When Hospitals Do The Sick More Harm By OGAR EMMANUEL OKO

In Breaking News, Columnists, Health, Opinion

by crossriverwatch admin


Florence Nightingale, a British nurse, hospital reformer and humanitarian, was known for her impeccable exploits in the art of nursing science. She said unequivocally that, “It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm”.

A hospital is “an institution for the treatment and care of sick or injured people”. But when it becomes a place for the maltreatment and manhandling of the sick or injured people, then it calls for a deserved priority attention on the health sector. My recent unforgettable experience at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital is a litmus test that shows clearly the absolute negation of Nightingale’s dictum. The hostile behaviour of some of the nurses in UCTH clearly contradicts the nobility and quintessence of a hospital. Hence, often times, they rather do more harm to the sick and injured than good.

If the hospital doesn’t kill you, the drugs will let you die. If that doesn’t happen, the facial expressions of some of the medical personnel will pay your fare to the grave. What the hell is he driving at? Somebody may ask rhetorically. In an explicit language, their behaviour is capable of killing the patients before the ailment does.
Most of them neither know how to put smiles on the faces of the sick, nor eliciting laughter from their lips. They weren’t told that smiling is a natural therapeutic medicine.

I have heard medical practitioners admit that they only administer medication while God does the healing. This is universally acclaimed, not subject to any empirical, philosophical or hypothetical substantiation. Everyone knows that, but some medical practitioners, especially nurses, often believe the contrary. They see themselves as miniature gods. Hey! You must be a nonentity or perhaps one with no human dignity when you dare ask questions that show your fair knowledge of the nursing field.

Our nurses who do not know the physiology of a simple alimentary canal, the reading of body temperature except with the aid of a specially designed medical equipment or apparatus called thermometer, are cloaked in self-pride and foolish deceit. It baffles me when they think that the life of a patient lies in the hollow of their metacarpals.

This, they frequently demonstrate in deed and conduct how they alone treat and heal patients through the administered medications. To say the least, they are so aggressive. No respect for the sick. Very poor human relations skills. They show little or no sympathy to their patients. No patience with patients and their relations on who they heap their personal blames as a result of their incompetence.

What troubles me the most is their hypocritical tendency. Every 5am, the injured and the sick are woken up for prayers. The praying session is coordinated by the nurse who is “moved” or “led” by the “spirit”. It usually begins with high praises and worship. Adorations are given to God. As soon as the prayer session is over, they return to their normal character, implying that such prayers are usually an exhibition of their praying prowess. Perhaps, someone may say a show of unconditional hypocrisy.

From December 27, 2008, I spent 30 days in the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital taking care of my step-brother who was knocked down by a reckless Lagos driver. While there, deserved priority attention was given to each and every one of us, provided you had your money to buy your drugs. Both doctors and nurses showed concern and care towards those hospitalised. They didn’t just treat patients, they expressed affection and love to the sick and injured.

Six years after that experience, this time in Calabar, at the wee hours of Friday, at exactly 2.40am, my younger brother who was ill, became unconscious and was rushed to the UCTH. On arrival, he was kept at the Emergency Unit.

The nurse on duty brought a sachet of normal saline (1,000ml) drip, a few pairs of latex examination gloves, syringe, a cut of plaster and cotton wool for the first aid. As we were about to be transferred to the casualty ward, she demanded N2,500 which she claimed was the casualty bill. As I tried to ask questions, she became annoyed.

I eventually paid the money and requested a receipt, and she said to me: “We don’t issue receipts for this service”. That was all! To her, she was smart. A comedian once said, “ Na where you de work, na there you go chop”. Conceivably, that was her reason.

We were eventually transferred to the male medical ward for proper treatment. The ward is a bit neater than the casualty ward, but one noticeable problem is the issue of water scarcity and, perhaps, light. Electricity is frequently interrupted, leading to total darkness of the ward.

The entrance to the toilet is often flooded with overflowing urine; with the stench emanating from there capable of causing more harm to the sick than the ailment that brought them there. The time we spent there, two patients passed on. They were left on their beds for several hours before being taken to the mortuary.

The most annoying experience was the case of a man who died at about 10pm. He was not taken away. Rather, they just covered him with cloth and left him there till the next day, in a ward where other sick and the injured were. That cannot happen in LUTH where special rooms are reserved in all the wards for patients that pass on to be temporarily kept before being deposited in the mortuary.

“Give a smile, not a scowl

Give a compliment, not a complaint

Give encouragement, not criticism

Give kind words, not cutting words”

“Nurses are beautiful people and they do beautiful things”.

The first quotation is laminated and pasted on the sliding glass door in the male medical ward of the UCTH, while the second is framed and hung on the wall for all to see. I understand that smile is good. The nurses want smiles, compliments, encouragement and kind words from patients, their friends and relatives, yet they grimace, grumble, criticise and use cutting words on their patients.

Worse is the sorry state of most general hospitals in Cross State. Sometime ago, Governor Liyel Imoke publicly cried: “The Ministry of Health is a disaster by definition; the ministry has delivered nothing with over N6m to N7m invested on equipment, X-ray, Ultra Sound machine and others we bought four years ago which nobody can operate, no radiographer, no radiology, we are not thinking…”

In the light of the aforesaid statement and practical experiences by ordinary citizens and by the governor in our general hospitals, it has really caused me and others to be worried. I am indeed disturbed considering the whopping sum of N5,623,698,151.75 that was budgeted for the Health Sector in 2012; N7,812,145,281.95 in 2013 and N9,376,692,282.23 in 2014. Yet, either the hospital will kill you or the drugs will let you die.

I ask Sir! Must we continue like this? How long must we continue to wallow in the shackles of our hospital’s setbacks?

Before we were discharged, hospital fees assessment form which contained the bill was given to us. We were charged for what we didn’t consume and for services the hospital and its personnel never rendered. One of such charges was “ward material consumables”. On our admission into the ward, a list of ward admission requirements was given to us.

We were warned never to omit any of the items as failure to produce them meant hell to you. For the days we spent there, the laundry service unit only changed our bed sheet once. The bill showed that we paid casualty bill twice, considering the one given to the “smart nurse”.

Notwithstanding, the crux of this write-up is to respectfully draw the attention of the management of the UCTH to the seriousness of the poor services and fraud perpetrated by all and sundry in the institution so that they can put up measures to bring those giving the hospital bad names to book.

Oko wrote in from the University of Calabar.

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