When I was working in a Niger Deltan state capital, I lived close to the hospital. A lady, who I called Mama Rejoice (Rejoice being her daughter’s name), sold provisions nearby. We were very good friends, or so I thought. Each morning, she would call out, “Doctor! “, as I walked past, on my way to work. We would exchange pleasantries and banter about everything. I teased her that her shop would soon turn to a supermarket. She always had the best provisions.
One day, she was not as friendly. She was attending to someone else, so I sat on her bench to wait. Mama Rejoice was a young woman of less than 30 years and her daughter was 1 year old, or so. She started to complain to the other customer, that she was in a bad mood because someone died. They asked her who, and she replied that it was a young man who lived on her street.
“He died because the hospital refused to treat him. If not that they sent him away, he would still be alive!”
They all sympathized with her and asked which hospital was so callous. She mentioned the one where I worked. Being sure to raise her voice with her back to me, she ranted.
“I hate that hospital! People always die there! Their bills are very high! Always asking for cash deposit before treatment”
As she complained, she pointedly ignored me. It was obvious I was the enemy. She did not attend to me till the others had left. I ventured to ask how he died and she said he took some herbal medication that did not agree with him.
“Maybe his constitution was not strong enough. He didn’t know that it’s not for everybody”, she said .
“What has been done to the person who gave him the drugs?”
“Nothing. It is the hospital that I blame. They love money too much”
I left knowing our friendship was over. When I got to work, I asked what had happened. It was the sonologist who remembered the boy.
“He came here few days ago with a complaint of abdominal pain. Those who brought him did not even have money for his registration. It was I who paid before he saw the doctor. He was asked to stay on admission but left to raise money. The relatives he came with did not offer a dime. He never came back. Shortly after, we heard he died at home”, he narrated.
I wondered why the hospital, not the herbs, was being blamed for this death. Also, where were all these well wishers when he needed money? It is amazing how people pass the buck. One of my aims, is to demystify healthcare, and deliver those who have been poisoned against doctors.
We are only human. Even the governmentcannot treat everyone for free, how much more a private hospital. I cannot tell you how many patients have pounced on nurses and doctors who saved their lives, beaten them mercilessly, and run away when they recovered. You will not believe it. Though the system is imperfect, I hope we will be our brother’s keeper.
When a friend or neighbour is ill, he will need money. This Nigerian attitude of waiting till he dies to contribute to his burial must end. Such monies should go towards keeping him alive. As for Mama Rejoice, I went back to explain what had happened. She wasn’t interested. Rather,she said the hospital had narrowly escaped being burnt down by an angry mob. She said she was one of those who proposed that the hospital be burnt.
“Did you think of accosting the native healer?”, I asked.
“No, she is not at fault. If he had asked questions, he would have known the herbs are for the strong”, she replied.
Dear muse, the bible says not to make friends with a violent woman. What more can I say?
I know that there are people who have been treated unfairly by shylocks, hospitals that seem not to have human sympathy and I apologize on their behalf. The pressure of keeping up with the joneses has robbed a lot of us of mercy.
That being said, I always tell people there is a doctor for every pocket. Locate the one you can afford, pay him on time, and give him good recommendations.
Thanks for being patient while I was away. Life happens.