Medical Errors Responsible for Increased Deaths in Nigerian Hospitals

The increase in medical errors has contributed to the high number of preventable deaths in the country, an expert has said.

According to a Visiting Professor of Pharmacology, Nagasaki University, Japan Associate Prof. Omotuyi Olaposi, cases of medical errors in the country are alarming, requiring critical intervention. He spoke at the end of a two-day seminar on medical services and simulation organised by MedBridge Global Company Simulation. Olaposi, who also serves as the Director of the Centre for Bio-Computing and Drug Development, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State said medical error is a very big challenge.

He said, “Medical errors is unfortunately a very big Heath challenge in Nigeria, medical errors have a lot of dimensions. The first dimension is what is called misdiagnosis. That is when people are diagnosed wrongly and that means the chances of treating the person is almost zero. That will be giving a wrong treatment for a wrong disease.

The second dimension is when doctors diagnose right, but the wrong drugs and medications are administered. You got the ailment right, but the wrong thing is given. The third is when you get the diagnosis right, get the right drugs to administer, but you administer the drugs improperly, probably due to insufficient training or exposure. So these three are very important in terms of how people eventually die in our hospitals in Nigeria.”

Speaking on wrong diagnosis of persons, Olaposi explained it is only in high profile persons that the public gets exposed to. He stated, “It was just because Dora Akunyili happens to be a celebrity, that is why we knew what exactly happened. A lot of people die without even knowing it. The family will just accept it as the will of God and they just move on. Nobody is questioned.”

He further stated, “I will say it is very difficult because we don’t have data. There is no data where people are taken to court or the hospitals are petitioned. But, I can tell you from my own personal observation, that I know more than ten people in this year alone that have either been diagnosed or treated with wrong medication or probably the wrong way of administering drugs.”

According to Olaposi, “If the total number of people visiting the hospital in Nigeria annually is 100, I think 30 percent of cases are due to wrong diagnosis, wrong treatment, or wrong drugs. But the caveat is that not all the errors will eventually lead to death. That is the reason why it has not come to the front burner. A lot of these errors can be corrected and then life moves on.”

As far as how to fix the problem, Olaposi said, “You need people to be trained and retrained, certified and be re-certified. It is only when you have put these measures in place that you can now begin to talk about punitive measures. Some people have been out of medical schools for up to 20 years and they have not gotten any other experience apart from attending to patients. So training should be continuous and that is the reason why MedBridge Global Company is embarking on this event.”

“If we have done the right things in terms of providing trainings and facilities, yes, we should. But we have not. Somebody have to be diagnosed and there no appropriate equipment for the right diagnosis, and most of the diagnoses they are going to be doing will be without appropriate equipment will be trial by error.”

So how will they avoid making mistakes that will result in patients going back to the hospital on an average of four times? It is almost impossible.

Olaposi believes he has the answer to hospital funding issues. He said, “The government does not have the money to put up these facilities. We need to look at the Private Public Partnership arrangement. There are private investors who have this money, but the reason they will not put this money on the table is because they feel the patents will not come and when they come, nobody pays for them.”

He further stated, “So if we work out our NHIS funding system, it means that no matter who you are, if you are consuming something in the nations, you also need to pay some VAT, and that money is set aside for the healthcare system. When people get sick, they get to the hospital and that is it.”

Chief Executive Officer of MedBridge Global Company Simulation, Modupe Olowodahunsi, said the essence of the conference is draw attention to critical need of simulation in health care service delivery.

Olowodahunsi maintained that for Nigeria to meet global standards in healthcare service, simulation and provision of standardized healthcare, infrastructure must be attained in order to scale up the nation’s healthcare system.

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