Opinion: How The Society Treats the Nigerian Doctor

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A humanitarian worker who is also a medical doctor, one Dr Ikechukwu Okafor,  was on Friday, July 14th2017 arraigned before an Enugu Magistrate Court for allegedly confining and detaining a mother and her child in his private hospital located at Abakpa-Nike, a suburban town of  Enugu, for sixteen months. The news was all over the place and as usual Nigerian masses trooped out to condemn and demonize the Nigerian doctors.

Meanwhile, the embattled medical doctor is said to be  a staff of  the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu.He is  currently standing trial for allegedly keeping a nursing mother,one  Chiamaka Ogbodo, and her baby Kosisochukwu shortly after her delivery, against their will. Nobody bothered to ask why a doctor would allow a patient occupy a  space in  his hospital for  the period under review. The media houses violated s36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) which states that an accused is presumed innocent until convicted by a competent law court as they went ahead to demonize the doctor on the pages of their newspapers.

The charge read, “ That you Dr. Ikechukwu Okafor from April 2016 to 8th day of July 2017 at Divine Grace Hospital and Maternity situated at  No 10 Nsude Street Garki Awkunanaw Enugu, in Enugu South Magisterial District, did unlawfully confine and detain one Chiamaka Ogbodo and her child Kosisochukwu against their will.”  Meanwhile,the police prepare charges but the court decides the validity of such charges. You see how Nigerian society treats the medical doctors? Recently,a CNN anchor,Isha Sesay told the world how the Nigerian doctors saved the mother.The anchor did that because she was exposed to the outside world but a typical Nigerian would demonize Nigerian doctors even after saving their mothers ,at least they would claim that the hospital bill was exorbitant, but they would prefer paying higher hospital bills outside the country.That is very unfortunate,embarrassing and relics of the inferiority mentality ingrained in us by our selfish colonial masters .

Dr Okafor  Ikechukwu  was accused of depriving the woman and her child  of their personal liberty and thereby committed an offense punishable under Section 316 of the 1999 Criminal Code, Cap 30 volume. Why did the woman not make use of her so-called personal liberty to deliver herself when the medical emergency arose?This is akin to my experience when I lent some money to a friend, when the agreed repayment time came,he defaulted .After two whole years of reneging on his promises,I started disturbing him,If I called him in the morning he would ask why I woke him up from sleep, in the afternoon he would not pick my calls or reply to my text messages and in the evening/night he would shout at me that I was disrespectful hence could not allow him rest. I did the needful by arresting him and he paid me my money . The so-called Campaign for Democracy never bothered to settle the hospital bills,which should be the bone of contention here, but they were ready to petition the police in order to prepare unsubstantiated charges against the doctor. Which law in Nigeria helps private hospitals recover the debts owed them by their patients? We all want private hospitals to intervene and save our lives in time of medical emergencies (without making any financial deposits) but after saving our lives we would either abscond or simply involve some attention-seeking and busybody  organisations- like the one raising this false alarm-to petition the police in order to arraign the doctors that saved their lives. A bad precedent is being set up in our health system. Nigerians are ready to spend millions of dollars when they visit foreign hospitals but will find it extremely difficult to pay Nigerian doctors the pittance called hospital bills.

I am yet to speak with Dr Okafor Ikechukwu but as a doctor ,I may speculate that the woman might have delivered through Caesarean section where the surgeon used an anaesthetist along with his assistant who must be a doctor,a neonatalogist might have been used depending on the clinical status of the child at the time of birth . In the eye of Nigerians ,Dr Okafor should use his own money to pay the other doctors that were involved in the delivery exercise,procure units of blood for the patient,pay for all required laboratory services and still buy all the medications needed for the patient . When it comes to rendering our services to the society we are called humanitarian workers whose rewards should be in heaven but when we or our spouses go to the markets or shopping malls and want to pay the sellers there with same  heavenly currencies ,they will refuse . To them if  Dr Okafor Ikechukwu is in a rented apartment,the landlord will smile at him at the expiration of his rent .Also his workers should be paid with heavenly legal tenders . If a doctor or his wife goes to the market and the seller has an inkling that the buyer is either a doctor or closely related to a doctor,the prices will immediately go up and when you want to bargain they will tell you ‘haba, a whole doctor pricing?’ ,most times the buyer would buy such commodities at the hiked prices.

The trial Magistrate , A. O. Eze, having heard the arguments from both sides granted bail to the accused doctor at the cost of N100,000 after he had pleaded not guilty to the charge.Surprisingly, Speaking to newsmen at the end of the court session, the National Publicity Secretary, Campaign for Democracy (CD), Dede Uzor  Uzor who took the matter to the police expressed dissatisfaction with the way it was being handled.“Yes the police tried to play a first one by not informing the complainants that the accused was to be arraigned. They also refused to include other charges such as attempted rape and the accused refusal to immunize the baby while in detention thereby exposing him to danger. You see how wicked some Nigerians could be to the medical doctors? He did not want the doctor to be granted bail hence he mischievously introduced attempted rape which could not fly with the police. He wanted to drag an innocent man who accepted to help the patient at the time of need into a non-bailable offence but the police were wiser than him.

My annoyance was the statement created to Dede Uzor after the court session where he stated inter alia,“We have lost confidence in the Garki police who are prosecuting the matter and hereby call on the Enugu commissioner of police to step into this matter and ensure that justice is done.” If the doctor had not intervened to save the lives of the woman and her unborn child would this arraignment have occurred? If the doctor had referred them out and the mother did not make it to the nearest public hospital would this arraignment have occurred. If the doctor had insisted on collecting all his money before attending to the emergency  no matter the health dangers of any further delay in the woman’s case ,would this arraignment have occurred? If the doctor discovered that the patient had no money on her  and immediately referred them out and the child died of fetal distress before getting to the nearest public hospital would this arraignment have occurred.The doctor would exhaust all his drugs on a patient without replacing them so that when the next medical emergency arrives the doctor would turn to a prayer warrior? It is only in Nigeria where a community,church et cetera will contribute money for a patient to travel abroad for medical tourism but will refuse to do same when our local hospitals are involved. Some having seen they cannot pay our hospital bills will prefer beating up the doctors,dragging them to court with fictitious claims  or possibly kidnap them.

Nigeria is a funny country,we shout when we should keep quiet while we keep quiet when we are expected to shout. Buhari’s  presidential jet is currently accumulating millions of pounds daily in the parking lot of a London airport and nobody raises an eyebrow because to them it is part of the change APC promised us. Ask the APC supporters  they  will tell you how that money being wasted in the London airport will help grow our economy in the nearest future and at same time restructure our health sector for the betterment of all Nigerians. The head receives the knock for the fart released by the anus. If the so-called Campaign for Democracy wants to help the patient,let them mobilize good spirited individuals to settle the hospital bill .If  anything happens to Dr Okafor more heads will roll because if the court pronounces him guilty then other private hospital  owners would demand substantial deposits before attending to the patients to forestall such ugly arraignment after helping a patient in dire need , failure of which they would refer out the patients,let me see any law enforceable in Nigeria that prevents a private hospital from referring out her patients. Let me see who will come and command me or any other doctor  to handle a case we say we cannot handle in our facilities ,even when it is obvious to God,Satan and man that we can perfectlyff handle such cases in our facilities. Nigerians are keeping quiet over the ongoing controversy between HMOs and NHIS without knowing that the money being embezzled was meant for Nigerians but they are ready to attack innocent private medical doctors who receive no subventions from the government or buy their drugs at a subsidized rate.

