Jun 15, 2013

Traditional Bone Healers and Healthcare Delivery

It is the responsibility of the different tiers of government in Nigeria to work towards ensuring an effective healthcare delivery in the country. An effective healthcare delivery does not end in mare provision of adequate healthcare centers, medics, drugs and equipment  but one that ensures that the services these centers provide are affordable.

The area of bone healing is one where the affordability can be extremely challenging due to the nature of the injuries that often require unusually long periods to heal. Despite the huge resources of our nation, large populations of the people are in plights of miserable poverty and the affordability of modern healthcare remains a frightening challenge. 

A private orthopedic hospital in Jos, the Bima Orthopedic Hospital for instance, charges between N3000 and N5000 per day for private and amenities wards respectively. Given that bone fractures often take months and at times years to heal, this underscores the huge impediment that majority of the populace faces in this area of healthcare. On the other hand, government hospitals are always without drugs. The patients only take prescriptions from the public hospitals but buy the drugs from commercial drug vendors outside the hospitals with the risks of running into bogus drugs and their evil effects. Furthermore, public hospitals are most often closed due to one industrial action or the other. Doctors often share their time between the public hospitals and their own private clinics, a situation indicative of shortages of manpower. Most times, the doctors refer patients from public hospitals to their own private clinics where the charges are astronomical.

As said before, the widespread poverty makes the situation worse. The minimum wage of N18 000 enjoyed only by a few workers at the state and federal levels of government employment is not paid by private small and medium scale enterprises that employ the majority of the population. N18 000 can barely feed a family of two. The result is that most Nigerians do not have savings for unexpected financial expenditures.

While private bone-healing centers like Bima charges totals of between N270 000 and N450 000 for a period of three months of hospitalization, there are traditional bone healers that charge as low as N30, 000 and N40, 000, covering total charges for the period of hospitalization. By this, the traditional bone healers are helping the nation to accomplish the goal of healthcare delivery to the poor.

To what extent does the government recognize the noble contribution of these native healers? Bida Alheri traditional healing center, located at the Rahol Kanang Suburb of Bukuru town in Jos-South of Plateau State, is one of such alternative healing centers. The director of the center, Mr. Bitrus D Pam, says that despite their contribution, the government do not seem to know of their existence and the role they are playing towards helping it to actualize its goal in the health sector.

First, he says, their as people who are making an impact on the health sector of the country contribution needs to be recognized. There is also the need for the government to try to find out what their difficulties are and see how it can support them to overcome some of the challenges and improve their capacities. Some of these challenges include the lack of X-Ray machines and modern beds. Another problem that his healing center faces is adequate funds to recruit additional workers the place desperately needs. He is confident that if the government can take off part of the burden he faces, his center could with reduced burden be able employ the more hands it needs. Dr. Pam narrated that when patients come in critical conditions, he does not insist on deposits prior to giving them his attention. Some of the patients have, sadly, abused this gesture by absconding without paying their bills the moment they get well again. This, he says, is one of the major challenge his center faces. Doctor Pam showed dozens of hospital cards belonging to such runaway patients. Between May and July of 2012 alone, 26 patients have absconded without paying their bills that add up to about N400 000. That, he says, is a staggering amount of money that would have helped his clinic to meet up with some of its financial obligations and get things going with relative ease.

The News Tower tried as much as possible to reach the Plateau State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Fom Dakwak, to find out whether his government is aware of the roles of these native centers and to what extent they have recognized their contribution. All efforts along this line, however, proved abortive.

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