By Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The Chairman, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan chapter, Dr. Dare Olulana, has described as worrisome, the rate at which medical personnel are leaving the country on a daily basis.
He made the remarks Monday while speaking with journalists on the sideline of the yearly ward round charity of the association, where 10 patients between the age of two and 45 years were given N400,000, to offset their medical bills and other consumables.
Speaking on a wide range of issues in the country’s seemingly comatose health sector, he said his association was also hit by the development, while attributing the deplorable medical care to why his colleagues are leaving the country.
He said the association carried out the donation from members’ contributions as a charity to the needy patients on yearly basis especially for those who were either abandoned or those with special needs.
Olulana added that the management had also written off medical bills of many in support of the MDCAN efforts at assisting the patients, as a way of giving back to the society to make the patients happy.
According to him, “The thing is we have been able to spend N400,000 to various number of patients today. This yearly charity is apart from individual consultants’ daily support to patients that cannot afford medical care.
“It is very disheartening because when some of us were in training, it was not really a problem and some of us where we trained, patients don’t pay out of pocket. They are taken care of and they could run into thousands.
“But these days, you go back home unfulfilled; unhappy with your job, and sometimes you get depressed because you lose your patients who couldn’t afford the cost of care.
“As a result of this, many doctors are leaving the country because you just don’t feel happy seeing your patients die.
“You want to work in a place and country where the value of your training can be well utilised and appreciated.
“It happens everyday; doctors are leaving the country for greener pastures. In the past two days I have seen colleagues who called that they were now well settled in the UK, and these are consultants.
“In Lagos, about 60 doctors leave the services of Lagos State every month, that is aside those working in private hospitals.
“We don’t have the statistics for Ibadan yet but I can tell you that a lot are on their way out, as some are also filling forms, waiting for the opportunity to get out of the system.”
On the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Olulana remarked that the programme is below expectation in the country.
“We still have about seven per cent coverage of the population and in a country with 200 million and that’s not up to 17 per cent before we can say we are doing anything at all, government officials and workers can be covered readily but we need community NHIS, to reach out to those that really need the care, they are still the citizens of this nation.
“As far as NHIS is concerned, they have failed the health system of this country. Both the Nigeria Medical Association and MDCAN are coming into NHIS and are ready to take up and face the neglected population. Community NHIS, the belief is that if we can all be involved in it, we can cover more people,” he said.
When asked to review the workload on those left to cater for patients, he said: “It is particularly sad that what two people cannot do and we are still demanding for more hands, by the time your colleagues leave, we are left alone and there is a limit to which any human can do.
“WHO recommends one doctor to 600 population but in Nigeria today, we have about one to 6,000. We are all so busy and overwhelmed and everyone has a limit to what they can take to exhaust in energy.
“At the end of the day, you are tired and you still have many patients to see, that is very risky. In some countries, it is a crime for a fatigued doctor to see any patient, errors rate is higher particularly when the hands are few, it is a big risk and dangerous even to the life of the patient.
“When you see doctors threatening to go on strike, it is because they are frustrated and you know the people that govern us they know how to divide the country.
“They will pit doctors against the masses, and the masses will now begin to attack the mission of the doctors whereas the doctors want to make the hospital better and we are asking for better condition of hospital service and care for the sake of the masses, and at the end of the day, it turns out that the people you are trying to protect are the one standing up against you, you get frustrated.
“Sometimes government will magnify just one demand out of over 20 of our demands and say, doctors are striking because they are asking for increased wages and salaries, it is not true. This has greatly contributed to frustration and why doctors are leaving the country.
“Masses should demand from government what they want in terms of hospital care. There should be robust health insurance and even medical loans. Diseases like cancer should be care for, countries like Malawi and Morocco are treating cancers for free; diagnostics and treatments are free, in fact the relations are cared for up to two years, all made possible by government programmes.
“Government must be at the forefront of providing quality and effective healthcare,” Olulana said.