The health sector in Nigeria is plagued by so many problems that prevent it from performing adequately. One of the major problems is quackery. Before we even go further to see how it affects our health sector, let us take the time to define what quackery is.
What is Quackery?
Quackery refers to practices involving false knowledge of a particular field. People who engage in quackery do it for quick gains and various other reasons. While real professionals may spend years mastering a craft or skill before practicing it, quacks may only spend a few months or receive no training at all before practicing a similar profession. This means that the quacks are uneducated and unqualified in that particular field, yet go on to practice it.
When it comes to the health sector, quacks have always been around. Even before the advent of modern medicine as we know it, there have always been people who sell ordinary potions which they tout as ‘healing medicine’, claiming to heal a particular disease or, in some cases, all diseases. Such potions always achieved nothing and, most times, only made the patient’s condition much worse.
Quackery In Nigeria
Fast-forward to the 21st century and quackery still reigns supreme. Even now, it has deadlier consequences. For example, in Nigeria, one would need to go to medical school for 6 years and spend some additional years gathering more knowledge and experience of their chosen profession, before they can be a qualified medical doctor. This would enable them to diagnose symptoms properly and know the kind of care to give to their patients. But quacks do not follow this process. Over the years, we have heard of quack doctors being busted after ‘practicing’ medicine for many years. Most of these people who they catch are those who dropped out of medical school in the early stage.
Sometimes too, it could be someone who has never received any form of recognized medical education. In any case, the actions of such quacks usually lead to the deaths of many people through wrong surgical procedures, incorrect diagnosis, and much more.
But quacks are not only found among doctors. We also have quack nurses as well. In fact, there are more quack nurses as doctors, because nursing, as a field, is not as regulated, and not quite as demanding as being a doctor, so it is easier for someone to pretend like a nurse. But quacks nurses are more dangerous and even do more harm since nurses are the ones who check on patients more.
Perhaps, the most dangerous of them are quack pharmacists. While people may go years without visiting the hospital, they would, at some point, stop by a pharmacist for drugs. Many people are simply content with visiting a pharmacist than going to the hospital. Quack pharmacists give wrong prescriptions and even sell fake drugs, produced by people they have connections with. As you can guess, this would have led to the deaths of thousands of unsuspecting people who got the wrong drugs prescribed to them for their symptoms. Imagine a case where someone with stomach ache was given drugs for typhoid. What do you imagine that could result to? And this happens every day in the country.
Quackery has contributed nothing positive to the health sector but has instead sent many to their early graves or inflicted some with serious ailments.
The problem with quacks is that it is usually difficult to tell them apart from the real ones. Physically, this is impossible. Quacks assume the confidence and air of real medical practitioners. Some even memorise common words and terminologies that would have you thinking you are dealing with the real deal.
There are so many reasons for the prevalence of quackery in today’s Nigeria, including:
- Unemployment: The unemployment rate in Nigeria today is making people seek alternative means of survival, including quackery. So, you see graduates of other courses become quack doctors and nurses in a bid to survive.
- Cost Incentive: Some hospitals are also the cause of why quackery is a big problem today. these hospitals are always looking for cheap doctors and nurses, and since professionals would always want to be paid right. This makes them seek quacks who would do the job at whatever pay they offer.
- Poor Regulation: These days, many hospitals go years without an inspection from the authorities, making them a haven for quacks and other undesired elements. There should be better regulation in the health sector that should make it easier to weed out these quacks as often as hospitals.
The Effects of Quackery in the Nigerian Health Sector
The effects of medical quackery can be harmful and bad. In Nigeria, quackery has led to a lot of devastating consequences. Here’s a quick summary of the effects of medical quackery in Nigeria:
- Increase in maternal and childhood mortality
- Severe complications for patients
- Increase in unemployment rate of registered nurses and midwifes
- Discrediting medical and nursing education
- Soiling the reputation of healthcare delivery in Nigeria
- Poor treatment outcome and weakened healthcare system.
Practical Solutions to Curb Medical Quackery in the Nigerian Health Sector:
- Improving state health insurance,
- Regulation of healthcare delivery systems Improving financial coverage,
- Enforcing the law against quackery
- Increasing awareness in local communities.