place.

Dr Paul John
Port Harcourt, Rivers state, [email protected],08083658038