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Trouble for quacks: As Ondo clamps down on illegal health facilities

HAKEEM GBADAMOSI looks at the health implications of quackery in Ondo State and the resolve of the state government to fight it.

It is not business as usual for operators of illegal hospitals and pharmaceutical stores in Ondo State as the state government is set to curb the activities of quacks and eradicate quackery in the health sector. Apart from this, the state government has warned against the training of auxiliary nurses in private facilities across the state.

To this end, officials of the Ministry of Health, on monitoring the activities of the private hospitals, last week, sealed off some hospitals in the state while issuing warning to some others to comply with the regulations as laid down by the state government and the ministry.

A private hospital, Arib Hospital located at Iretolu Street in Okitipupa, headquarters of Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state, was sealed off by the state government with a promise to prosecute the owner of the facilities to serve as a deterrence to others.

Apart from the failure of the owner of the hospital, Dr. Odusola Aribo, to properly register the facilities, he was said to be training auxiliary nurses in the hospital. No fewer than 52 unqualified nurses were said to be undergoing training in the hospital while several others had passed out from the hospital and certified to operate as nurses.

Speaking on the closure of the illegal hospitals, the acting permanent secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Dipo Durojaye, who described the development as unacceptable in the state, said the state which has been a cynosure of all eyes in the health sector would not hesitate to deal with any operator of illegal hospital.

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Members of the State Ministry of Health shutting down one of the health centres.

He said the operator and owner of the Aribo hospital would not go unpunished saying the state government was ready to prosecute Dr. Odusola Aribo, to serve as lesson to others.

He said the ministry had received incessant complaints about increasing quackery practices in the area.

He explained that the illegal clinic was established by Dr. Aribo, without following the laid down regulations, saying Aribo failed to register the hospital with the state’s Ministry of Health.

Durojaye disclosed that the state government had put some measures in place to curb the activities of the illegal operators of health facilities in the state, adding that  “the state government will not allow the lives of the people to be endangered.” He however warned patent medicine stores operating as hospitals and treating patients, to desist from such act as it poses great threat to the well-being of the society or face the wrath of the law.

Also speaking, the Director, Hospital Services, Dr Richard Adesoji, complained over the rising number of quacks in the health sector, noting that despite the negative effects, people still ignorantly patronise them. “This is unacceptable to the government,” he said.

He warned hospitals that cannot employ qualified nurses to engage the services of Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW) as contained in the agreement of the National Council on Health rather than leaving the lives of their patients in danger.

The Director, Nursing Services, Mrs Alice Ogundele who led the monitoring team to Okitipupa, noted that most hospitals in the area had more than 50 auxiliary nurses under training.

Ogundele said apart from employing unqualified personnel as nurses , endangering the lives of the innocent patients, she said the trend was dangerous to the nursing profession, as it will not allow qualified nurses get jobs while quacks who are a source of cheap labour get employed.

She said the auxiliary nurses constitute danger to humanity describing them as half baked, while some of them also operate illegal medicine stores.

The ministry also issued warning to three other hospitals in the town to stop the training of auxiliary nurses while fake pharmaceutical stores were also sealed off by the ministry.

Some residents who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune hailed the steps taken by the state government. According to Pa. Samuel Akingboye, many people in Okitipupa have lost their lives to the quack doctors and nurses operating these hospitals.

He recalled that two pregnant women lost their lives, losing a lot of blood during delivery, saying they gave up before they could reach another hospital they were referred to.

He said a maternity centre was sealed off some few years ago during an inspection visit to the facility, while one self-acclaimed health personnel was also arrested.

But he noted that the centre resumed operation some few months after it was sealed off without adding any equipment or complying with regulations as laid down by the state government and the ministry.

He however called on the state government to upgrade the General Hospital in Okitipupa with modern equipment in order to discourage people from patronising quacks in the area.

“The state government should help us to upgrade the general hospital in this town, many people visit these quacks and illegal hospitals because of lack of some medical equipment while the quacks usually charge less to keep their business running. We must discourage these quacks from operating,” Akingboye said.

A nursing mother, Mrs. Wuraola Abodunrin, also lamented the loss of one of her twins in a private hospital in the town. She explained the 14 months old Kehinde developed temperature in the middle of the night and was attended to by some nurses before the doctor arrived in the morning and recommended blood transfusion for her but said the little girl gave up immediately after the transfusion.

She however said another doctor informed her later that the doctor that infused the baby with the blood failed to carry out screening and said her girl died due to negligence of the doctor saying they had to pay through their nose to settle the hospital bill.

The chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association, (NMA), Dr. Bola Arohunmolase, said the association is against quackery because of the danger it portends for the society.

He hailed the action of the state government, describing it as a welcome development to the profession.

He advised that government to be thorough in its bid to flush out quackery in the medical profession while urging government officials not to be sectional.

He said “for us in NMA, we support the development. There are standards. These standards should be set and quackery should be discouraged.”

He advised members of the public on the need to seek medical care from qualified medical personnel in duly registered private and public health institutions.

“I want to advise the members of the public to always seek medical care from qualified medical personnel who operate in the duly registered public health institutions for safer medical care. Let me also warn those involved in the illegal and sharp practices to desist from the act or face the wrath of the law,” he cautioned

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