Saturday, 6 September 2014


August 25th, 2014, the Nigerian medical association (NMA) called off their almost 2-month old strike amidst insult from the general public and a threat to be sacked. One week later, the residents were called back to work by the federal government. I thought that would be the end of the problem until I referred a patient to the teaching hospital in my community and they came back a few hours later, unattended to. Further enquiries revealed that though the strike has the called off, the staff of the hospital weren't working. That was very odd and disheartening at the same time. Because, even though the doctors were on strike, those of us in the private sector were still working with whatever little we have.

To clarify, the private hospitals in Nigeria are more like clinics. They have little or no specialized equipment and almost no specialist. My centre, I must say is one of the best you can find but not as good as the teaching hospitals. So, now I'm you can understand my predicament when I learnt that the doctors/staff of the teaching hospitals weren't accepting patients.

When ebola viral disease came into the country, many doctors thanked God for the strike. The explanation is simple. The first point of call for the primary victim would have been the teaching hospital where most likely a house officer would be ask to see. That house officer would have easily made a diagnosis of severe malaria. Admitting or discharging the patient of course would depend on how the patient looked. Bottomline, the diagnosis of EBV would have been delayed or never made, thereby endangering far too many lives.

The greatest fear for doctors when the strike was called off was our readiness to combat ebola effectively. I have worked in a teaching hospital before, (although as a house officer). At some point I had to get a box to put all my "work essentials" like gloves, spirit, cotton wool, syringes, sample bottles and even continuation sheet. Items that should ordinarily be readily available in the wards. I carried that box (carton) everywhere for fear of it "getting missing". I didn't want to start running from ward to ward when I needed any of them.

Now, look at this, right now, to examine any patient, I have to have on my improvised PPE (personal protective equipment). This includes gloves and face mask at least. A gown and goggles if you are at a higher risk of coming in contact with bodily fluids. Imagine a situation where even these have not been provided for medical personnel to work with. This is exactly the case at the teaching hospitals across the country. Yes, the government has set up a centre for the disease control in Lagos. Yes they are even checking temperature with infrared device, the one where the people using it don't know the actual temperature value they should look out for. (One of the airport people put my hubby aside for a temperature of 37.2C, which is normal by the way).

Further probing led me to a website where I got this screen captured photos above. Apparently, the minister of health has denied that the money approved by the federal government to contain the virus was infact meant for the ministry and it was to aid them in the purchase of cars and drugs and other items already ordered for. Money that would have be put into some good use for once in the history of Nigerian has been successfully cornered once again.

Anyway, the doctors as well as health workers have decided that NO PPE, NO WORK. Afterall they say the fear of ebola is the beginning of wisdom right now.



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