By Saheed Ibrahim,
& Precious Edeh
Medical experts have expressed worries over the increasing cases of wrong diagnosis by medical personnel and avoidable deaths of patients in the nation’s health facilities.
They described the trend as a reflection of the poor state of Nigerian medical institutions.
The health professionals identified lack of modern working tools and poor health facilities as other causes of wrong diagnosis.
They also attributed it to the outdated curriculum, general decline in the quality of training, stress or high work load of health workers.
It would be recalled that the World Health Organisation, WHO, recently declared that medical mistakes lead to 2.6 million deaths yearly while more than 138 million patients are harmed every year by doctors’ errors.
Though, no accurate data to specify the exact number of victims in Nigeria, it is believed that hundreds of patients have lost their lives as a result of medical errors.
A Senior Registrar, Department of Family Medicine, Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Dr Samuel Aluko maintained that medical workers in Nigeria’s health facilities were most ocassion overwhelmed as the doctor-patents ratio in the country was far below global standard, adding that many medical practitioners leave the country to abroad where there are better working conditions.
“If you look at it generally, there is a decline in the quality of products from our medical institutions these days, our training and teaching methods are affecting the quality of our products we churning out in the universities and this is affecting the quality of doctors we produce.
“Besides, most doctors are overworked and it is affecting their service delivery. Most doctors have left and few that are still here are not motivated.
“The truth is, we are not doing the appropriate training on medicine in Nigeria; we are far from it. We are miles behind 21st century clinical practice in terms of diagnosis tools, and the working environment is not conducive at all and it is affecting our productivity.
Other factors attributed to wrong diagnosis include lack of medical research, lack of international exposure of medical personnel in terms of exchange programmes and refresher courses, saying; “all these are causes of decline in clinical acumen of medical practitioners.”
Aluko advocated for total overhaul of the health sector in the country, provision of adequate facilities, proper remuneration of health workers, funding and the industry must be driven with public-private partnership.
“Everywhere in the world, health is not only left for government but government must take the bull by the horn to invite private sector and imbibe public-private partnership to drive our health system in which universal health coverage and health insurance will be seamlessly translated into reality.
“And also our medical curriculum is outdated. Recently, UI, UNILAG have begun to address some of these issues. We need a total overhauling of the health sector, our teaching approaches and our training modules.
“In other climes, what they do now is medical mentoring. You attach a medical student to a Professor for mentoring, for teaching.
More health workers should be employed if the government values the lives of the people, it must show its commitment to the health of the citizens of this nation.
Also speaking, a Medical Lab Scientist, Dr Henry Agu also confirmed that many doctors were poorly trained and there were unqualified medical practitioners in the Nigerian health sector.
Agu also identified inadequacy in system monitoring, poor management of health facilities and interference by different professional bodies with the hospital activities and lack of modern diagnostic testing tools.
He recommended improvement in the quality of education and training in medical schools and ensure medical students are admitted and graduated on merits and adoption of health insurance scheme.
“There should be a regulating system to monitor the activities of the medical and non-medical staff. Medical staff should be reoriented through medical seminar organizations.
“Hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres should be properly equipped and there must be proper quality control in laboratories,” he suggested.
A Staff Nurse at New Cross Hospital, United Kingdom, Seun Ibiyemi identified the need to employ skilled practitioners into the sector.
The nurse, who left Nigeria to ply her trade abroad, further said that some in the sector were incompetent, leading to wrong interpretation of patients’ symptoms.
As solution, Ibiyemi said, “medical practitioners need to top up their games by learning more on current medical practices.
“When you are getting stressed, ask a colleague to step in while you take a break and if by chance the patient’s symptoms are strange to you, just cross check with a colleague, she suggested.