Expert Laments Dearth of Podiatrists in Nigeria, Says Only Two Exist

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Martins Ifijeh

Despite five million Nigerians suffering from diabetes with tens of thousands of such people at risk of diabetes foot ulcer, the country only has two podiatrists, the Project Coordinator, Gintervenes Health Foundation (GHF), Dr. Andrew Agun has said.

Podiatrists are medical doctors specialised in the care and treatment of the foot.

Speaking during a week-long training for nurses on Diabetes Foot Care in Lagos recently, and organised by GHF, Agun said what is more worrisome is that many Nigerians are increasingly being diagnosed of diabetes foot ulcer with no commensurate expertise to address their issues.

He said: “Podiatry is not taught in any university in Nigeria, so there is a big gap because when people have severe foot issues, the next thing is to take it to orthopaedic surgeons who would most likely amputate it if they can’t manage it.

“The best people to manage foot issues are podiatrists, and in Nigeria, there are presently only two of them, and they both work with private healthcare facilities in Lagos and Abuja.

“With over five million Nigerians already diagnosed with diabetes and five million more not yet diagnosed, there is a high possibility that many of such persons may come down with foot ulcer if they are unable to manage themselves properly. Foot ulcer is a complication from diabetes.”

Agun who practices in the United Kingdom said it was in tackling the obvious gap that GHF was training nurses from across the country on how to manage diabetes foot ulcer, and what best to do when such cases are beyond them.
“In this training, we have nurses from the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Ikorodu General Hospital, among others, and we intend to extend this intervention to other parts of the country with time,” he said.

He said the foundation has started talking to pharmaceutical companies to provide drugs free of charge or subsidise their products, so that diabetes foot patients with the foundation can get affordable or free healthcare.

He added that by the end of one year, the organisation will review the intervention and note how many Nigerians they have been able to prevent from getting amputation.

“Even though our intervention is aimed at supporting government’s effort in addressing diabetes in the country, we can’t do it alone. We call on public spirited individuals and philanthropic organisations to support our course” he said.