We were about one hundred meters away from the busy intersection when it happened. Right before my eyes, an SUV ran into an old taxi cab, folding the cab instantly with dust and car parts flying into the air. The surreal moment interrupted the calm of the Saturday morning, leaving us dumbfounded. As we drove closer, we could see a couple of heroes swinging into action, forcing the doors of the crushed cab open. Some of the cab’s passengers had to be carried, while one of them staggered across the road to sit down. Whenever we find ourselves in a position to play good Samaritan at the scene of an accident, there always is some confusion about what we are expected to do; what is the proper line of action so that the victims get help and we don’t make matters worse.
We decided to ask one of our doctor friends about things you need to know in the case of a health emergency in Nigeria, and here’s what they told us:
Should you move a person who needs medical attention?
Ideally, no. If the person has had an accident or has suffered a fracture, you could make things worse if you move them. Having said that, you can’t leave the person where they are if they are in harm’s way (Example: they could be in the middle of the road and well, we know how long it could take medical services to arrive in developing countries).
Is there an emergency number to call?
Erm… different states have different emergency numbers. Do they work? Well, erm, ah…
Will a person have to pay money before being attended to at an emergency ward?
In developed countries, you pay while the treatment is ongoing, assuming the health insurance doesn’t cover such treatment. However, in a country that doesn’t have a functioning national health insurance scheme, you will likely be turned away if you don’t have money on you (scary).
In emergencies which is better, private or public hospitals?
It depends on the hospital in question. Some private hospitals are better than others. Public hospitals generally have more trained nurses than private ones. The private ones usually have auxiliary nurses who are only trained for the needs of that hospital.
There used to be a law preventing hospitals from treating gunshot victims without police consent. That law was changed a couple of months ago. Have doctors been treating gunshot victims or is the old law still in effect?
Nigerian doctors now treat gunshot victims but they have to inform the police ASAP.
It all seems so ambiguous and clearly there is no clear line of action in cases of emergency. This is something that the government needs to sort out in order to save lives. There is no real shortage of heroes or good Samaritans in our country, we just need the authorities to come up with an efficient system for saving lives in the case of an emergency.