December 6, 2021

All around Nigeria, many women are victims of the challenges that face the country’s health care, especially regarding reproductive health for women….

By John Augustina

It’s no longer newsy that women have suffered immensely over the years due to the major setbacks that occurred in the Nigerian and African health Care System. Nigeria yet suffers setbacks in her health care system. These setbacks range from squalid clinics and hospitals due to negligence and underfunding, to poorly paid and overworked healthcare workers who frequently move abroad for employment, to lack of facilities such as beds, laboratory equipment, electricity, inadequate personnel or low man-power, to financial deadlocks, political interference, lack of adequate knowledge on current non-manual equipment for effective treatments and poor attitudes of health workers.

All around Nigeria, many women are victims of the challenges that face the country’s health care, especially regarding reproductive health for women. An article by the UN Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency group shows that the loss of healthy life years due to morbidity or female mortality resulting from reproductive ill-health among pregnant women is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite efforts targeted at addressing maternal deaths across national and sub-national levels, maternal mortality ratio has remained high in Nigeria in the last two decades, with the country currently accounting for about 20% of global maternal deaths.

This is largely because only a third of Nigerian women deliver in good hospitals or and are attended to by skilled and well-trained doctors. Also, women were found to be the most at risk of non-consensual caesarean sections, episiotomies and vaginal examinations, use of force during procedures and abandonment or neglect by health care workers.

Many underaged women in Nigeria, especially in Northern areas suffer more. There is a higher case of maternal deaths and this practice has led to the predominance of reproductive diseases like vagina fistula.

Asides from maternal mortality, Wrong diagnosis which consequently leads to wrong prescriptions and treatments, is an issue that has plagued Nigerian hospitals over time, and has led to the death of many women across Nigeria. Early and accurate diagnosis of illnesses is central to successful treatment and improved outcomes.

In 2018, Mrs Salome Omotemevo was wrongly diagnosed to have typhoid and pains in the leg after taking ill on several occasions. The situation got worse, and she was transferred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), where she was correctly diagnosed to have reached the last stage of liver cancer, a condition undetected in the hospitals she had visited. Perhaps a measure of help would have been given to her if there was an early detection of the disease.

In 2017, 33-year old Serah Shimenenge was misdiagnosed to have had breast cancer due to the presence of lump on her left breast. Following the wrong diagnosis, the doctor removed her left breast, leaving the woman traumatised.

Many more of such cases have been recorded and are still being recorded daily in Nigeria. The list of such misdiagnoses is almost endless, likewise is the avoidable deaths. Experts, shedding more light on the danger of the situation, explained that apart from causing avoidable deaths, misdiagnosis could also leave victims battling new and strange ailments and could condemn them to permanent disabilities in the process.

According Dr. Toyosi Y. Raheem Immediate past President of Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN) and Deputy-Director, Laboratory Services at Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos the possible causes of misdiagnoses include excessive workload for healthcare provider (increased workload) as it could put pressure on healthcare provider and consequently lead to misdiagnosis, poor or inadequate diagnostic equipment in clinics, etc.

He added: “There are instances where diagnostic equipment such as blood pressure checking device in the clinics, microscopes in the laboratories, X-ray machine in radiology departments etc, are so bad, yet the equipment are being managed due to lack of quality ones. Certainly, such substandard equipment will give misleading results.” Relatedly, poor budgetary allocation to health services, especially to diagnostic services, also affects outcome of diagnosis.

Still emphasising on the gravity of misdiagnosis, Dr. Rahem explained that “An inadequately trained man-power is not a factor that can be swept under the carpet.”

The quality of training giving to healthcare professionals at the various training institutions is regrettably decreasing, leading to production of inadequately-trained physicians, nurses, medical laboratory scientists and other health professionals involved in medical diagnoses. He further added that unconducive work environment is also responsible for misdiagnosis. Erratic power supply, use of wrong healthcare providers to perform specialised diagnostic services, inter-professional hatred or disharmony, etc, are drivers of misdiagnoses.

All of these destructive infestations point to the deteriorating state of health care system in Nigeria and the negligence of the government towards the enhancement of the system. The gut-wrenching part is that the increase in female mortality in Nigeria on a daily basis is very preventable. Public-private initiatives should be sought, where multinational companies extracting resources from Nigeria might be encouraged to plough some of the profits back into healthcare for the communities providing the workforce for their commercial activities.

Gynaecologists should be thoroughly screened before being allowed to practice. Many Nigerian universities are short of knowledgeable lecturers needed to effectively function in the medical profession. The accreditation for school of medicine and other health-related courses in these universities should be seized and not granted till adequate equipments and human resources capable of dispensing the right knowledge and grooming the students into doctors and nurses, pharmacists, lab scientists and other health fields are obtained. These standards should not be lowered for any reason.

 

John Augustina is a 400 Level student of Mass Communication at the University of Benin.

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