Anyway, the case was adjourned to August 1, 2017 for trial. If Campaign for democracy wants to come into limelight, they should sponsor a bill through the National Assembly that will compel the federal,state and local governments to defray the hospital bills of patients who could not settle their bills both in the private and public hospitals. The bill can also mandate our multinational companies to contribute to the healthcare of our citizens. Campaign for Democracy should drag the federal government to court over non-implementation of the National Health Act. The most dehumanizing and insulting charge was Dede Uzor claiming that the doctor wanted to rape the nursing mother when there are classical ladies out there who know their onions and knowledgeable of the perfumes to wear at each particular point in time . Will a doctor condescend to the level of attempting to rape a patient who could not settle her hospital bill as at when due who of course has not fed well let alone buying the rightful cosmetics that will attract the doctor? What did Uzor think might have attracted the doctor to the patient,her body odour or the fragrance of the perfume she wears,the hair she plaited,her manicure or pedicure? I call on Dr Okafor Ikechukwu to petition either the Enugu state  Commissioner of Police or AIG zone 9 Police headquarters, Umuahia against this busybody called Dede Uzor for providing False Information of rape to the police. He thinks as a complainant he is at liberty and immune from becoming an accused in the same matter?

Many may ask what brought in Campaign for Democracy into hospital affairs when our current governments lack the principles of democracy (and they will not fight that). Now listen to my own personal experience some years back in the course of my profession.There was this prostitute who had an issue with her client which culminated in a brawl. Since the fight was within the premises of the hotel, other prostitutes in a camaraderie style descended on the client and beat him into coma with multiple stabbing wounds. When the owner of the hotel got wind of the matter,he rushed down and compelled the prostitute in question to take the comatose client to the hospital. That was how the patient  landed to our hospital. Luckily, we were able to resuscitate the patient and thereafter we gave out our bill. The hotel management insisted that it was the prostitute who started the fight that would foot the hospital bill of the patient because fighting was outlawed in the center. The prostitute came severally to negotiate with us on how to reduce the bill,we stood our ground based on the materials we used.

She simply decided to use force and wrongly apply her connections  on us to ‘free’ the patient. She reported us to one of  her clients, an ‘oga at the top’ of one of the security agencies, who she might be rendering free ‘professional’ services to (for protection and matters like this). The Oga at the top detailed his boys for the ‘rescue’ mission. They swooped on our hospital but luckily I was on duty at the time of the ‘rescue’ operation. I heard the commotion at the reception and  came out believing it was a medical emergency. I saw officers fully armed to the teeth,with bullet-proofs, helmets and any other weapons one might think of. Unfortunately, the leader of the operation was a man I helped the wife in one other hospital years back, he could recognize me. He was visibly guilty and weak, he immediately demanded that we talk privately which I obliged him. What I heard inside my office that day is still a puzzle to me till this day. The officer told me that on sighting me, he was weak and confused and that they were detailed to come to our hospital  and release two bullets in the air, go inside the ward and handcuff the patient who had been discharged but waiting payment, arrest the doctor too and handcuff him along with the patient,put the two ‘suspects’ at the back of their patrol van for all inhabitants of the community to see them. That was easiest way to psychologically weaken any victim of wrong accusation. The oga was aware that the release of the two bullets in air  was enough to scare all workers away while the doctor who might stay back would be arrested and charged with treating wounded armed robbers or kidnappers without informing the appropriate authority even when an official entry was made earlier to the security agency concerned.

At that point I was infuriated because nobody could threaten me with what  I never did after all my family has many top ranking officers in that security agency. I told my officer friend that I wanted to take the matter up but after much explanations from his side,I understood that it would a betrayal of trust for me to take up the matter after he confided in me of the evil plot by the oga at the top. While we were talking his boys had gone inside the ward, discharged  and handcuffed the patient, whisked him to their waiting van; waiting for me to emerge from my office in handcuffs escorted by their leader. Having reviewed the whole situation, I decided to let the sleeping dog lie,we invited the prostitute to pay us what she had initially agreed she was ready to pay us, which she perfunctorily paid and we ended that matter. Now think about this, if the doctor was put in an open van in handcuffs driven along the major road of the community where he practised, what would people say? If the matter continued and the doctor was arraigned over a false allegation that even Satan knew his hands were clean,what would the press report? Was it not the same people that would investigate and prosecute the matter? I am sure we would have newspaper headlines like,’A doctor who specializes in treating wounded armed robbers/kidnappers nabbed with the suspect’. Others would put their headlines as ‘A kidnapper doctor,others met their waterloo. The security agents would parade the doctor along with other suspected armed robbers, kidnappers, child traffickers, murderers et cetera at the state level. The Oga at the top would start his speech as thus ‘Acting on a tip off we drafted our men to the scene and caught the fleeing suspect with his doctor……other weapons recovered from them include one million AK47, M16, Rocket propelled launchers, Cyanide gas, other ammunition and charms’. Our pressmen are ever ready to run down an accused on the pages of their newspapers but would definitely not follow the case to its logical end at least to tell the world if the accused is either guilty as charged or innocent. Think of what would have happened to the image of the hospital if the doctor who volunteered to save a comatose patient without any  initial financial deposits, was ‘bountifully’ rewarded with the evil plot of the oga at the top of the security agency just because of a five minutes sexual escapade with a professional prostitute.

