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When doctors weep…

The past couple of weeks have been a turbulent one for the medical profession in Nigeria as 788 doctors were issued queries and then sacked as a result of a strike action that resulted from futile dialogue with the Lagos state government over its failure to keep its side of an agreement signed by both parties more than a year ago.

We’ve heard the patients and concerned citizens air their views. Doctors have been largely misrepresented by the media according to Dr. Y who believes one of the medical association’s biggest problems is those we select to represent us (hence the losing PR battle). Doctors need to be heard and here’s what some doctors had to say:

Dr. D, an NMA spokesperson said; “Bola Ahmed Tinubu was part of the government team that signed an agreement with Lagos doctors last year, Fashola should honor the agreement. FYI, Lagos judicial workers earn more than Federal judicial workers. Fashola must be a Governor of all not a group”

Dr. IN, a Lagos state doctor has this to say: “The consolidated medical salary scale (CONMESS) was the salary structure designed by the Federal Government four years ago with the aim of providing a uniform salary scale for doctors irrespective of the state, kind of hospital and area of specialization with an annual increment denoting years of experience. Most states in the country immediately began paying CONMESS in full. Two years after this, the medical guild wrote several letters to the Lagos Government to remind them of CONMESS as they were yet to be paid. The governor then SIGNED an agreement that he would commence payment in 2011 with arrears being owed. The Federal Government made it clear that if CONMESS was paid, doctors would ignore the poor work conditions, work extended hours like they have been accustomed to (but this time they would be happy doing it) and they wouldn’t have to leave the country to work abroad. More people would be encouraged to train as doctors and the health of the people would be secured! Instead, tax was increased, CONMESS was not paid, work conditions were not improved, doctors’ lives were lost to stress related illnesses and medical hazards and call rooms were not provided for doctors on call. When Governor Fashola was reminded in January, he simply said the President couldn’t dictate how much he would pay doctors in his state and the tax increase was necessary so the doctors should get used to it! He said he couldn’t afford to pay CONMESS (but he could plan the most expensive birthday party in the World for Alhaji Tinubu). We then embarked on a legal 3-day warning strike with prior notice to sensitize the people and remind the government of the signed agreement. On resumption, all doctors were given individual query letters (for a joint action!), another one was issued, and then letters were issued for “call to panel / impending dismissal from duty”.  A week later, armored tanks were brought to all Lagos General Hospitals and Teaching Hospital Lasuth, Ikeja with doctors walked out of their clinics while seeing patients. The Med guild immediately called for an indefinite strike and the Lagos state government was sued for breach of agreement and victimization of doctors. Fake pay slips were published in the papers some weeks ago claiming doctors were being paid as much as 900,000 whereas a medical professor of 20 years has never been paid as much as 500,000. A Neurosurgeon (brain surgeon) consultant still collects 171,000 as basic salary (excluding allowances). Be informed we have only about 20 in Nigeria (Two of them with Lagos state, they trained in America and they have both been sacked!) and these are doctors who work round the clock due to the number of head injuries daily as a result of road traffic accidents. 3 days ago, we were issued sack letters and 97 doctors (not 373 like you heard) were employed as Locum doctors (doctors paid per hour). These locum doctors need residents and consultants to put them through. It takes years of experience to perform a caesarian section on a woman or a brain surgery (especially bore hole to relieve increased brain pressure or blood in the brain) or an appendectomy or treat a sick child or even to help a mentally ill patient. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has made it clear that the newly appointed doctors should not & would not accept the job offer and that all doctors across the nation would join in the strike against victimization on Friday after the ongoing professional exams. The issue is now beyond CONMESS struggle – the government is aiming to devour the medical and dental profession. Be informed that doctors are not slaves, our Hippocratic oath explains that we owe an obligation to our patients and they owe an obligation to us and our services must be paid for.”

