Temitope Ben-Ajepe: Cards on the table- What are one’s chances when they fall sick? [NEW VOICES]

by Temitope Ben-Ajepe

All through that night, his body burned. The raging fever that had taken residence in his usually very strong body had sapped both our strength so much that I was virtually counting down the seconds to daybreak so I could drive him straight to the hospital. There is something so disempowering about seeing the one person who’s always been strong for you – your soldier – come down so hard under the weather that words are quite unable to capture it.

When it was finally 6 am, all I wanted to do was race against time and have him in the hospital receiving a doctor’s’ professional care. When he mentioned the hospital card, I almost didn’t hear it. I was immersed in my thoughts and it came as a very faint whimper that I knew had taken a lot of energy to muster. So, I went back into the house and began to search for it. Time was ebbing away. I worried about the possibility of seeing a doctor immediately and bettering our chances by embarking on the waiting time sooner.

I hadn’t found the card. And I honestly didn’t care at that point. Sure, I was going to have to shell out a few thousand Naira extra for a new card but I figured that was better than wasting time trying to find something that obviously didn’t want to be found. We finally arrived at the hospital where my epiphany began. Epiphany here reads as stuff I’ve always known in theory but was disconnected from in context and never really had to worry about until I had to. Irrespective of the flashy desktop computer on the receptionist’s desk, there was no way to retrieve patients’ information. It was there more for aesthetic value over functionality. After the small hassle of making a duplicate entry into their hospital’s paper file based record system, baby boy was set to see a doctor.

While I waited, I walked around the expansive space and tried in futility to busy my mind with other things. I don’t know what it is about the aseptic odour of hospital environments that trigger me to pray. And as I prayed, I became upset; upset that I had to get another card when the hospital already had his information prior but even more upset that this hospital with all of its fancy equipment and ultra slim desktop computers in every corner hadn’t incorporated a functional Hospital Information Management System and that the idea of Electronic Health Records was somewhat alien.

It’s not a case of an absence of companies into Hospital Information Management software, as they are present — albeit not as visible as one would like in the Nigerian ecosystem. What it is however, is mostly the snail-like speed with which Nigerian hospitals are catching on. In fact, it’s only the bigger (read: more highbrow and expensive) hospitals where this software is being deployed and implemented at a rather discouraging rate. Even though one has to wonder why this isn’t in every hospital already especially because every party involved is a winner with it; the avoidance of errors when it comes to prescribing, interoperability, the ability to monitor patients remotely, patient-centric care and the fact that this, is, in fact, a thing.

Fast forward to today, I’m a little under the weather myself. It’s been this way for the past few days. I know I should see a doctor and the boyfriend has more than once, threatened to sling me over his shoulders and march me there himself. But there’s the small problem of my family hospital being very far from this vicinity. I think of having to open a new file in another hospital I probably will never visit again and then make a mental picture of transferring all my health data there. After all, the teaching hospital in my university has a file with my name written very boldly on it and I am not particularly keen on opening anymore. So I tell him I’ll probably go the route of self-medicating and he makes a snide remark about me not practising what I preach.

He’s right. I should know better. Thankfully, I still have a card up my sleeve. I turn over and silently message a doctor friend and describe my symptoms…

Temitope is a happy, little woman and tweets from @temi_benjamin

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cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail