The "Hypocritic" Oath and the Nigerian Child

Its every man for himself, healthcare-wise, in Nigeria. The state of the healthcare system is deplorable to say the least. For every time I visit my hospital, I ask this question: When does quality healthcare come first? 
Our government can be discerned as not interested in the health of its populace. How else does one explain the deplorable state of our health centres and general hospitals? Or the frequent striking action of its medical professionals? This post, however, is not about the role of government in this misfortune called healthcare in Nigeria……it is about the doctors and nurses whose direct responsibility it is to restore and sustain the health of the citizens.
The doctor’s Hippocratic Oath goes thus:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:                      
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism. If overtreatment means billing the patient more just so the hospital can make more profit, this part of the oath gets tossed out the window. A simple cough patient is sent to the lab for malaria test (which would always come out positive as it is endemic in Nigeria) and FBC. Eventually, he’ll be given an antimalarial, antibiotic, antiallergy and any other anti- available!

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug. He was barely three years old and he was on admission for fever of unknown origin with temperature as high as 39.9*C. This particular doctor had stuck needles on countless sites on this tot’s body, searching for a vein, with the baby wailing at the very top of his voice. I have no problem with the good doctor doing his job; the problem was when he forgot about the warmth and sympathy of his oath and screamed at the child to …”shut up and be a man!”  Are u kidding me?!!

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not,"  I have been rudely reprimanded once by a doctor for administering Cefuroxime to my child when I was supposed to give Zinnat (duh!!) nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God. When a child is rushed into an ER with chronic vomiting and stooling, looking crazily emaciated from dehydration and treatment is refused because no monetary deposits have been made; when a convulsing child is left unattended by a doctor and the frantic mother queries that negligence and she’s answered,” Did you not pass XYZ Hospital before getting here? If you are in such a hurry, go there. There’s no law that says you must come to our hospital?” is that not playing GOD?

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
The economy is in bad shape. Quality healthcare is sadly, not priority with our government. Private hospitals and HMOs have to make enough profit to cover operational costs and pay staff salaries. Cutting cost at all cost becomes the motto of most hospitals. Nurses that can barely speak good English much less interpret medical charts are employed (a simple IM medication was given IV against chart instructions resulting in the death of an innocent child). Consultants and qualified doctors, in terms of years of experience, are replaced by "baby-doctors" that can hardly proffer a diagnosis without consulting their textbooks.  A source once told me that doctors in a certain bigshot hospital in Lagos are not allowed to spend more than 5 minutes with a patient. How does one even begin to discern a patient’s complaints under 5 minutes? The level of carelessness and indifference exhibited by these professionals are mind-boggling.
We tend to always blame the bigger body, in this case the government, for our misfortunes. Change can be initiated by that one individual, that one doctor, that one hospital, that one HMO that says NO….I WILL NOT CUT CORNERS.
To every mother that has to take her child to the hospital, read up on your kids symptoms. Thank God for the internet and mobile web, its much more easier to just google it up….makes for informed consultation with your child’s doctor. Always query any and every action being carried out on your child…it could save his/her life. Do not assume the doctor or the nurse knows best because in most cases, they do not. Most importantly, never underestimate your maternal instinct…..its your trump card!


HoneyDame said...

You have said it all. I have lost count of the number of times when Mama's gut was right on health matters....I still call her when I feel any strange symptoms,, even before visiting a doctor.

Jemima said...

this is so true. ..its not a joke o, since hubby's cousin who is a doctor told him how a doctor prescribed medicine for a child without proper diagnosis,she challenged the pediatrician and informed him she was a doctor too, his response, why did you not say you were a doctor,what??? we read up everything, google, baby center...the works, hubby has even been know to argue with tour pediatrician... na only one child we get for now..i cant your blog new follower..