This is the Hippocratic oath that binds doctors all over the world:

‘I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art; and that by my teaching, I will impart a knowledge of this art to my own sons, and to my teacher’s sons, and to disciples bound by an indenture and oath according to the medical laws, and no others. I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts. I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art. In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves. All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal. If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all humanity and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my life.’

The original text of the Hippocratic Oath is usually interpreted as one of the first statements of a moral of conduct to be used by doctors. Being a doctor from ages past has always been an honorable profession. The doctors were not usually the wealthiest citizens but they and their families did not suffer untold hardship and they were revered. Many doctors in Nigeria die unsung, unable to provide for their families in their death, from diseases mostly due to medical hazards. Those alive and working can barely make ends meet and cannot substitute financial aid for the time and attention their families are deprived of. So what is a doctor’s reward in Nigeria? Or should we also join the queue for 70 virgins in heaven?

Dr. OF, a doctor working outside Lagos says: “Where I work, I have not gone on leave for 5 years because of the patients. No time to see my parents or siblings, attend burial of friends and relatives and weddings of close friends. I have lost many friends who think that I’m only pretending to be busy meanwhile I see patients every other day that can only be equated to church sessions. Many people cannot sit near a HIV positive patient, but these are the people, whose blood I put hands in everyday during surgery, and their blood splashes into my eyes, mouth and face yet I endure because I won’t abandon them to die. I risk my own life and my family’s life every day to care for others. What I get as hazard allowance monthly is only N5000!!!  If I ask my employer to keep an agreement to help me feed my family, is that too much to ask?”

Dr. B, a Nigerian medical doctor practicing in the US says; “Nigerians need to change their mindset, doctors have lost it all in Naija, from money to respect. The respect and pay of registered nurses (RN) in the US is unthinkable let alone doctors. In many instances you will have to downplay being a doctor because of the attention you get”

Dr. OO had this to say: “We live in a tribal society: ethnic tribes, religious tribes and in this case professional tribe, so I understand why non-doctors would find the fact that doctors should ever have a reason to go on strike repulsive and why doctors would find the lack of understanding from the general populace unbelievable. Like all polarized debates, people are leaning towards their gut instinct, which is hardly objective, but emotionally driven. The doctors’ association needs to get off the emotional debate because trust me statements such as “oh, I work too hard and earn so little” is never going to come out tops against sentiments like “my dad died yesterday because doctors were on strike.”  Looking at it in this manner, it becomes easier to understand why we are losing what Dr. F calls the “PR war” and why we are likely to lose future ones. As a doctor, I know first-hand what it is like to treat patients without light, giving injection drugs in the dark, putting myself at the risk of needle stick injuries far from the watching eyes of the public. I do it because, like the public, I care about your dad not dying even though I know you would never ask if a needle pricked me last night. I remember a particular incidence. We had an emergency, an unconscious pregnant woman with a blood pressure 280/220mmhg (severe hypertension) who was almost at term. She was unbooked and my call was almost over but I was available. Her husband had just 200 Naira on him. We had to operate on her within the next hour with no blood, no money and no drugs. But guess what? We did! That was the first time I had a needle stick injury because NEPA/PHCN was at their norm. Minutes later the air was filled with the cry of a pretty baby girl in the arms of a doting grandmother and father. In the background were the moans of a slowly rousing mother and then there was me with a pensive look on my face while awaiting the results of my HIV test. I was okay. Even though, I had worked overtime and had to be up to make work in the morning which was now 2 hours away, there was no complain, no feeling of accomplishment because in my “tribe” I was not unique. It is the story of 788 and thousands of other people I share a proud profession with. I got a gracious thank you from the family, a thankful smile from the now recuperating mother and a smiling appreciation from my parents when I narrated it to them. So to the “court of public opinion” we don’t just measure remunerations in cash only, we do in kind as well. I am sure I am a thousand “thank you” richer and a million “smiles” wealthier because of the job I do. Now all we are asking is that the LASG should match our generosity with trustworthiness and our patience with understanding.”

Today the punch newspaper announced that doctors in Federal Government Hospitals in Lagos State have begun an indefinite strike.

