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The National Hospital, Abuja: When ignorance is a disease

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The National Hospital, Abuja: When ignorance is a disease

The Nigerian elite and the wealthy class do not patronise Nigerian hospitals. Truth. The reasons are multifarious and easily justified. They use Nigerian hospitals as, at worst, mortuaries and “departure lounges” of patients, and at best, mere consulting rooms.

Either way, Nigerian hospitals, especially government owned hospitals, are treated with disdain and contempt. I am also guilty of this unfortunate mindset which is predicated, as I have just discovered, on ignorance and lack of awareness on the part of the elite of our society. I thank God for good health.

The last time I was admitted in hospital was for an appendectomy (appendicitis), in April, 1992. I hate hospitals and hospital environments. But, like other uninformed Nigerians, I go abroad for annual medical checks-up, especially to the UK, USA and South Africa, whenever I visit those countries. I simply believed, ignorantly, that Nigerian hospitals do not have good diagnostic centres.

My mindset was accentuated by the terminal cancer that ravaged my late mentor and soul mate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, for years, without Nigerian hospitals detecting it, until he went to the U.K. All these misgivings were, however, blown into smithereens when my son was taken to the National Hospital, Abuja, for a toothache. My immediate reaction (self-preservation is the first law of nature); was to quarrel with my wife, Lady Josephine, a lawyer, a humble, very calm, good-natured woman of “inestimable value” (permit me, late sage, Pa Obafemi Awolowo, for borrowing your patented famous words).

I queried her as to why she did not patronize a “private hospital”, rather than “these government hospitals”.

She carefully detailed her stunning findings about the high flight modern facilities she observed at the National Hospital, and how she believed it was a waste of scarce foreign exchange resources for any Nigerian to go abroad, looking for, in “sakwato”, what was actually in our sokoto trousers. I was intrigued. So, it was curiosity, more than a desire to carry out my medicals, that made me to take a trip to the National Hospital, Abuja, where I was welcomed by the amiable, easy going, ever smiling and hardworking Chief Medical Director, Dr. J.A.F. Momoh. Dr Momoh, by the way, as he later narrated with nostalgic reminiscences, is an alumni of St Peter’s College, Agenebode (my alma mater).

He told a stunned me how, in 1974, I made the best result in the WASCE examination with many A1s, the very year he was admitted into the school.

He narrated how I, the youngest and smallest in the 1974 class, had resisted pressures during the transitional year, to have our final WAEC examination postponed to the usual November, rather than the newly introduced June of each year, wondering why the hell we would be “wasting much needed” staying back in school, when we should “get out and seek admission to higher institutions”.

Dr Momoh was right. I had forgotten. But, he believed that if I, a villager, brought up in the most humble beginnings without any wooden spoon (let alone a golden one), could make the best result, then he could also.

That was how, he narrated, with Fitz Gerald’s “The Great Gatsby”’s nostalgia, he also went out and smashed records, making the best result, the only grade one, in 74, four years after my 1974 feat.

This is how much Dr Momoh narrated to me, how much of an inspiration I have been to him since 1974, without my knowing. So much for some sweet history (Federal Government, bring history back to our secondary school curriculum). Dr Momoh was kind enough to conduct me round the entire hospital.

First, I did my teeth, urinary and cardio vascular medicals where I met some of the best medical hands I have ever came across: Dr Udo Atkinson, Dr Oladipupo Fasan, Prof Albert Oyati and Dr Uwaezuoke Tochukwu.

The nurses, para-medical staff, and those on internship and residency were simply awesome.

The personalized care (just pay a little fraction more, if you don’t want to join the longer queue), professional touch, were incredibly better than what I had ever been accorded in any foreign hospital. I was then conducted round the hospital.

I was shocked to discover that the National Hospital which was established by Decree No 33 of 1999, commissioned in May, 1999, with full operation in October, 1999, has over 450 beds, one of the best trauma centre, pediatrics and Internal Medicine Departments you can ever think of in any part of the world.

