Why are Nigerian hospital patients not patient?

(By Idris Katib)

 Headaches alone can manifest in individuals as a result of several ailments — hangover, stress, malaria, insomnia, dental problem, ear infection etc. We are informed by biological scientists that the most important parts of our body are the brain, the heart, the lungs and the kidney. All these should be well maintained to function well. We are encouraged by health care professionals to do medical check-ups once or twice a year to ensure that all these function well.

THE word patient (as a noun and a word used in medical context) takes its root from the Latin word patiens meaning someone who suffers (from pains, ailments or diseases). The other patient is an adjective describing the quality of being able to endure something for a long time. In the estimation of this piece, a patient is a person who needs medical attention as a result of illness or injury. Therefore, it is the responsibility of health workers such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists and all other allied medical staff of a medical facility to attend to the affected persons to attain full recovery.

   Each time I visit a hospital to see doctor on call, nothing short of compassion comes to my mind especially in the Nigerian medical context where doctor-patient ratio is about 1:3,500 as against the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) ratio of 1:600. When people mention “sudden death”, those who are familiar with the workings of healthcare know that there is nothing like that because symptoms of deaths are all around us every second, every minute and every moment.

   In our clime, a large number of people don’t visit any health care facility until the last resort. When the body system has reached a breaking point, when they suffer sleeplessness, when they have persistent headache or when they cannot breathe properly that is the time a majority of the patients consult their GP whom they take for a magician.

   Headaches alone can manifest in individuals as a result of several ailments — hangover, stress, malaria, insomnia, dental problem, ear infection etc. We are informed by biological scientists that the most important parts of our body are the brain, the heart, the lungs and the kidney. All these should be well maintained to function well. We are encouraged by health care professionals to do medical check-ups once or twice a year to ensure that all these function well.

   Vital signs refer to the functioning or state of human temperature, pulse, heartbeats as well as blood pressure, showing the state of health of an individual. Even if we feel healthy and fine, we are still encouraged by medical professionals to visit healthcare facilities periodically to find out the state of our health.

   It is observed that many patients don’t tell their doctors the whole truth about their health condition or ailments but doctors by their experience and knowledge will always ask specific questions on variables like family history, lifestyle, diets, environment, symptoms, environment, psychology and marriage. After their clerking based on patient’s responses and complaints, they make their prescriptions. The doctors have to go extra miles to unveil possible related causes of ailments. We are told in medicine that certain drugs cannot be used together as the situation may become harmful to the patient or one substance affecting the other’s performance. For instance, taking a grape fruit can neutralize the power of some sedatives or pain killers. If patients disclose what they have taken earlier to the doctor — often, patients conceal drugs they are taking from their doctors during consultation — this, in fact, makes it difficult for physicians to make good progress on the patient. With the knowledge of the kind of drugs or therapy a patient has taken before, the doctor will recommend which drug to continue or discontinue after the diagnosis of the ailment.

   Another interesting aspect of medical environment, which makes many patients to be impatient with healthcare practitioners, is difference of opinions of doctors in terms of prescriptions. One has witnessed at different occasions dissenting opinions of doctors as regards prescriptions for patient’s ailment. A broncho-pneumonia patient is already on Erythromycin by a doctor’s prescription. The doctor on the next duty comes for a ward round and instructs the patient to discontinue and quickly places her on Augmentin. Perhaps, differences in their opinions are largely due to the fact that many bacteria are consistently defying medical drugs.

  It is instructive at this juncture that as people always remember to go to their popular ‘joints’, eateries or social functions, so should they in their own interest monitor the state of their health by checking periodically with qualified practitioners.

   Many patients, for instance in Nigeria, find it difficult to pay their medical bills even in government hospitals where the bills are supposedly subsidised. As a result, many people living with certain health issues do not even bother to visit any hospital owing to their financial status. Such will prefer to buy over-the-counter drugs or any drug whatsoever by the roadside.

• Katib is Public Relations Officer, Crescent University, Abeokuta.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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