Against this backdrop, I ask who is the father of Kosisochukwu because who knows if it is Dede Uzor or another member of  their so-called Campaign for Democracy (or their relatives) who fathered the child in question and in sensing that the father could not defray the hospital bill, the easiest and cheapest means was to ‘hammer’ charges on the head of the doctor and in the face of the melee, the mother would be discharged and the accumulated hospital bill evaded. This is important because my father tells us that there is no free meal and for this organisation to accept to ‘help’ the mother, they have a primary interest in this matter. I said this based on my second experience in the course of my clinical practice. A girl was diagnosed of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which required immediate surgical intervention. The girl had no next of kin in the city to be invited to our hospital. We noticed that anytime we asked of the man responsible, the poor girl would keep quiet. When we threatened referring her out if she could not open up to us, and explaining to her the seriousness of her condition, she reluctantly gave us the phone  number of her employer, informing us that the man was a good man would could assist her financially. We called the man and explained to him on the need for us to intervene immediately,the man rushed down to the hospital earlier than we expected. ‘The boss is really a good man’ I told my colleagues, he signed the consent, we proceeded.

The boss was always there for our patient, providing food and other requirements. I noticed one thing later, that anytime I praised the boss before my patient, that the boss was one in a million, my patient would make a wry face. Later on, we got the whole gist that the boss was the hidden  man behind the pregnancy and that he was doing the so-called  ‘philanthropic work’ not as a philanthropist but he knew what it would cost him if that lady had died. The summary was that the man was married to another woman  but  was having an affair with this his female employee, a native of his own village, who he brought to the city after secondary school with a promise to helping her. As the man was both the employer and the next of kin to the girl, just like most men without conscience, he took an undue advantage of the poor girl as the girl worked as his marketer during the day and warmed his bed chamber at nights (since the man’s wife was transferred to another state as a federal government civil servant). I narrate this story here because the said patient had given me a written consent as a writer, to narrate her story, though anonymously, in line with s44 ( which modifies the restrictions of s25) of the Codes of Medical Ethics in Nigeria and  which empowers the practitioner to narrate such a story  for public good.

In view of this, we want the press and the police to investigate and tell us who is the real father of Kosisochukwu  and where necessary DNA paternity test may be requested because I see no reason why Campaign for Democracy which should engage the government to give us the democracy we voted for should be meddling with hospital affairs. If they are serious and ready to help out, they should meet the ministry of Women development because it is their primary responsibility. As Dr Okafor Ikechukwu is standing trial over the good Samaritan services he rendered to a woman in dire need of help, another humanitarian worker who is also a medical doctor was kidnapped in Rivers state .Breaking the news, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) Rivers state as follows :  ‘We regret to announce the kidnap of Dr Alex Atamah-Pepple Consultant Ophthalmologist BMSH, an emergency meeting of Medical and Dental consultants Rivers Govt service is scheduled for Monday, venue Conference Hall BMSH PH.’ Kidnapping of doctors in Rivers state is now a weekly affair and no citizen has risen to condemn this dastardly act but let doctors go on strike because of this incessant kidnapping, we will be portrayed at professionals that are insensitive to the plights of their patients.

– Dr Paul John

Port Harcourt.

mazipauljohn@gmail.com, 08083658038

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