Dr. K summarizes the doctor’s plight in these words: “Back in the days the next to a nation’s president was the surgeon General…what do we have now? Back in the days doctors used to get accommodation for free or for cheaper prices now doctors are being evicted from the shams they call quarters. Back then you would never want to travel to America after medical school because you were entitled to a car and good pay but now doctors go to even Ghana where circumstances are better for doctors. Back then we had functioning hospitals but now we cancel surgeries week-in week-out because there are no sterile materials, no dependable power supply…”

Dr. T warns: “A government not sensitive to the health of its citizenry is like a walking corpse. Worse of all is the senseless approach to employ rookie doctors to fill in for consultants. I sympathize with the poor people of Lagos state, I pray for the doctors who have always left their families to take care of us despite the harsh conditions, I would advise Governor Fashola to have a rethink and reinstate the sacked doctors.”

There’s no citizen who hasn’t benefitted from health aid provided by a doctor. Doctors have served you tirelessly, thanklessly and in all manner of conditions both safe and extremely dangerous but these doctors are human too and if it has gotten to a stage where a strike is the only way the Government will pay attention to their cry then be angry with an uncaring government, be mad at a government that would frustrate one of the most important sectors of the economy while they fly their families overseas. Be mad at a government that will put the lives of its people in jeopardy. Be mad at a government that callously breaches legal agreements made with its workforce but please do not be mad at the doctors, they are the victims here. When a doctor weeps, his patients weep too…Fashola harden not your heart!

Have a great day people. xoxoxo

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40 Comments

Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Hall of Fame, Health, Uncategorized

 

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The Docs of Hazard!

…Daddy I wanna be a doctor when I grow up…

Many a child has uttered that cry as he/she got an epiphany. Some buried those dreams the first time they caught sight of blood gushing from an open wound, others were never given a chance to choose a life beyond medicine and yet for majority of the doctors in Nigeria, it was a life-long dream, which involved years of sweat, toil and tears (6yrs+X for some).
Now one can write about the many benefits of being a doc, from the title to the ‘efizzy’, to the respect, to the ‘god-complex’, to the money (not in Naija), to the certain degree of immunity from the police, to the good karma that arises from helping others, to the high market-value in the dating and marriage market, to the widely open arms parents use to welcome a would-be, doctor-in-law. The list could be longer and however long it takes to achieve this status, for some, it’s to die for. But no one ever talks about the bad…

We doctors have become the ‘Dukes of Hazard’ and here are 10 awful things you should consider before sending your child to medical school…

1. Med school is tough. To even start the race, you have to have been a really brainy kid in secondary school and the work load is structured so that the frail fall by the way-side.
I know a guy who ran mad during his exams in med school. #shocking-but-true! And then there are the strikes that thankfully, have become rare but sometimes keep a kid in school for up to 10 years. There’s also the issue of accreditation which has become a nasty new trend, leaving students hanging for long periods till their schools can get their acts together and sometimes totally interrupting their studies. My friends F and I who are currently doing masters in the UK say after med school, you can basically face any academic challenge or stress that there is. For them, the workload seems a bit too light at the post-graduate level when compared to the hassle of becoming a Nigeria-trained doctor.

2. They will rebel. Many parents think a doctor in the house is a must-have and have grown tired of paying the family doctor, desiring one of their own. While this is a noble thought, forcing people to do what they don’t wanna do is akin to delaying their destinies because one day, many years after, they’ll realise what exactly it is they are supposed to do in life. My friend A started out in med school and dropped out in his second year. Today he is a seasoned DJ and radio/tv presenter studying a business course on the side and says he has finally found fulfilment. My friend T now works in an auditing firm and if she had been allowed to follow her dream from the very beginning, she could have gained 3 years and would have been on a level far above where she is today. I have countless classmates who were forced into med school by their folks and dropped out of the race with alacrity as soon as they obtained the title. According to my friend F, “Daddy here’s the title you always wanted, now can I live my life?”…

