The Ministry to watch in Niger State

One of my in-laws told me yesterday that he once took the son of his security man (maigadi) to a hospital in Minna after the boy fell and was losing a lot blood.

Obviously this was an emergency case. But they ignored him. “I was disturbed that the nurses were astonished that I sought urgent attention for the boy,” he said. “‘Don’t be so concerned, this is a simple matter,’ they told me as they continued to ignore us. By this time, the boy was bleeding from all over.”

As he told me this story, I remember reading somewhere that if we lose 15 or 20% (not sure which, but certainly less than 20%) of our body fluid, the system can shutdown and lead to death. The nurses and doctors certainly knew this basic fact?

“If they did, they didn’t care!” My in-law said. “I had to call someone who called the commissioner of health to intervene. It was then that they rushed to treat him as if they just discovered the boy for the first time. I’m a lawyer and they did this to me. Imagine what they do to the poor masses who, for reasons of power distance, fear and ignorance can’t complain.

“Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Let me tell you how they shafted one poor guy who came in with a deep cut in his neck, which was said to have been left there by a Fulani man. The man came to the hospital at 8pm, but didn’t receive treatment until 2am; after, and I witnessed this, his family bribed the doctor! I saw how they stitched the guy up at three different layers. How he survived that long was a miracle. This was at a public hospital. ”

There’s also the disturbing trend of nurses trading in hospital supplies including medicine, from their car boots. The medicine, I’m told, is meant for the patient. But the staff share them among themselves and then sell to the public. Why the ministry has not set up a whistle blowing programme for the people to confidentially report these cases is beyond me. Actually, as a pilot study, the ministry can randomly go to the hospitals and ask the nurses to open their car boots.

Fortunately, the many problems problems in the health sector in Niger State are matched by the resources (at least the human resources) we have in the state.

Top on the list is the First Lady, whom I once described as one of the most patriotic Nigerians I know. Since the beginning of her husband’s administration, she goes to the hospital three times a week – for free. Before starting work in Minna (she worked in Kaduna before now), I remember her telling me that she had resolved to do it because that’s what she loved doing; even though as CPS, I was also interested in how her decision would give the government a positive image.

Another reason why this is a ministry to watch is its young commissioner from UNICEF, Dr. Mustapha. He’s one of the three commissioners I expect to do well, because he appears to have good ideas and is open to learn more from others. I know this because I’ve referred other doctors who came to me with ideas to him. Recently he called for the audit of every death in the state hospitals.

Then there’s Dr. Umar Ibrahim Tiffin, the permanent secretary, who appears to know what he’s doing. He’s told me of many ideas of how they want to improve the quality of health services in the state, especially through the resuscitation of the primary healthcare centers. “We want to reduce maternal mortality to zero,” he told me. “If the governor can achieve this, he would be the toast of even our international partners,” he said.

Then there are other diligent senior doctors that I know, such as Dr. Mahmud, who has a PhD in surgery.

The ministry is also populated by my contemporaries, like Dr. Abdulsalam, my friend since secondary school, who has just returned from the UK his graduate studies.

These people give us hope that the challenges in the health sector would be surmounted. We trust them, therefore if they fail us, we shall not forgive nor forget.

They should focus on the ongoing incremental rehabilitation of the PHCs (starting with the 74 already announced) and not waver. Experts say 80% of our healthcare need is primary healthcare. The ministry officials should focus on this and stop useless travels, from which we take no benefits.

They should also fashion a way for the people of Niger to report the atrocious dealings of medical personnel.

Source: Ibraheem Dooba

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