Who is protecting the Nigerian public from fake doctors and nurses?
The exposure of Martin Ugwu Okpe, who reportedly impersonated his friend, Dr. George Davidson Daniel, to work as a medical officer in the Federal Ministry of Health for nine years brings to the fore the porous system that would allow an impersonator ply his trade within the nerve centre of the national health care system.
Reports say that Okpe worked in the Department of Health, planning, research and statistics as a Grade 12 officer. Within the period, he also headed the chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
Several Nigerians must have, undoubtedly, fallen victims, or may know a relative, friend or acquaintance who has fallen victim to these quacks.
Fake doctors in some cases are dropouts from medical schools, or auxiliary nurses who have trained under licensed medical practitioners.
They could be pure impostors, who may have worked in pharmacies or some other medical institutions. Here are a few tips that may come in handy in spotting quack doctors.
When you visit a hospital or clinic, look out for a licence, usually issued by the State Ministry of Health; where you don’t see one on display ask to see it. If the hospital does not have one, be wary of patronising such an establishment.
Reports say that many state ministries of health that are mandated by law to provide licences of practice to proprietors of hospitals and clinics do not have an inventory of all medical facilities in their domain. Some of them do not even have websites that display a list of licensed clinics and hospitals in their states.
There is also a lot of bureaucratic red tape by these state ministries of health in issuing licences to applicants. Take note of the doctor’s mannerisms during the hospital visit: Is he or she able to explain to you the process of the ailment, symptoms and the basis why the doctor has chosen the course of treatment.
Be wary, if the doctor is not self-assured and knowledgeable, and behaves in a shifty and forgetful manner. Be wary, if the doctor prescribes medication without carrying out any physical examination or laboratory tests.
The doctor is reluctant to divulge the drugs that he is prescribing and confuses you with medical jargons. The doctor diagnoses your condition as a spiritual ailment and refers you to a prayer house.
The doctor promises you a miracle medical care, that is not founded scientifically, or offers you a herbal concoction, that is prepared by his hospital in their facility. What is the role of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria in protecting the public from these quacks? Its mandate states as follows: Regulation of training in Medicine, Dentistry and Alternative Medicine in Nigeria, Regulation of Medical, Dental and Alternative Medicine practice in Nigeria, Determination of the knowledge and skills of these professionals, Regulation and control of Laboratory Medicine in Nigeria. Every doctor operating legally in the country is supposed to have a temporary or permanent licence to practise, issued by the MDCN.
Foreign doctors operating in the country are expected to do the same. Proliferation of quacks within the health care system is a symptom of the malaise that has affected the ability of the MDNC in effectively monitoring and regulating the activities of its members and to put in place strict and efficient measures to sanitise the system.
In this age of information technology and the compilation of database by several government agencies, one will expect that the MDCN will take advantage of it and have the names, photographs and qualifications of all licensed doctors and accredited clinics in the country listed out with reference pictures, location and contact details on its website.
The NMA (Nigerian Medical Association) also has a responsibility in ensuring that due diligence is done on its members, and to also provide information on the database of its members online, to prevent impostors from taking advantage of the public.