3. The risk of infection. Doctors are prone to needle-stick injuries and blood and body-fluid borne infections on the job, HIV and Hepatitis top the list. Some call it carelessness but I tell you that many of these accidents are freaks of nature and some have been both life-altering and life-threatening! A colleague of mine was pricked by a needle she had introduced into a child with HIV when the child jumped suddenly. The mother was supposed to be restraining him and was profusely sorry but sorry doesn’t cut it when you have to take HIV medication for 6 weeks. She can never take back those 6 weeks of her life that she spent sick and vomiting due to the side-effects or the constant anxiety about the probability of testing positive to HIV. Thankfully she tested negative. I also know a male doctor who tested positive to Hepatitis when he was asked to do the test by the church weeks to his wedding… 😦 so many doctors have been paid with a measure of the patient’s illness in return for their services and have learnt the hard way that even if the hospital or government doesn’t put in place measures for personal protection, it is imperative that you protect yourself!

4. Any doctor who has worked in a teaching hospital or community clinic will regale you with tales of how doctors have had to run for dear life even jumping through windows because they failed to perform magic on a badly injured patient and as a result became targets for violently angry and grieving family and friends. It happens quite frequently in teaching hospitals where mortality is the highest because they are the highest point of referral especially those located in poorer neighbourhoods…

5. There was an episode at a hospital some years ago where doctors were robbed and molested sexually at night, while on duty by a gang of hoodlums that attacked the hospital. No one knows for sure if the offenders were brought to book but the memory of the trauma lives on in those doctors’ minds…

6. Doctors are their own enemies. We don’t have a strong enough governing body and many times it is outrageous how the doctors at the top are the very ones standing in the way of progress. A while ago doctors went on strike in a teaching hospital on orders from the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) and were fired en masse by the state. Adverts were put out for new doctors and doctors flooded the institution not caring about the events that preceded the jobs becoming available nor the cause for which the other doctors tried to fight. The ARD seemed powerless but thankfully, the governor of the state granted the doctors leniency and recalled them. It was quite amazing that their sack didn’t incite a nationwide revolt. Wasn’t it a worthy cause they fought for? Every man for himself, God for us all… 😦

7. Patient wahala! Sometimes patients can be a handful and I’m not talking about the average run off the mill, disgruntled or stubborn patient. I’m talking big wahala! A female patient being managed for infertility was found to be problem free and the doctor suggested, as is routine, that she bring her husband to the clinic for tests as the fault may not have been hers. The next day an angry man with a raised voice barged into the consulting room accusing the doctor of telling his wife that he was impotent! Now you can imagine the scene that unfolded and there have been far worse scandals…

8. The residency exams. I know people who have failed those exams up to 5 times regardless of the depth of their knowledge on the subject matter all because they failed to satisfy an examiner in an exam which is highly subjective. Exams cost as much as 50k and there are update courses to pay for from our meagre salaries too. Abroad, most exams are objective so you can hardly fail because an examiner thinks you are cocky or thinks it is your right to taste failure in this lifetime!

9. We do not work for the devil! Some patients treat us no better than the devil but in their defence, it should be expected since we constantly deliver bad news. I have grown weary of patients giving testimonies in church that start with; “The doctors said I had…..but my God put them to shame…..”
It is not doctors versus God!!! We also offer hope and look after you, remember? We care but God heals!- Our mantra 😉

10. It has been said that doctors dress horribly and have terrible cars. The salary doesn’t help matters and sometimes a doctor has to do ‘locum’ (part-time job) apart from his main job to keep body and soul together. In other countries, doctors are amongst the highest paid but every time we rise up in protest, the people angrily tell us we earn enough already and should be content as our job is ‘humanitarian’. Humanitarian my foot! I know an elderly doctor who had to beg for 5,000 naira to feed his family because salaries had not been paid. With the above-listed hazards, should this ever occur? He had given almost his entire life to the people, I think it’s time the people gave back!

