Patients coming from Lagos to Abuja for treatment are, in my experience, apprehensive and very distrustful. They ask many questions, often repeating the same questions over and over again. The commonest questions are, ‘Can this operation be done in Nigeria? Are you sure I am going to be okay, Doctor’?
They cannot believe they will actually get genuine empathy, quality care and value for money. It takes them at least three to four days to settle down and realise it’s not business as usual.
A few will not pay in full until they are sure; often after the treatment has been carried out and they are well on the way to recovery. A few actually end up owing money, long after their discharge because they either lied to obtain treatment or they genuinely feel we are ripe for scamming!
And there lies the crux of the matter: if doctors do not feel they can trust the patient to pay for services rendered, they may delay, withhold or not render appropriate care. On the other hand, if the patients feel that they may not get the care or value for money, indeed that the care may not be worth the investment, they may intentionally default in payment. Sadly, a vicious cycle ensues. The next patient suffers and dog eats dog in Lagos!
This kick-back business
The other aspect is soliciting, receiving and accepting kick-back culture that exists in Lagos. Every referral and, especially, tests ordered for a patient gets the doctor a 10 per cent and as much as 20 per cent kick-back. This was started by the Indians at a diagnostic centre (name withheld) but actively promoted by many others ever since. The poverty mentality of some doctors allowed this to flourish and it is in danger of consuming us all.
It has destroyed the moral yardstick for health care practitioners, particularly in Lagos. It has also pushed clinical care to the background and removed a lot of common sense and acumen from clinical diagnosis. May be it’s one reason why malaria and typhoid are blamed for everything!
A new idea
Some doctors from Lagos were pleasantly surprised at the recent Nigeria Medical Association, (FCT) Annual General Meeting in Abuja. They were surprised about the advances in care and strides being made in Abuja in various fields. Under the platform of ‘what is new and happening now’, we showcased the following:
Treatments for spine diseases with successful surgical interventions and good outcomes performed by the Spine Fixed In Abuja team.
Open heart and cardiac surgeries carried out at the National Hospital and Garki Hospital in Abuja. This was supported by Hospital for Humanity, an American non-governmental organisation.
Kidney transplant and surgeries being performed at Garki Hospital and Zenith Medical and Kidney Centres in Abuja.
Orthopedic surgeries and joint replacement programmes of both Alliance and Cedarcrest Hospitals in Abuja. Safe replacement of hip and knee joints carried out for severe arthritis.
In total, the NMA (FCT) AGM presented what we hoped will help achieve a quick turnaround in medical tourism, away from travel outside Nigeria, to internal, Abuja-based medical tourism. By providing quality of care with demonstrable outcomes, we showcased that effective and efficient health care can be obtained locally. The doctors in Abuja have seized the mantle!
The Guild of Medical Directors
Another organisation that has thrown down the gauntlet in Abuja is the Guild of Medical Directors. The GMD has long been a local champion for improvements in care at the many general private practices in the city. Last year, we honoured Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh for her exemplary and unique sacrifice for the common good.
The Galadima of Lokoja, Dr. Godwin Ajakpo, was also similarly honoured for exemplary service to mankind. This year, the GMD is honouring five special people who have elevated the local health care delivery in Abuja through outstanding contributions to diagnosis and care.
To whom honour is due
The five people scheduled to be honoured at the next AGM and Dinner of the GMD (Saturday 26th September) have put their money where their mouths are, laid down their credibility, reputation and put their names on the line by establishing huge facilities that have elevated diagnosis and treatment to another level. Malaria and typhoid are no longer the only diagnosis in town!
Dr. Humphrey Alasa: Chief Medical Director of King’s Care Hospital, Abuja
Senator IG Abana: Established Lifebridge Diagnostic and Medical Centre, Abuja
Mr. Nicholas Odinuwe: Established Zitadel Medical and Diagnostic Centre, Abuja
Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu: Established Medicaid and the Medicaid Cancer Foundation, Abuja
Dr. Felix Ogedegbe: Chief Medical Director of Cedarcrest Hospital, Abuja
We have to develop our own health care industry and facilitate better care for our people. The industry can also create ancillary services and thousands of jobs to help with reducing unemployment and poverty. The Guild recognises that and in showcasing these individuals, hope to stimulate other entrepreneurs and socially motivated individuals to focus on health.
A healthy nation is a wealthy nation.
NB: Hey, this is not even what I wanted to talk about this week! So, please read the article next week on stroke. You would be glad you did!