(By Yusuff Moshood)
In this recent interview with Pharmanews, Dr. Gentry Albert Oladipupo, a general practitioner medical officer at All Souls Hospital, Agege, Lagos, spoke on the common health conditions bringing patients to the hospital. He also explains what can be done to reduce hospital visits for these conditions, while urging Nigerians not to wait until they are ill or bedridden before visiting hospitals.
Below is the full text of the interview:
What are the common health conditions bringing patients to hospital in this area?
The most common condition bringing patients to hospital is malaria. Not only in this part of the country, but in the country as a whole. Malaria is endemic. This is basically because of the huge presence of mosquitoes in the environment. As such, people come down with malaria quite often. The worst hit is the young age group. They are the most affected and it is sometimes very serious when they are affected.
Another regular condition I have observed is hypertension. This is becoming very common among people of middle age and the elderly.
Other common health conditions, depending on the age group, are diarrhoea, typhoid and gastroenteritis. The reason we have more cases of typhoid is because of the poor sanitation habits of our people. People eat contaminated food and ingest dirty water. This is why typhoid and gastroenteritis are common.
How can the incidence of these health conditions be reduced?
For malaria, government is already doing quite a lot to fight the disease through the Roll Back Malaria Campaign. An example is the campaign urging people to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets. The use of insecticides to kill mosquitoes is also good. For me, all you need to avoid malaria is to kill the mosquitoes. As long as you rid the environment of mosquitoes then you avoid malaria.
The government also needs to ensure that there is improvement in the drainage system. We must have flowing gutters, not stagnant water in the gutters, which enables the mosquitoes to breed.
For typhoid and gastroenteritis, our people must avoid contaminated foods and ensure good hygiene when cooking or preparing foods.
How correct is the assertion that Nigerians don’t go to hospital until their health condition worsens?
This is true to a certain extent. It is basically because of poor economic conditions and low level of understanding on health issues. People in this country don’t like going to the hospital routinely. Even when people are sick, if it is not so serious as to keep them in bed, they still don’t go to the hospital. Besides, the level of poverty is high in the country and people are always concerned about how they will raise money for consultation and treatment. What they resort to is self-medication which doesn’t help and it is only when they are down completely that they are brought to the hospital. Sometimes, it is already too late to help them because of serious complications.
Tell us some of the challenges you experience as a general practitioner medical officer?
I have explained one of the challenges earlier, which is the attitude of our people to coming to access health care on time. Another challenge I have observed is availability of genuine drugs. The incidence of fake drugs is becoming an issue in this country. Sometimes, when you prescribe drugs to patients and you are expecting a good outcome, the patient still comes back without feeling better; then you discover that it is because the medicine is not effective.
Some drugs in the market which are said to contain, for example, 100mg of the active ingredients only have 50mg. So if you prescribe such and expect the patient to get better, you will find that the symptoms will still persist. It is a serious problem, and even though NAFDAC is trying, more still needs to be done. We need to improve on our drug monitoring system.
Some people are even bypassing NAFDAC to bring fake drugs through the borders. We need to improve our surveillance on drug importation and ensure only genuine drugs are in the system.
What is your advice to people on seeking medical intervention when they are unwell?
My advice is that people should develop the habit of visiting hospitals routinely. People should not wait until they are down completely before coming to the hospital. Once you observe any symptom of ill health, you should come to the hospital because you stand a better chance of resolving that health challenge if tackled early.