Most doctors after realising what they signed up for, look for the easiest way out. They try to leave the country but alas, a doctor trained in Nigeria is not readily hired in other countries despite his experience or skill till he has passed myriads of hurdles, exams inclusive and many have returned, after losing years abroad because they were unable to find suitable work.

So peeps, carefully consider these before you decide the life of a doctor is the life for you. I won’t even mention our crazy 24-hour work schedule or how our families suffer as a result because that would be complaining and we knew this was part of the package when we signed up and besides despite everything, I love being a doctor and wouldn’t pick any other life…

Today before you shout at your doctor or act rudely, remember this and realize that we are under-appreciated and a smile and a thank you from you, not to mention your co-operation would go a long way to help us serve you better…

‘Be careful how you treat me because I may be your doctor one day!’ 😉 😉 😉

Have a great weekend peeps, T.G.I.F (though I’m working tomorrow!)….xoxoxo 🙂 🙂

 
11 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Hall of Fame, Health, Inspirational

 

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Cutting your clit to spite your libido!!! *Adult content

     My first call duty as a corper doctor was four nights ago. It didn’t help that I was on call again the next day which was a public holiday. I’d previously been handling the saturday clinics and hence was exempted from call duty but with the increase in salary promised to us by the government well on the way, the other doctors felt it necessary to ensure we corper docs earned every penny.
I had skipped work that morning based on the fact that my call duty would run from 4pm on monday to 8am on wednesday. Did I hear someone say bloody hell? Nobody bat an eyelid at work at my obvious absence, half of them weren’t even at work and the others that made it to work were just happy that they had the public holiday to themselves. I got to the hospital at some minutes past four and realised that I didn’t know where the makeshift children’s wards were. The hospital has been undergoing some renovations of recent and every unit has been moved around a bit. I also came to the unfortunate realization that the houseofficer that was to work under me for the night was green, pediatrics being his first posting. So there I was bag and laptop in hand, armed with a hair net, wrapper and tissue paper and trying to find the key to the call room while my houseofficer ran down my phone battery begging me to come set a line he hadn’t even attempted. I finally got myself sorted out and prepared myself for forty hours of call duty!

Several patients later, I snuggled into bed, grateful for the cold airconditioning and steady power supply the hospital provided. It was past midnight and I was ready to take a bow when my blasted phone rang yet again. I cursed loudly in Isoko and struggled out of bed, not bothering with earrings or my wristwatch but remembering to whisk my hair net off my head. Yeah yeah despite what Noble Igwe thinks, I still wear hair nets to bed when my boyfriend isn’t anywhere in sight! 😉
I got to the wards and met the houseofficer, a nurse and a couple with a baby. The baby was a month old and had blood dripping down its legs. What happened I asked? Trying to sound as calm and professional as I could given the situation, the fragility of the child, the volume of blood and the thought of the work that lay ahead.
‘We circumcised the child at home and it didn’t go well’
The mother was sobbing, the father was exasperated. The woman who performed the act was fast asleep in her home, her wallet fatter! I christened the unknown woman ‘Edward scissors-hands’. Yes I’ve got a brain that depends on humor to preserve my sanity in the medical profession.
The child was paper white, had used six pampers in quick succession each being thoroughly soaked with bright red blood and all her tiny veins had collapsed, making my job a hellish one.
I am pleased to say the child survived and nights like this make my job worthwhile but it got me thinking. She survived but Lord knows how many other female babies die from massive hemorrhage because their parents want to keep them from the evils of sex. The poor baby’s elder sister had been circumcized, her mother had been circumcized. They were from Imo state and miles away from their village but still held bound by tradition. It was their identity, all they knew. As the mother wailed to Chineke God not to punish her by taking away the child she suffered to carry for nine months and I mumbled a prayer under my breath begging God to let me find a vein so I could resuscitate the dying child I couldn’t help wondering why….

