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GOVT SHOULD PARTNER PRIVATE SECTOR IN HEALTHCARE DELIVERY - AMIENGHEME

By NBF News
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Nosadeba Amiengheme, a doctor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is the Medical Director at St. Mary's Catholic Hospital, Alaja-Ifo, Ogun State.

He recently spoke to Daily Sun on how Nigeria can save millions of dollars spent annually by her citizens on medical services overseas.

He contended that what her skilled medical experts, now living and working outside the country, need was a conducive environment and encouragement by government and private sector to return home to serve their fatherland.

He regretted that lack of enabling environment has forced Nigerian medics to flee the country, while her citizens are trooping to Asia, Europe and the United States in search of medical treatment.

To solve this dilemma, Dr Amiengheme contends that Nigerian Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can pool resources together to set specialist medical facility to handle sophisticated medical cases like renal diseases and surgeries.

According to him, rather than spending billions of dollars annually to get medical treatment overseas, Nigerians and Nigerian institutions should collaborate to establish reference and specialist hospitals, where complicated health cases can be treated.

Excerpts:
I qualified as a medical doctor in 1980 at the Nigeria College of Medicine.

I specialize in obstetrics and gynecology and by this we assist pregnant women deliver either normally or by caesarean section.

Challenges and excitement
The excitement is that when you see a woman in labour pains, you put in your best efforts to help her deliver. When this happens there is always some sense of fulfillment and excitement you get seeing a woman, who was once in pain, smiling again after the birth of her baby and you feel satisfied at the end of the process.

So, essentially what excites me in the profession is that God is using the medical profession to help and assist people in need.

Why the prevalence of Caesarean Section in hospitals

I was born through CS about 58 years ago. My father realized that I would die and my mother would, perhaps, die if I was not delivered through CS, so he gave his consent that I should be delivered by that process. The reason was that my mother had placenta problem to the extent that when she tried to push, the placenta will block the baby from coming out. And so my father had to endorse that I be delivered by CS.

So far, I thank God that having qualified as a medical doctor, I have been assisting other people get deliveries either through CS or normal process.

It is unfortunate that in this part of the world, people detest CS but, in other parts like Britain and America, women voluntarily go for it because it saves them from the stress and pains of labour.

Did the circumstance of your birth influence your choice of career?

Being born by Caesarean Section did not influence my choice of career at all.

I choose a profession I loved because it has to do with care for people.

I have always loved taking care of people, particularly the sick and less privileged ones, and so I saw studying medicine as a process that will enhance that aspect of my life and I am satisfied each time I see people come to consult me with heavy hearts and leave with smiles on their faces.

As a matter of fact, if I had another opportunity in this world I would still read medicine because, here, we are not talking about money that is coming to you, but the way you impact on the people that are coming to you for advice.

Training in the 1980 and now
I can say that a lot have changed about the medical profession, when you compare the days we trained and now.

I can tell you categorically that standards have fallen drastically because in our days training as a medical doctor was quite comprehensive, unlike what we have today.

There are no more excellent healthcare delivery because of high cost of equipment. In our days, medical equipment and even books were quite cheap and affordable. I could buy a whole anatomy text book for N2.00 but, today, the same book goes for as much as N5,000 or more, making the profession very expensive and out of reach for the average family. This can be attributed to the depreciation of the naira and I don't see the cost getting cheaper. This has also affected the training of medical students because students are now cutting corners to be able to meet the demands of the course. That was not the experience we had when we were in medical school.

My children becoming medical doctors
I will not stand on their way if they decide to study medicine but I will encourage them because I have had a fulfilled career not because I have millions of naira in my bank but because I am doing what I love doing.

As a matter of fact the reason we are here on earth is to give love to one another and I will be very delighted to see my children continuing from where I will stop by giving love to humanity. God has decreed divine love to one another irrespective of whether they are enemies or friends because that is the primary purposes and any other consideration including wealth is secondary.

That is why I feel bad when some people are praying that their enemies should die. I think that pattern of prayer is wrong if we are following what the Bible told us about how to handle our enemies. People that are praying like that are teaching their followers wrong concepts about living. So as far as I am concerned, the job is not too important but how well you are able to serve humanity with what you are doing.

You could be a doctor, an engineer, pilot or military personnel. Those things don't matter, but what is of interest is what you do with that profession and giving love to other people creates the most value before God and humanity.

Strike by medical doctors We share the same creed but we believe that they are right to make their demand based on what was collectively agreed with the federal and state governments.

By our training we are not expected to go on strike and resolve the disagreement amicably because it is wrong for government to renege on its promise with the doctors.

Specialist attention
We lack the equipment to handle complicated medical cases like kidney transplant.

I have worked in four hospitals abroad.
My advice is that we should expose our medical practitioners to overseas training so that they could get the latest skills in medicine which is a dynamic discipline. But besides training, there is need for the government to encourage them so that the exercise does not turn out to be another source of brain drain on the nation.

The reason is that if you train somebody and fail to provide equipment for him to work with, he might be tempted to remain at the country of his training or perhaps move to another country where better remuneration and welfare packages exist. In this regard, I would advise our government to encourage Nigerian medical professionals to regularly upgrade their skills and even when they come back they should be given quality welfare so that they can stay at home.

I know several Nigerian medical professionals who are working in the best medical facilities in various parts of the world and they have distinguished themselves. So kidney transplant would certainly not be a problem if government or the private sector can provide the equipment for doctors to work. Showing love is a variable. You can have love but when the environment to express that love is not there you look for elsewhere to show.

Doctors are entitled to get paid what government had promised so that there would be crisis.

I am excited at what Governor Fashola is doing in Lagos State. We see the transport system working and people are enjoying it. That is what we want other governments across the country to be doing.

Why should an individual drive four cars in a country where millions of people are going to bed hungry.

Government officials buy houses all over the world wasting resources that would have been deployed for more productive uses.

We need electricity to galvanize the economy and prop up small and medium scale enterprises.

Investment by some churches
I have nothing against churches investing any sector of the economy where there is need. But if I were to advise, I would want the churches to pool their resources together to build a specialist hospital in the country where complicated medical cases like kidney transplant, hearth surgery and neurosurgery can be handled.

Nigeria is one of the richest countries in the world and yet we have nothing to show for it and that is why we are still travelling to India and America for treatment.

This is time for our government to know that something needs to be done about healthcare delivery in Nigeria.

Government needs to partner the private sector to get this dream realized. In this regard, I believe that rather than setting up private universities that are producing graduates that don't have jobs, churches should build centres of excellence in medicine to conduct research and handle complicated medical cases that are currently not treatable in the country.

Even in practice, medicine is team work and not what one person can do. So we need the church and other NGOs to collaborate to save the nation the ordeal of losing her citizens to sicknesses that presently cannot be treated locally considering that only very few Nigerians can afford medical treatment overseas.

You will be amazed to discover that most Nigerians don't even have the right attitude to sicknesses like AIDS.