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Lonely deaths in Indian hospitals

Written by Biodun Ogungbo - Punch, Nigeria.

Biodun Ogungbo 
We read about the shocking and sudden death of Chinenye recently. Apparently, she succumbed during a simple elective procedure on her leg at the Fortis Hospital in India.
Chinenye's mother and many sympathisers laid siege to the Indian High Commission in Nigeria and cried for justice. She alleged that negligence on the part of the hospital led to her daughter's death. But the hospital has denied it. However, our duty is to state a few facts and not judge.

Our shame
Newspapers have been full of stories of Nigerians dying in Indian hospitals and the latest is just one more in a procession of coffins returning home after a spell of medical tourism abroad.

Similarly, Nigerian Senators, wives of former Nigerian Presidents, former ministers, Nigerian Supreme Court judges and ordinary Nigerians have all died lonely deaths in hospital beds abroad.

It has reached a stage where bereaved families advertise the death of loved ones in newspapers, usually proud that the body would be flown in from a foreign hospital.
This is what we are reduced to: an assembly of people without national pride. Our collectively irresponsible behaviour has led to the collapse of our industries, educational and health care systems. We have systematically run down and bastardised our hospitals and failed to support our health care system with responsible people and significant investments. We are where we are because of the insatiable greed of our people and our past leaders. Leaders? What's that then?

In my opinion, the blame for these lonely deaths lies squarely on our collective tables of misery. Each individual running to other climes does not solve the problem at home!

Back to Chinenye
Dr. Felix Ogedegbe, a practising orthopaedic surgeon in Abuja, was distraught to learn about Chinenye's case. He has seen many patients trooping to India and a few other countries in search of the same medical attention that is available in their backyard.

Dr. Ogedegbe runs Cedarcrest Hospitals, Abuja the operation that the deceased went to India for could have been performed easily in Abuja. What a shame!!

Sadly, many patients have very little clue as regards what we are capable of doing. They do not know where to get help and expertise locally. In many situations, this is because of the restrictive laws of the medical establishment on advertising. Yet, many foreign hospitals, especially the likes of Fortis, regularly flout those same laws by advertising and recruiting patients from Nigeria.

In other situations, our medical practitioners still refer patients to other hospitals abroad because of the financial gains and kickbacks that they hope to get from Indian hospitals and diagnostic centres. This is where the love for each other and the nation has failed us! So much for Nigeria being a religious country!

Misinformed
Patients and relatives, seeking to make an informed choice, are inundated with misinformation by Indian hospitals and their local paid collaborators who give absolutely no information about possible risks.

Many of the foreign hospitals are full of praises for their treatment results and they engage in aggressive marketing in blatant disregard for our local laws. In their books, there are no risks involved in travelling for surgery. Yet, there are real risks. Please listen and learn!

Real risks
We shall attempt to enumerate some of the risks that you are likely to face when you choose to travel outside the country for treatment. The purpose is to ensure that people are better informed of the choices they have to make.

Blood clots: This is called deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. If you have recently travelled a long distance in a pressurised aircraft and shortly afterwards, you undergo a surgical operation, you may stand the risk of suffering massive blood clots. This can detach and block the lungs, thereby leading to sudden death. Sadly, Chineye may have suffered this complication.

Infection: Everyone's body is wired to fight germs that are in one's usual environment. Therefore, when you arrive in a new city, your body's defences are attacked by new bugs that you are not ordinarily used to. Your risk of infection may be higher than normal.

Inadequately trained doctors: This does not mean that doctors are not well trained, but they may not be well informed about the types of diseases that are prevalent where you are coming from. A case in point is the kind of treatment that Chineye travelled for and the complications resulting from sickle cell disease.

Inadequate assessment: Most people just travel abroad and the doctors there have to figure out what is wrong. In many situations, you end up spending all your money on investigations you did not plan for. Yet, they are essential for safe surgery and treatment.

Language difficulties: Effective communication is an integral part of proper medical practice and important things can get missing in communication. Even a heavy accent can be a barrier to vital medical communication. Here in Nigeria, at least, someone can speak your language and translate if necessary.

Poor follow up: This is one major concern with foreign medical treatment. The Japanese Medical Association was said to have resisted opening up her healthcare to medical tourism for years because it was worried about what it considered unethical practice. The main concern was about treating a patient that lives thousands of miles away and not being able to follow them up effectively. Many times, people cannot go back for follow-up treatment. So, if there are unanticipated complications, such as with drugs, wounds, implants, they run into difficulty.

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