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practised all around Africa. It is a rite of passage for most women. Their choice in the matter never sought for as most of them are circumcized either as infants or before puberty. Just to ensure purity, a preservation of sexual morals and reduce fornication. I have a friend whose mother was circumcized as a baby yet she got pregnant in SS3 and gave birth to my friend so what was the motivation? If FGM turns women into frigid creatures uninterested in sex except for the purpose of reproduction, then why was this glitch present? Did she enjoy her boobs being played with or strive to please the horny teenager she called her lover that she didn’t care that she would never experience an orgasm but still went ahead to give life to his seed?
Surely a tradition that has left many women maimed, in pain and dead not to mention scarred and frigid should be fool proof right?
Why would a man want his daughter to lie stiffly in bed as her husband had her way with her? The only sounds in the room being his grunts and the squeaking of the bed?
Women have learnt to fake orgasms but could it be that this was the origin of the trend that has spread so widely amongst women?
Why would a woman deprive her daughter of the pleasures of cunnilingus? Even if it was morally frowned at, did she not care that her daughter would never know what it meant to be fingered? No wonder in african movies, grabbing a woman’s breasts made her squeal with such delight hence the term african romance was birthed in its rawest form as that was all the pleasure the woman could hope for since the bundle of nerves responsible for the feel-good feeling down there had been permanently severed.

Many people have pointed out that sex is a thing of the mind and maybe that’s the rationale behind searing her womanhood. But has FGM achieved the purpose for which it was created? Statistics show that the number of pregnant teenagers who are circumcized is not significantly lower than those who are not. These same statistics however prove that the number of women who have been circumcized who suffer complications like massive bleeding and tetanus is on the increase and those who had long term sequelea like HIV and Hepatitis B as well. Would any parent happily give up the fruit of their loins to avoidable morbidity and mortality? If this was a well-established tradition why aren’t there government approved hospitals that cater for this need rather than putting the lives of innocent children in the hands of a pepper-seller with a sharp knife! Everyone turns a blind eye saying the tradition has been abolished yet everyday a new generation of circumcized children are reared.
What guy would willingly marry a frigid woman? These women rather than carrying the mark of their culture with pride have an aura of shame around them and a humility that is decidedly ungodly. One can’t but shed tears for these beautiful creatures who have been branded for life.

As that baby battled for her life, her parents in great sorrow, I wondered who was to blame. These parents obviously loved their kid and only felt they were doing the right thing. We had to call in the surgeons to sew up the tangle of flesh that used to be her external genitalia. I couldn’t help wondering if Edward Scissors-hands had been high on kai kai or blind as a bat when she made the cut or cuts.
I must say at this point to parents that there’s no guarantee your child will not get pregnant in highschool if you circumcize her and the elders and keepers of tradition won’t sit with you at the hospital at 3am praying to God to spare your child’s life neither will they provide money for the funeral.
Men who think it their place to uphold the tradition, I have this to say to you; if you think breaking your woman or daughter’s spirit will keep her grounded remember the bird with a broken wing. One day it will fly again. If you loved your wives so silent when being f**ked why do you spend so much on porn and secretly crave a woman who turns every alphabet into a swear word when a man rocks her world?
Don’t maim these women, their tears and shouts for mercy have reached high up into heaven.
Stand against Female Genital Mutilation, stand for the rights of women everywhere.
A woman’s smile is like blessed rain, don’t take it away.
She needs all her lips and smiles intact! The vertical smile included.
Don’t cut off her clit to spite her libido!
Say No to Female Genital Mutilation! Let our generation see an end to this awful tradition.
Stand for something today!
And women on a final note when you are scrubbing down there and you feel your clit or you are contemplating whether to wank or go for fellowship, remember to be grateful. There are some women who don’t even know what a clitoris is!
Have a great day peeps! Xoxo

 
15 Comments

Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Hall of Fame, Health, Inspirational

 

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This is what i had to do to be a doctor…so R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!!

