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Dr. Monica’s Corner: What’s the Deal with Emergency Health Services in Nigeria?

Monica Alabi

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Monica Alabi‘Health is wealth’.

This is one of the earliest sayings that I remember as a child. It is however difficult to comprehend the full meaning and impact of those three words until you lose your health.

Now, if health is lost gradually and you have the financial means and are able to run around to find the best medical facility with the best expertise to support you, then that is one thing. Imagine however, that health is lost suddenly? What if (God forbid) one has an emergency health crisis?

First of all,what do I mean by an emergency?

‘An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.’

In health, immediate usually means within one hour from the event to the operating table, or any other intervention needed.Help can be needed within 8 minutes.

Health emergencies include road traffic accidents, heart attacks, strokes, collapse or loss of consciousness from any cause, difficulty breathing like asthmatics (you get the picture).

Are our emergency health services equipped to provide the level of expertise required to increase chances of survival or are we going to keep winging it and hoping for the best?

Road traffic accidents are the third leading cause of deaths in Nigeria (depends on the data source) and we rank 191 out of 193 countries; I mean,if your child brought that kind of report card home,would you be laughing?

Unfortunately, data quality is still poor. Most likely you will find that this is the picture for cardiac arrests and strokes too. Just look at our health profile here

There are also emergencies that arise from erstwhile stable conditions which become progressive.

We see too many scenes with victims being carried to hospital in private vehicles. We see people thrown into the backs of buses and trucks. This is not normal. Our expectations have been so battered that we just accept less than we should have.

You may ask “how will the government pay for the norm?” What is more expensive is the loss of lives of people in their prime. This is penny wise, pound foolish.

We need some righteous indignation ginger us into action. We can start by imbibing excellence into the services we already have.

Lagos for all intents and purposes still appears to be the ‘trail blazer’; however anecdotal evidence regarding the efficiency and efficacy of emergency services is damning.T he good thing is, telephone numbers needed in an emergency are widely publicised click here.

Ambulances need to be staffed with qualified paramedics who can carry out initial investigations at the seen, offer life saving first aid help, stabilise the patient, move them safely and transfer quickly to a waiting hospital (where they are aware that an emergency is on its way). All public facilities should have an emergency station and kit.

The state of healthcare in our blessed country is embryonic at best, and we deserve better. We deserve to have a fully functional emergency health care system. People deserve to survive after life threatening incidents. Health is everyone’s business. Health is wealth.

God bless Nigeria.

If you have any experiences, good or bad with using emergency services in Nigeria that you would like to share, please leave comments.

4 Comments

  1. Jo

    March 23, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    On my way home, i saw a police vehicle, an ambulance with a crowd gathered arguing. There was a person strapped to the stretcher at the entrance of the ambulance. The notion of emergency services should have entailed that the person on the stretcher is rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment and not kept at the foot of the ambulance with people gathered around him arguing at the top of their lungs. What i saw buttressed the fact that emergency services need to be overhauled and paramedics made to understand their roles.

    • FLeur

      March 24, 2017 at 5:08 am

      The only reason we dont even have emergency services is because our leaders think that when they fall sick they will get on a private jet and fly out for treatment. they dont think heart attacks, asthmatic attacks and sudden illness can hold them down and not allow them the minimum 5-6 hours flight time to get to a country with a functional health care system. Until they see themselves as vulnerable, and until the president feels he wants to receive medical care in Nigeria, quality access to health care can only occur through the private sector.

  2. Lady Cate of Nigeria

    March 23, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Emergency services is almost non-existent in Nigeria. Apart from Lagos, I’m not aware of any other state in Nigeria with emergency medical technicians skilled in first contact emergency services with ambulances. Even the Federal government does not have such.
    You should visit the accident and emergency in most government hospitals. There’s no sense of emergency among the doctors and nurses. As usual the doctors and nurses are overwhelmed with work and understaffed. Most of them are manned by health professionals who are not trained in managing emergencies.
    The whole health system needs a total overhaul. We can start by mandating all political office holders to seek medical treatment in Nigeria as a law.

  3. Ability

    March 28, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Nice article or piece of write up its true we need a functional emergency service of a true no doubt. But we got well trained paramedics in Nigeria only that the government are not interested or the do not see us as important. My advice is we need to employ who was really trained for this job not a doctor.nurse.lab. technicians, or a quack to do the job of a paramedic
    Advocacy is wat we do need and the relevance of paramedics
    For more info search for prevention medicine the paramedic and me to get more info were paramedics are trained in Nigeria. Thanks

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