I was amazed to see a full blown IVF centre, Nuclear Medicine Department, which I was told is for radio-iodine therapy for thyroid disease, bone scan to detect cancer spread, and V/Q scan for pulmonary embolism, amongst others. I found, to my pretty surprise, a Radiology Department equipped with state of the art machines, such as MRI (which I do abroad every year, to ensure a healthy me); CT scan, Mammography machines, Fluoroscopy and many ultra-sound machines.

I was shown PCR machines for DNA analysis, that give rapid results, using different biochemical parameters. I was accorded the rare priviledge of being shown equipment that take care of non-invasive cardiological investigations, such as computer-driven ECG (I did one); stress ECG, Holter ECG monitoring, Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring; and Echocardiography (I also did one over 24 hours, with belts and tubes tied on me like an astronaut about to launch into space).

Dr J.A.F. Momoh informed me (and I verily believe him, as we say in court), that the hospital carries out vascular surgeries, cardiothoracic surgeries for different congenital heart diseases; insertion of pacemakers, etc. Nigerians, follow me, as I discovered, to my utter shock, during hours of personal search through the hospital, as directed by Dr Momoh, that the National Hospital, carries out dental and plastic surgery.

I met physically with Dr Charles Ononiwo, a plastic surgeon, who showed me pictures of dental and maxillofacial surgeries that he had carried out, and which turned near hideous monster-looking patients into handsome and beautiful Nigerians.

I saw different departments and sections, including, but not limited to General Surgery, Orthopedics, Neurology, Dermatology, General Surgery, Neuro-surgery, Urology, Geriatrics, Nephrology, Cardiology, Pediatric and Cardiothoracic surgery, Rheumatology, Pulmonology, Endocrinology, ENT (I checked my ears); Obstetrics and Gynecology; and Gastroenterology (I no know book o).

With upbeat emergency services to take care of trauma and non-trauma cases, I just couldn’t see why any Nigerian should travel abroad for medical services. I believe, very earnestly, that the reason for foreign medical tours is driven mainly by fear, ignorance, lack of adequate publicity by the government and lack of leadership by example by highly placed Government functionaries who run abroad even for ear and tooth aches.

Nigerians, now you know that what you are looking for in Germany, USA, UK, South Africa, India and Saudi Arabia, is right here with us at the National Hospital, Abuja. Welcome on board with me, as I have since anchored here.

EFCC WANTS TO PROBE DANLADI UMAR? DID I HEAR WELL?

I just read that the EFCC intends to re-open the bribery allegation case against Mr Danladi Umar, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

The reason, as is all too  clear to every Nigerian, even for the most rapidly pro-EFCC partisans, is because Umar resisted all executive pressures and overt manipulations to convict Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at all cost. Having lost the 18 count charge in a most disgraceful manner on a no-case-submission by Saraki’s legal team (as the government did in Justice Ademola’s case), the EFCC has suddenly realized that Umar has a corruption case against him.

The anti-graft agency forgets that records are sacred. Such records clearly show that the same EFCC had, on two previous occasions, in 2015 and 2016, given Umar a clean bill of health and exonerated him of any corruption or bribery charges.

First, the EFCC, in a letter written by its former Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, in response to the former SGF (Anyim Pius Anyim)’s letter reference no SGF.19./S.24/11/11/451, dated February 23, 2015, couched that there was no prima facie evidence to even charge Umar to court over the N1.8 million bribery allegation.

It rather charged Umar’s Personal Assistant, one Ali Gambo Abdullahi, to court in charge No. CR/137/2015, which is still pending at the FCT High Court, Abuja.

Secondly, the Secretary to the EFCC, Mr Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo, in yet another letter to the SGF, dated April 20, 2016, again completely exonerated Danladi Umar of any corrupt practices.

So, what has suddenly changed, the EFCC wants to go after him? We all know.

He discharged and acquitted much traduced Saraki whom the EFCC expected him to convict. God, thank you for always being the defender of the beleaguered.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to put an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing”. (Caroline Kennedy).

• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN

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