      As part fulfillment for my attainment of the M.B;B.S degree, I learnt that it would be required of me to provide basic healthcare to certain communities in Lagos and it’s immediate surroundings. My community immersion began on the 16th of June 2008. My first assignment was to spend 4 working days in Alhaji Masha Surulere popularly known as Shitta. Since I had never been there before I left school in the old rickety school bus with an open mind, my lively group members in tow and with a Ghana must go full of drugs, medical supplies and health education tools. Being the group rep, I was asked a lot of questions about where we were headed by my over-eager group members that i just couldn’t answer. We arrived at Shitta at 9.30 am and the place was like any other part of Lagos only worse with overpopulated rambling storey buildings and dirty surroundings and a great number of young men who should have been at work hanging on the streets. We the final year medical students of the University of Lagos, College of Medicine became street doctors going from flat to flat, household to household interviewing the people, finding out their health and health related problems and treating their illnesses. We also had in-depth interviews with the leaders of the community to hear their views on the standard of living, health and other problems in the community. The only fee collected from them was minimal and only during the sale of prescribed drugs. Also we had a focused group discussion on sexually transmitted diseases where the youths aired their views and we tried to correct their misconceptions. We also went to the African gospel nursery and primary school located in the community where we assessed the children’s nutritional status, de-wormed them and examined them as well as treating the common illnesses we encountered. We knew our limits and referred patients who needed expert care to the nearest functional hospital. We also carried out a mass immunization exercise. On the last day, we presented our findings to the leaders of the community and put our heads together to come up with possible solutions to present in our action plan to the Local government. The major health problems in Shitta were malaria, hypertension and arthritis while the health related problems were overcrowding with up to seven adults living in a small room, unemployment amongst the youth and a high percentage of old people in addition to poor environmental sanitation due to poor drainage. On the 22nd of June, we left school in some hired old buses to a destination unknown. Ire-akari village they called it. Our arsenal was an assortment of food, clothes, mosquito repellants and our faithful Ghana must go full of medical supplies. Most of us hadn’t been to a village in years and were dreading the thought of spending four nights in a village unknown. All we told our parents and guardians was that we were headed to Pakoto in Ifo Local government of Ogun state. We arrived there at 12.30pm. the village looked deserted, maybe the villagers were still in church. The bus stopped at an unpainted duplex and we waited with bated breaths. Our facilitators asked us to come down with all our luggage and we were ushered into a small bungalow behind and given two rooms the size of prison cells with only one window unprotected by netting per room. This was the beginning of a long ordeal. We had to use pit latrines, there was no electricity in the village as the transformer had blown months ago and was yet to be fixed, we had to sleep on bare concrete floor at the mercy of sand flies thankfully a few of us, I included had brought mattresses. In those five days we were expected to fill questionnaires, interview the people, treat their illnesses, count the number of houses, draw a map, de-worm all their school children as well as assess their nutritional status and immunize the people especially the children in the village. We also had to conduct focus group discussions on HIV/AIDS, a topic chosen by us because during our interviews we realized the people had no knowledge on HIV/AIDS. The people were cordial and initially a bit skeptical of us. The palm wine was fresh and the village lacked mosquitoes- what a blessing! There were three primary schools in the village but the children had to travel miles for secondary education. Many of the children were undernourished and had varying skin diseases. We had to educate some of their parents on cheap sources of protein. On the last day we gave out food stuffs and provisions to the villagers and they prayed lengthily for our success. It was quite an experience. I was thankful that I could help this people in my own little way. It wasn’t easy because all of us were city kids used to the comfort of high brow Lagos but we survived. Looking back I can laugh at all the incidences that made me cry like falling on my way to the stream into elephant grass and not only tearing my jeans but itching all night because of the elephant grass. We thought the Institute of Community Health was punishing us by sending us into the wild but we returned fulfilled and more aware of the problems of the masses. I wish more programs like this would be incorporated into medical schools nation wide and that more importantly, the government will reach out to these mostly unnoticed set of people. I got an A and I was excited although honestly, I wouldn’t wanna repeat that experience. Today I’m a proud doctor and all I can say is E seun Baba!!!

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Health, Memoirs

 

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