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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Medical Prescriptions: Making Millions by Killing Millions


Source: The Colbert Factor

 ‘…I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability...’
This Hippocratic Oath which affirms the obligations of medical doctors toward patients is today  simply a hypocritical oath as very few patients in Cameroon and especially in Bamenda would not want to respect doctors while they live or ‘remember with affection thereafter’ the hospitals they went to for treatment.


In-exhaustive protocols more for money than for effectiveness
They charge that most medical doctors are not different from police officers. ‘The Bamenda General Hospital is just like the police station where before you enter they tell you bail is free but once inside, you must pay huge sums of money before you leave’, says Bernard, a regular customer to the General Hospital. I decide to fact-check the claim. As I move toward the Hospital Director’s Office I am attracted to an ugly scene at the pharmacy where a women of over 60 is crying out that all the money she brought to buy drugs have been stolen. She would not know whether the money was stolen in the pharmacy or in the laboratory. This woman is one of the few that is fortunate to be directed by the doctor to carry out lab tests in the hospital laboratory. Patients complain that each time they go to consult they are systematically directed to laboratories in town or in neigbouring Baffousam. Dare go and do it in a different laboratory. Hospital authorities are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation and reveal the hospital lab losses close to 30 million per month from such referrals. Patients too are not indifferent given that tests in the Bamenda Hospital laboratory are far cheaper than in private laboratories. Hear Bernard: ‘The doctor will not attend to you if s/he discovers you went and did your lab tests in a different laboratory other than the one s/he directed. They would ask you for one lab test after another’. Dr. Ngwanyam of the St. Louis says the cankerworm has gone beyond public hospitals. ‘There is a serious problem with medical practice now. It’s not just about public hospitals. I know of an internist here in Bamenda who has a private clinic. Whatever the illness you have, be it simple malaria, you must do laboratory tests for close to 300.000’. 
Patients are at the mercy of doctors
 Bernard sees in what is happening now a way for doctors to continue to kill rather than cure patients. ‘You know as patients we are like flies in the hands of wanton boys. You want to get well quick and leave the place so as to go about your daily business. They play on your psychology knowing that you have very little choices to make’.So, what do they benefit from all this? Tim is a vendor of words in Bamenda and has had his own fair share of such treatment from medical doctors: ‘The fact is the private clinic owners share the money with these doctors. The more referrals you make the more money you also make.’ If that were to be the only problem Tim would not be that bothered: ‘The worse thing is that they prescribe you a long list of scarce and expensive drugs and some of the nurses steal drugs and other health accessories from patients and in turn sell back to the same persons. This is corruption, pure and simple’. 
You must take all these or......
 Shelly has a practical insight: ‘I had an encounter with a nurse who insisted I must buy drugs from her. When I refused and bought them from the hospital pharmacy, she refused to administer them. A quarrel broke out between the two of us and she only reluctantly administered the drugs when I threatened to report her to hierarchy. In that anger she wrongly administered the drugs and it almost led to an ugly scene.’
Shang thinks the corruption in public health facilities is diabolical in its nature, inescapable in its reach and overwhelming in its dimensions. ‘Since the patient thinks that reporting a medical doctor to hierarchy may endanger his/her health, most patients prefer to suffer and die in silence. Some prefer to opt out of the system to the less expensive tradi-practitioners. Kain Rufine, 65, is mother of five and lives in Abuh: ‘I was coming back from the farm and fell down and had a fracture, was rushed to Mbingo Hospital and for two days doctors would bot attain to me on grounds that I have not paid a deposit of 300 000. I ask my children to take me back to a native bone doctor in Fundong who finally treated me for less than 100 000.’ Through such unorthodox means, doctors and nurses here make millions for themselves by killing millions of unsuspecting Cameroonians. 
Bernard still recalls vividly: ‘When my wife was about to put to birth, we were asked to pay 4500 for a drip which was finally not administered, yet my money was never refunded. The other time we were asked to deposit 90 000 for my wife to be operated as she came to put to birth. I objected and took her to Mbingo and while there the doctor asked her to do some simple exercises and just within an hour she put to birth’.
without money, you are gone in such a health care system
Dr. Arrey is in charge of the disciplinary committee otherwise called anti-corruption unit at the Bamenda Regional Hospital. He is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the perception the general public has of doctors and nurses in the Regional hospital: ‘We cannot just act without official complaints from clients. Each time we receive a complaint about a doctor or nurse, we drag him or her to the disciplinary committee. We cannot just act on rumours.’ To show the commitment of authorities of the Bamenda Regional hospital to cleansing the bad image of the hospital he declares that ‘some cases of wrong-doing reported by patients are currently being investigated and once wrong-doing has being ascertained, the culprits would be seriously dealt with.’

While waiting for this to happen, Cameroon remains one of the unhealthiest countries in the world as per the revelations of an American conglomerate, Bloomberg that puts Cameroon  at the 139th position out of the 149 countries investigated. Dr.Ngwanyam reasons that the situation may go from bad to worse if the root cause of the problem, poor training of medical personnel, is not addressed and urgently. While it last, doctors and nurses will continue to kill millions so as to make millions.
Gwain Colbert
Freelance

When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)

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