March 18, 2019

Dear Nigerian, whatever you do this year, don’t fall sick- Peju Akande

Dear Nigerian, whatever you do this year, don’t fall sick- Peju Akande

…unless of course you belong to the class of citizens, who at the rumour of a headache, are flown abroad for medical care.

If you don’t belong to that class, if you rely on the private hospitals that charge an arm and a leg or if you trust the guys in white coats at the general hospitals for a cure, you are in for a double dose of shock.

I’ve been getting my doses of shock with the quality of health care we tout in this country.

First off, we have no quality when it comes to healthcare in Nigeria and before we all start pointing fingers at the doctors who run our hospitals, before we start condemning the nurses who care half-heartedly, let’s start with us, you and me; the everyday Nigerian loves life but has no clue as to how to give it quality, we think junk equals ‘enjoying life’.

The Nigerian government has no idea what life means; it places no premium on the life of its citizens which is why the mortuaries masquerading as hospitals are still operating as masquerades.

Weeks back, my 70 plus year old mother needed an operation to remove cataracts. I suppose like all elderly people, some body parts would need to be rebooted. Mother was scheduled for operation at a clinic in Ikeja, one situated around Mobolaji Bank Anthony way. We were told it was a simple operation, nothing major, we were told by the doctors; ‘in fact, ‘we are flying in Russians’, they told us and indeed, we met with a few on ground. Months after this conversation, I regret committing my mother to these people.

They almost made her blind. First there developed a complication to an operation they called a ‘simple and easy’ procedure: they shirked their responsibility over the complications that arose afterwards. They claimed, among all things, that mother must have omitted to use her drops as and when due. And even when I countered, telling them I always administered the drops myself and not once did I miss it, they found another reason, they did not get her test result prior to the operation, because she didn’t submit the result!

So, they carried out an operation, without getting a test result that would guide the operation! Then i asked them, why would a patient be the one who keeps tests results particularly as the test was done in the hospital?

They had no answers only apologies. They began pointing fingers at a staff, they pointed more fingers at virtually everyone that worked in the clinic but the bloody Russian doctor they flew in, who left immediately after without mopping up the job he had done.

Then we began to visit the hospital three times a week for the next three months, they injected the eye too many times to count, which made mother tremble with fear and tear up every time we announced it was hospital time.

It’s an infection, we were told. It may affect the retina, they said. We have to carry out yet another surgery to save the retina, they announced.

We were torn, we witnessed the constant subjection of our oelderly mother to the rigorous practice of doctors who know they have nothing else to offer us and too greedy because they kept saying mother’s brain may be affected so we must carry out another operation at a cost a lot more expensive that all the three we’d done so far!

We cursed, my partner threatened to sue, my siblings were enraged and made more threats, we were drained mentally, physically and most of all, financially. I just wanted my mother to be pain free.

We soon became a constant fixture at the hospital; because I believed the doctors actually knew what they were doing. I trusted them when they kept assuring us they would soon find the right cure. But weeks turned into months and I soon began to realise mother’s cure wouldn’t come from these tumbo – tumbo doctors, no.

Then they passed us on to another surgeon at another clinic in Ebute metta. There we visited twice weekly, sometimes more, they never stopped poking into the eye that had permanently acquired the colour of blood.

After sometime, even Tramadol couldn’t stop the constant pain mother was subjected to night after night. We were all in distress.

Then one day, we decided no more, we moved her to another hospital on Isacc John. We met a retiniologist, who after reading our case file, conducting his own tests, was heart broken that mother had to be put under such pain for so long.

Needless to say, we had to do another operation on that same eye!


It was generally agreed the first clinic with Russian doctors are fond of botching eye jobs then taking off. Medical practice prescribes the surgeon who conducts a surgery must stay around to ensure his job is done well and should complications arise, be ready to attend to his patients.

Turns out the same clinic is known to have refused to join the association of eye clinics and their  botched jobs are common knowledge among eye specialists.

But no one is talking. These people should have their licence taken away because I am sure, they won’t get away with such sloppiness if they were in Russia.

Thankfully, mother is pain free from that eye.

Weeks back, I had course again to take someone close to me to the general hospital in Lagos. ‘They have all the best doctors’, we were assured. ‘They may not have the facilities like other private hospitals but you will get the best hands there’, became the oft repeated confirmation that we were doing the right thing by going there.

I wish we hadn’t.

The protocol for getting a hospital card in a government hospital, seeing a doctor, buying drugs, getting admission into a ward is h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e!!!

To continue next week

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