Moving Forward in The Pandemic; A Word For The Wise! _Dr Biodun Ogungbo, MBBS, FRCS, FRCSEd, MSc

The pandemic is ravaging in Nigeria and the government has abandoned its post. Nigerians have now been left to sort themselves out. As Donald Trump said, those who will die will die and those who will survive, will survive. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes,” he said. “But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

The question is: Will you survive?

Nowadays, you see many people are careless and carefree about the Coronavirus. Many are going about without wearing a face mask and then when they fall sick they will present at the hospital, expecting to be treated. Some would make their problem seem like the most important issue in the world. They ask the doctor to treat them at risk to his or her own life.

The question is: Did you care to prevent this?

Sadly, of course, many will also not be able to afford treatment for a disease they could have prevented, by simply wearing a face mask. They come to the hospital and they ask the doctor to be kind and show mercy or compassion. They ask the doctor to care for them but not for recompense. We are definitely not in this together!

So, what is the poor doctor to do?

This article is for all medical doctors, nurses and healthcare practitioners. It is especially for members of the Guild of Medical Directors (GMD). GMD members are owners of private hospitals and so very important and critical people: as employers of labour and owners of hospitals that serve almost 70% of the healthcare needs of Nigerians.

Hiding from Coronavirus

It is critical for all doctors to hide and protect themselves from the Coronavirus. We are expensive to replace and we do not live in a country that values doctors’ lives. Life will definitely go on without you and without care or concern by the people we swore an oath to look after.

They just don’t care

While other countries were clapping for their frontline healthcare workers, the Nigerian government was busy castigating and abusing doctors in private practice. This is the same government that has not provided nearly enough PPE for its own doctors. So, when patients with Covid-19 show up in private hospitals, the government closes down the hospital and start to make noise all over the place.

The plan for now

Stay at home or in the clinic and see patients via telemedicine. Use WhatsApp video or schedule Zoom meetings with your patients. Many general practitioners will find this a great application and a safe way for reducing the risks of exposure to the Coronavirus. Don’t let any asymptomatic person bring ‘coco’ to your yard.

You can take a good history and do a cursory clinical examination of the patient. You also get a rare chance to see them in their natural habitat and if you are astute, many a fresh diagnosis may even come to light. The use of WhatsApp or Zoom will reduce your need for PPE and protect your staff.

What do you do?

Get your staff to take details of patients over the phone and register them as usual. The patients are them instructed to pay for your services via the many online payment platforms we now have. Who knew online banking could be this useful?

Once they have paid, you can then schedule a clinical consultation via Zoom or WhatsApp at a convenient time. The consultation can be recorded for review later or documented as per your usual practice. Medical reports can still be dispatched via email or courier service as necessary. They need a prescription, no problem, send it via email or WhatsApp.

Stay safe in 2020

Some patients may need to come to the hospital and some may require surgical intervention. What we have decided to do is request all such patients to take the Covid test. This is mandatory before admission and surgical intervention. The patient and any relative accompanying them will be required to present with a negative test.

Unless in an emergency such as a stroke or a massive heart attack or even an intestinal obstruction. In that case, don the full PPE regalia and go save a life.

Even then, be very vigilant and do not take undue risks. Remember, those who will die will die and those who will survive, will survive. Stay safe, stay alive so you can be of real benefit to all, after Covid.

If we survive, more people will survive!

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