4 Feb 2013

Our Compassion In The Midst Of Madness


Our Compassion In The Midst Of Madness

By Zainab Jaji
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama

What I know for sure is that our healthcare system is truly in the doldrums. I am not talking about the private hospitals or the rich who can afford to go anywhere. I am talking about the ordinary Nigerian who does not have anywhere to go but is hoping that if he gets to a government hospital, he will, at least, be attended to and hopefully referred to somewhere where his needs can be met.

Last year, we were told by the EIU that Nigeria was one of the worst countries on earth for one to be born. Yet, the usual government machinery was released to negate this picture, forgetting the fact that we have one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. What I am about to relay happened last Friday to a close friend of mine.

His security guard called him in the office to say his wife had delivered a set of twins prematurely in a health centre in Mararaba, Abuja. However, there was no incubator to put them in and so they must look for a hospital that could take them. So, the journey began for these twin babies. They were taken to Nyannya, karu, Asokoro, and finally Maitama hospitals.

All the hospitals claimed they had no facility or incubators for the babies. In his desperation to get them medical attention, he took the wife and babies to my friend’s house, hoping to elicit pity and compassion from someone he felt would be able to help. He presented her with the twins all wrapped in blankets in tears.

With her connections, my friend was able to call a doctor friend who got them finally admitted into Garki hospital. They were also reluctant to accept the babies until one of the twins died on the spot as they were being assessed. Instantly, an incubator became available for the surviving twin.

This is what our country has become. Where a mother can go through the rigours of labour with all its attached effects and be expected to take care of premature babies alone. Surely, we are better than this. This family is lucky enough to have someone to fall back on who could, at least, help in one way or the other. We have heard how much is spent on health delivery in all areas of the country.

But how is it even possible for any hospital to turn away a woman and babies in this situation? It is simply an outrage. How much do we value the lives of our citizens? It goes to show that the horror stories emanating from hospitals are simply true. Of course, there are those who work hard but are hampered by resources, but simply getting our priorities right would be a great place to start. We have to ask what we expect from the society. Is it ‘a man eats man’ world or is it the daily corruption we live with that makes us so jaded to the human sufferings we see all around us?

Our Ministry of Health and health providers really need to step up. In a city like Abuja which is slowly becoming a glorified slum, what the ordinary citizen endures is quite pathetic. The hospitals and health centres are full to the brim with less than adequate facilities. Again, we fall into the mentality of just ‘managing’.

As the city expands, so comes many challenges. Both manpower and infrastructural resources are in short supply but at the same time, our shared humanity must always triumph. We cannot always put money before life. That is what is happening today. If you can’t afford it, then you do not get treated. Something has got to give.

We are always quick to point out that we are a spiritual people, but we contradict this by our actions. Our society must be more compassionate and take responsibility for the vulnerables in order to give them the best shot for a good, stable and decent life. Only then can we truly become a community and a real society.

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