Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Dr. Roland Aigbovo is the FCT Chairman, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD). In this interview, he lamented how wrong medical diagnosis has been exaggerated in Nigeria as well as other alleged professional misconduct.
Nigerians still don’t enjoy good health care services in spite of several interventions. What could be responsible?
It is unfortunate that Nigerians still face challenges accessing quality medical services in spite of several interventions from federal and states government and international organisations. It ought not to be so. Nigeria health sector has been bedevilled with lot of challenges which ranges from inter-professional rivalry to the most worrisome one, brain drain.
It’s disheartening that many health professionals are leaving the country in droves in search of greener pastures elsewhere in the world, and nothing is being done to address the issue. Another thing is the issue of lack of confidence in our health system due to neglect over the years by successive government who do not see the health sector as a priority.
Why is it that doctors in Nigerian burn out easily?
The reason is simple. There are few medical doctors attending to health needs of thousands of patients especially at public health facilities. Doctor to patient ratio is poor. That is largely the reason. In simple terms, the burn out was as a result of exhaustion arising from excessive workload. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended a doctor to 400 patients as global standard. But the case in Nigeria is pathetic. It is at a ratio of a doctor to 6, 000 patients. Poor remuneration is another major discouraging factor. It often forces doctors to combine public and private practices to make ends meet.
There seems to be increasing cases of wrong medical diagnosis, inexperience of your members leading to death of patients, especially in public hospitals. Are you concerned?
Of course I am concerned. But I must state emphatically that issue of wrong medical diagnosis and other related matters are over bloated. World over, errors are made and it’s not peculiar to our health system alone.
No justification to it though, if such cases are recorded in developed countries with sophisticated medical systems, then it shouldn’t be a surprise if it happens in our health system with lots of infrastructural and human capital challenges.
Howbeit, we are humans and also liable to mistakes but ours is seen as intentional. When such things happen, we react emotionally but whole lot of factors, which I can’t mention now, contributes to the mistake.
Could that be responsible for high cases of medical tourism?
Not at all! There are cases of wrong medical diagnosis and professional errors everywhere in the world, just that, in some of the places, it is not reported to the world as the case in Nigeria. As I mentioned earlier, medical tourism started when Nigerian government officials and elites developed interest in going abroad to seek medical care for ailments that could be handled in Nigeria. It was as a result of inadequate quality manpower in the chosen specialty but for some clandestine reasons.
It led to further decline in attention to health sector in our country as successive government and officials don’t utilise the health facilities in Nigeria but choose to go abroad for medical services.
Shouldn’t there be stiffer sanctions to erring doctors?
That is the sole responsibility of the disciplinary committee of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). They have the constitutional responsibility to investigate and determine punishment for erring doctors.
Just few months ago, they ordered immediate withdrawal of the practicing license of a medical doctor based in Adamawa state, Dr. Yakubu Hassan Koji, for “gross” professional misconduct.
Koji was said to have ignored some professional rules when he engaged in a surgery that led to the damage of kidney of one Isa Hamma, now deceased. He was said to have engaged in the surgery without informing the patient of the nature of the operation and risks involved.
The MDCN tribunal chairman, Prof Abba Hassan, who presided over the sitting, said the respondent violated sections 29.4d, 29.4a, 29.4g, 29.4h, 29.4i, 31, 33, 33.1, 33.0 and 43.3 of medical ethics code in Nigeria.
He said the tribunal had no difficulty in resolving the issue against the respondent and in favour of the prosecutor who successfully proved all the 12 count charge against the respondent. He directed that the name of the convict be struck out of the MDCN register and his practicing license withdrawn.
What are expectations from the new ministers of health?
We expect them to champion policies and programmes that would strengthen primary health care services. It will help to reduce the pressure on the secondary and tertiary health Institutions.
Also, we expect a proper supervision and utilisation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) to meet the basic health needs of Nigerians. We are committed to their success in office because, at the end, Nigerians would benefit from the improved health care services.