By Bello Hussein Adoto
Medicine is a sacred profession where trust is vital. Yet, fakes and their accomplices undermine this trust and put everyone at risk. Medical doctors must stand up and sanitise the system first by not promoting quackery.
Meet Abawulor Omenka, a 35-year-old Nigerian who made headlines after presenting a second-class upper degree in Medicine and Surgery to Covenant University Medical Centre, Ota, Ogun state, for employment.
For those who don’t know, medical degrees are not classified. It is either you pass or you don’t. There is no first-, second-, or third-class, as you have in education, law, engineering, and pharmacy programmes.
So, for Mr. Omenka to present a second-class upper degree shows something was wrong. True to suspicion, he was found to be a fake doctor and handed over to the police. Omenka’s case is symptomatic of how doctors contribute to quackery, deliberate or not.
The role of doctors in quackery is subtle yet significant. For instance, Omenka, in his interview, talked about the different hospitals he has worked for. One of his interviewers told The Punch, “…he (Omenka) had worked at the hospital owned by some of our colleagues that we know. We put a call across to them, and two of them actually confirmed that they knew him very well. I told them he was trying to apply as a medical officer, and they told me he worked with them as an auxiliary nurse or, better put, as a hospital assistant.”
Imagine if he had earlier been reported to the police or the Nigerian Medical Association and removed from circulation. He wouldn’t have had the guts to apply to be a medical officer at a hospital.
Beyond that, doctors should not allow their hard-earned certificates and licenses to be used to register clinics run by unqualified individuals. Many quacks wouldn’t have had clinics to experiment on patients without doctors registering the clinics for them.
The practice of quacks using a doctor’s license to operate their clinics is well established. As Professor Shima Gyoh, a former provost of Benue State University College of Health Sciences, told the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, “A lot of these illegal clinics are run by cleaners in the hospitals; I knew some who started clinics without approval. What they do is you start a clinic, you ask a doctor to stand behind you and register the clinic in his name, then you pay the doctor something. Instead of the doctor inspecting what you are doing, he does not do that, and then you continue to run your clinic independently. Yet, you are not a doctor.”
Moreover, doctors are honourable people who should not be found near quacks and quackery. Yet, some doctors help quacks run their clinics. The quack will open a clinic and handle common illnesses while the trained doctor comes in for the severe ones. This partnership gives the quack a veneer of legitimacy, which allows him to attract more patients and handle even bigger cases.
Another factor is economical. I know things can be challenging for doctors, especially those in private practice. They must establish standard hospitals, hire competent staff, meet regulatory standards, and offer quality services. All these cost money.
Nevertheless, the need to balance the chequebook does not excuse hiring untrained hands as cheap labour or training them to become health workers themselves. The male trainees graduate to become ‘doctors,’ while the female ones are called ‘auxiliary nurses.’ Whatever that means.
Let’s be clear. I don’t have a beef with medical doctors. If anything, I am grateful for their remarkable job in the face of limited resources and an overwhelming workload. My aim is to call on them to sit up and excise this cancer eating into their noble profession.
Of course, fakes are not exclusive to the medical profession. Bogus certificates and fake professionals are around us in the form of fake doctors, fake lawyers, fake soldiers, fake engineers.
Nevertheless, patients place enormous trust on their caregivers and doctors should know better than to endorse quackery. They are trained, more than most, to know the value of health and wellness and respect the sanctity of their patients.
They have read tonnes of materials, done lots of practicals, and spent years doing exams upon exams to show they have studied human functionality and diseases and can apply the training to treat people. They shouldn’t be found contributing to quackery in any form.
Medicine should have no room for quackery. Human life is too sacred, and the burden of care is too great for those not qualified by training, experience, and certification to play poker.
One could say that doctors and non-clinical health workers can work together in a task-shifting, task-sharing arrangement. This way, routine, low-skill tasks can be shifted to health workers like community health extension workers (CHEWs) and health technicians so that we can have better use of our depleted workforce and ensure that everyone gets quality healthcare. I agree with this arrangement.
In a task-shifting, task-sharing arrangement, everyone knows their job. However, what some doctors do currently is not task-shifting or task-sharing. What they do instead is aiding and abetting an aberration fast becoming a norm. This needs to stop.
Bello Hussein writes from Ilorin via firstname.lastname@example.org