by Imoisili Ehinomen
God- according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary- a being or object ‘believed’ to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship. ‘God’ is the word that comes to mind when I think of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). It is not in a good way that I consider this institution as godlike; it is because they seem to stand incorrigible and untouchable, with its left over prestige fading away like its wall paint. The media is replete with stories bordering on LUTH’s medical negligence, inadequate facilities, industrial actions and counter statements that are many times, half-truths and half lies. One perspective that I feel is often under-reported are those of the people who work in the system.
When I got news of my success in the house Officers Selection test conducted by LUTH, while I was preparing for my MBBS part IV exams, I was excited. Excited because of assumptions. By Nigerian standard, Lagos had lived up to its name as the Centre of excellence and so I felt the teaching hospital just had to be excellent. I was wrong. My earliest shock was that patients had to buy basic materials like intravenous cannulas, syringes and hand gloves before you could attend to them. Where I was trained- in the same Nigeria- these things were available on the wards at all times to be used on any patient that required them. Other consumables such as writing and prescription papers were so scarce that getting them, come what may, was one of the hallmarks of a good house officer (intern Doctor). The abysmally looking wards did not have fans and they were swarming with mosquitoes. In fact, setting up insecticide-treated nets in the evenings became a nursing procedure. It took a 2 months Nurses’ strike to have constant electricity in the wards at least in the evenings.
We, as house officers, had to survive in this system. We had small bags usually, which we carried about endlessly. They contained writing and prescription papers, investigation forms, sample bottles and sometimes more absurd things like hand gloves and syringes. House officers scientifically caused the diffusion of these items and for those who needed fewer worries in their lives, they bought these things with their money. By the way, who is a house officer? He/She is a Medical Doctor certified by the University and Medical Council as fit to practice Medicine under supervision. However, many patient relatives thought it fit to call us Student Doctors…who wouldn’t? After all, we were always running up and down with bags and papers receiving insults from almost all cadre of staff.
Perhaps we stayed because of the money? I doubt it. LUTH pays its house officers about 8% less than most other teaching hospitals, yet it could not accommodate up to 40% of them and then rents out self-contained rooms for N310,000 per annum with a N50,000 caution fee, under a public-private partnership. However, whenever it was time to refund the caution fee, then it became a full public entity because the budget had to be passed first in Abuja. It took over five months for some of us to be paid our first three months salary because of course, there was budgetary shortfall. I remember the screams of joy that rang through the theatre on the day we were eventually paid. As I write, approximately fifty percent of the 2015/2016 house officers who worked under these demeaning conditions are still being owed 1-2 months outstanding salaries, one year after the completion of the mandatory post internship clearance. This is despite series of meetings with management officials. At one of such meetings, the Chief Medical Director said he was not aware Doctors were being owed. At another, the assistant director of finance said our salaries were used to settle other pressing hospital needs. So we, like many other Nigerians, resorted to fasting and prayers.
As a Christian who is quite acquainted with the Bible, I’m aware that God repeatedly said he had heard the murmuring of his people; so can someone please tell this god called LUTH to heed the murmuring of patients, staff, ex-workers and men from the spirit realm. I will never forgive Nigeria and LUTH because they have wired me to believe that one does not get paid for work done except by fasting and prayers. We, young doctors, have been traumatized by the system; at the very least, LUTH pay us what you owe.
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