Publisher's Comment

"I will remember that I don't treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth but a sick human being whose illness may affect the person's family or economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick. I will prevent disease whenever I can, if I am to care adequately for the sick".

The provision of quality healthcare has always been a challenge for governments - state and federal - in oil-rich Nigeria. At one time, the health sector was so impoverished that some of Nigeria's best brains in medicine left the country's shore to practice their profession in other countries including the United Kingdom, America and South Africa. Even the Middle Eastern countries of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had many Nigerian doctors in their hospitals and laboratories practicing and helping their adopted country improve its medical services. It was a big worry for any Nigerian whose illness was beyond the common cold and headache.

In the country back then, there were no medical equipments. The few available were obsolete and broken down. Drugs were often in short supply which led to the high incidence of fake drugs in the sector. The few hospitals that were able to get their hands on quality drugs often run out of them quickly. In came the out-of-stock syndrome which was so high especially in government hospitals and pharmacies that patients often get prescribed drugs and medical consumables from private pharmacies at very exorbitant prices. So bad was the situation at one time, especially with the dearth of doctors in government hospitals that Nigerians travel out to Europe and some north African countries notably Egypt and Libya for routine medical checks and treatments.

It was the rich and top government officials who could afford these medical trips abroad. The many "little people" in the society suffered, medically. When the situation became so terrible the government including state governments began to pay particular attention to healthcare.

Tried as they could, there were still some lapses. For one, medical services were expensive even at government hospitals. Medical personnel were still greatly in short supply because of the lack of motivation in the sector. These led to backlogs of cases which the few doctors on hand could not cope with. The situation was so frustrating that for medical cases to be quickly attended to a little bit of consideration had to take place between the doctor and the sick. It was that bad. Despite these challenges, some few states were able to prop up their health sector to enviable heights. Among this few states is Delta state.

The quote above was taken from the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath, also known as the Doctor's Creed. This modern version, written by Dr. Louis Lasagna or the older version penned by Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of western medicine, is what all fresh doctors swear to upon graduation from medical schools.

When all the veneer is removed from this centuries-old Oath, what it says, in clear terms, is that a medical doctor must save lives first before any consideration.

While this may hold true in other climes, in Nigeria it is not often so. Even in government hospitals consideration comes first before the actual business of saving lives begins. There are exceptions to this, however. In Delta state, the Hippocratic Oath comes first especially in government hospitals.

This is understandable because the Governor of Delta state, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, is a medical doctor and he knows the importance of a saved life to a family, a community and, to a large extent, the state. The part in the quote about not treating a sick person and thus affecting "the person's family or economic stability" is very true. Many households in Nigeria have only one breadwinner and the economic stability of that family nuclear and extended - is linked to this breadwinner. Not only that, the happiness of the family is also linked to this breadwinner. It is an established fact that happiness and prosperity are strongly linked to sound health; sick people cannot be happy and productive.

The administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has introduced several people-oriented health programmes in the state geared towards making the people of Delta state very healthy. Take, for instance, the free rural healthcare programme which has been in place since 2007 which has greatly benefitted the rural dwellers in their communities. The communities, nestled between creeks and swampy areas, are often prone to diseases. Access to health services for people living in these areas is herculean: one has to travel over water in slow moving boats to the mainland to see a doctor. Getting there presents another challenge, mostly that of funds which is often in very short supply to rural dwellers.
Rather than experience all these, rural dwellers visit traditional healers who are not knowledgeable in modern medicine.

The casualties in the communities are usually women and children who statistics tell us are the most vulnerable of the population.

The introduction of the free rural healthcare programme solved the healthcare problems of these communities. With the introduction, teams of doctors began entering the nooks and crannies of the state bringing modern medicine to the communities.

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