NIGERIAN doctors have complained about the ongoing trend of patients increasingly leaving hospital and heading off to see traditional herbalists as the economic crunch is making conventional healthcare beyond their reach.
Over the last year, the Nigerian economy has nosedived as a result of falling oil prices and the country is heading into recession from a high of 7% gross domestic product growth. This has affected all areas of the economy and with public healthcare in a poor state, most Nigerians have to visit private clinics for treatment.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Adeoye Oyewole, has warned that if the country’s fortunes do not change for good, more private hospitals may shut down due to low patronage. He expressed concerns that mortality rates might soar, as many patients with terminal illnesses such as stroke and diabetes have stopped their treatments due to lack of funds.
Dr Oyewole, complained that patients’ patronage at his private practice in Osogbo, Osun State, have dropped abysmally. He noted that the poor attendance recorded at the clinic was not because such cases had reduced but rather due to the fact that patients can no longer offset their medical bills.
“I work both in private and public sectors and I can tell you that patients are no longer coming. At least before now, the patient load could be so much such that you have to turn back some cases but now, they don’t even come at all as they will rather go to herbalists whose services are cheaper but deadly.
“One of my old patients stopped his medications and engaged a herbalist because he could not pay his previous bills or afford to buy new drugs again. He was rushed in almost unconscious yesterday because he had attempted to kill a friend after hearing voices that told him to do so,” Dr Oyewole added.
An expert in psychiatry added that the economic situation had also increased emergency cases, as many Nigerians now wait till they are critically ill before they seek treatment. He added that before now, relatives will bring patients when they are seeing some symptoms of mental illnesses but now, because they do not have money, they wait till the patients have attempted suicide before bringing them to the clinic.
He added: “I have not seen patients this broke. I have not seen doctors this broke either. Many Nigerians will drink dogonyaro or neem tree water to treat malaria because they don’t have N500 to buy anti-malaria drugs.”
Dr Samuel Adebayo, the medical director of Daysprings Hospitals, Ajah, added that pregnant women now opt to deliver in churches and also in illegal maternity homes. A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, he said that many of the women who had registered at the clinic seek these alternatives due to lack of money to pay for delivery.