Saidat Akanbi: We need to kick the quacks out of the medical profession (Y! Policy Hub)

by Saidat Akanbi

Saidat Akanbi ((Y! Policy Hub)

The government at all levels, and the Nigerian Police must be ready to work hand in hand with the NMA and other such authorities to purge the system of these rogues…. The all-important medical profession must be kept free of quacks.

I once saw a 28-year-old lady who had been ill for a month. At onset of her illness, she had symptoms suggestive of malaria- fever, headache, body pains-and she had visited a doctor who ‘treated’ her. Unfortunately, after the treatment she did not quite get back to being well, and although the initial symptoms had resolved, she got tired easily, felt dizzy in the mornings and was weak almost throughout the day. As I listened to her with my eyes fixed on her beautifully painted face, several diagnoses sprung to mind, most of which I had crossed out by the end of the clinic session. However, when she brought out the ‘minipharmacy’ of drugs that had been prescribed by the doctor visited earlier, I was both amazed and infuriated. There were four different antibiotics, a range of hematinics (blood building drugs) in both liquid and tablet forms, antimalarials, analgesics, worm expeller, and -to my surprise-Nifedipine, and Metformin (drugs used for treatment of hypertension and diabetes respectively)!  I had her go through examinations and investigations which proved she wasn’t hypertensive or diabetic, so the drugs could have smoothly led to her death. I made my diagnosis: she had been treated by a quack!

Last month, the Canadian High Commission petitioned the Nigerian police over fake insurance claims to the tune of about 90million naira, in a scam involving a quack doctor in Lagos and a Nigerian resident in Canada. The doctor was immediately arrested and found to be a medical school drop-out.

A few days after, a mere secondary school (SS2) dropout was caught posing as a doctor at the Uyo Teaching Hospital, where he had successfully paraded the offices of the hospital for two months attending to patients.

The Nigerian Police (with help of the Canadian High Commission), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the management of the Teaching Hospital must be commended for fishing out the shammers.

It however leaves one wondering that but for the golden Canadian hint, the ‘doctor’ would have continued running his clinic, perhaps till retirement, and one could only make a guess at how much more irreparable damage or needless deaths his charlatanism would have caused. And how on earth could an SS2 drop-out fake being a doctor. Like a friend put it, it’s either he’s a genius at acting or something is unfortunately wrong in the medical profession/institution.  Although spotting him after only two months seems early, but it is a tad late for the unsuspecting patients he had ‘treated’.

There are several cases of patients who have been treated by fake doctors in Nigeria. There are even fake surgeons who falsely diagnose their patients to have common surgical ailments like appendicitis and fibroids necessitating surgeries billed expensively. Such patients whilst being anesthetized are merely opened and closed up without the ‘surgeon’ carrying out the procedure.

The practice of quacks is a doom spelling menace for the already deplorable state of the healthcare system.

Way forward

The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria definitely has a list of all registered trained doctors. It would be helpful if this list is made available online and accessible by phone(via sms) so one can easily establish if a certain doctor, clinic or hospital is authorized to handle people’s lives.

As it is now, anyone found in a white coat working in a medical facility can pass for a doctor and patients are not empowered to seek identification. So, as an additional measure, all doctors on duty, whether in public or private practice, should be required to wear name tags on their gowns so that patients can identify them. Patients should be free to request the practicing license of a doctor or such licenses should be displayed in the offices or clinics.

It is needless to emphasize that licenses issued (and the process of issuing them) to doctors at registration must not be duplicable. Yearly renewal of licenses might also be a good time to scrutinize the authenticity of a doctor.

The NMA should institute a surveillance system in the nation’s hospitals. This should be carried out not only at specified times of the year, but also on spontaneous grounds so that quack doctors may be caught unawares.

Every stakeholder, including registered doctors, administration officers of hospitals and even patients must be at alert to report suspicious persons promptly to the authorities. To this effect the NMA/MDCN need to make hotlines available to the public.

The government at all levels, and the Nigerian Police must be ready to work hand in hand with the NMA and other such authorities to purge the system of these rogues.

The all-important medical profession must be kept free of quacks.


Dr. Saidat Akanbi: (nee Bello) is a practicing medical doctor, hoping to specialize in Community Medicine, and Public Health. She is working towards a Nigeria with an effective healthcare delivery system and a people well informed about their health. She tweets from @drsaidah.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (5)

  1. simple solution to a simple problem…but wait…it's a complex environment!

  2. The health system i Nigeria is in array. NMA should wake up to her responsibility Quarks are in almost every profession but their presence in medical care is more risky because it involves life. This brilliant piece by a young oncoming medial doctor is an eye opener and all recommendations posted by her should receive serious and immediate consideration by the government and NMA.

  3. 'Quack' practice in the medical profession is a pointer to the current developmental stage the country is. We are still far from getting there.
    In addition to above listed ways out,I think the State Ministries of Health across the country should be more alive to their responsibility as regards indiscriminate existence of 'private hospitals'.

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