THE rot in our public - and private - institutions revealed itself last week again when an innocent baby, Sabry Ibrahim, lost part of her hand through amputation after a medical officer injected her with God-knows-what substance. The amputation was carried out when doctors noticed that the little baby’s hand had started rotting as a result of the wrongful injection at Mwananyamala Hospital. The baby had fallen ill a few days earlier after being born in the same hospital.
Hospitals seem to be following closely in the footsteps of schools and other institutions that are supposed to cater for the needs of the masses in the country, but which blatantly abuse their responsibilities. In short, we’re quickly degenerating into a country where everyone is left free to their own devices.
This state of affairs is especially manifest in the irresponsible way our institutions are run and has been the major contributing factor to the loss of public trust in local solutions for local problems. As a result everyone, except the poor, believes that their problems can only be solved abroad. As for the poor; they have to make do with witches, God's infinite mercy and the deplorable state of affairs.
Our institutions of learning, for example, lack strict government regulations to ensure that only genuine players are allowed to invest in the sector, thereby attracting profiteers who care less about quality and more about lining their pockets. Education institutions have become commercial ventures where every crook finds a home to lay their long-held dreams of striking it rich.
Take the case of these international ‘English medium schools’. Teachers in these schools would like us to believe that we should continue paying them a fortune in order for our kids to be taught that a man who hails from Germany should be referred to as a Germany, instead of a German. That Tanzanian kids should pronounce the word ‘Germany’ as they would the word ‘German’ and vice versa. They want us to believe that it is perfectly normal to hear someone say, “Hans is from German.” That it is right to insist that, “he is Germany” instead of “he is German,” when referring to his roots.
I was once asked by an American friend why we (Tanzanians) insist on adding ‘y’ or ‘i’ on words that traditionally don’t have them at the end while removing the same from words that have them at the end. Although I could not come up with an appropriate answer, except that it is a result of a strong Kiswahili influence, I realized that foreigners are not too pleased to hear a different version of their language.
The shame of it all is that a majority of these quacks who call themselves teachers and who cannot tell the right end of a pen are beneficiaries of the three month special government training programme which aims at ending teacher shortages in the country.
However, today I am not going to dwell on the rot that has engulfed our education system. Today I want to vindicate those who are not too loyal to local solutions for local problems. In my courtroom of proper human reasoning, I exonerate them from their guilt. What happened to an innocent little baby at Mwananyamala hospital has wiped out what little hope I had in our institutions.
My heart bleeds badly for the baby, Sabry Ibrahim, who did not have to live long after being born to witness, first hand, the cruelty of men (I mean men and women here). I find it very hard to forgive the bunch of lazy bums who caused an infant to lose her hand through amputation as a result of their sheer carelessness. To imagine that a little baby was denied the God-given right to use her palm by a gang of uncaring medical officials is, to say the least, traumatizing to a conscientious mind.
I could not believe it when a high-ranking Kinondoni District official revealed further that several medical officials from the institution were transferred to different regions in the country last year after their malpractices became something of a notoriety in the community hospital. What the District official’s statement literally implied was that the country should share in the misery that these morons bring to ailing Tanzanians.
What she was saying was that the Ministry of Health is spreading morons who don't care about sick people around the country, instead of sending them to jail where they rightfully belong. Is transferring erring medical officials to other parts of the country sufficient punishment for people involved in gross malpractice? Isn’t there a law in this country that takes care of idiots who flout their own professional ethics?
It is not long ago that we had a costly mix up that saw the loss of an innocent life at Muhimbili National hospital after doctors decided that the best cure for a patient who needs head surgery is to chop off his most healthy leg. A national hospital where our very best doctors have discovered that the best remedy for a patient who needs a leg amputation is to perform brain surgery on him.
While it might sound comforting to turn to expensive well-equipped hospitals, the dangers of trusting these are also very alive. My personal experience was very chilling. I discovered that local hospitals are filled with petty thieves dressed in white coats. I will forever remember the day when I visited a very popular local hospital and was reminded how human greed could hasten your journey to the grave.
Sometime a few years back I discovered that I was the victim of a life-threatening medical condition. The doctor who had discovered this anomaly told me that he could not help me because it was his first time to come across my condition. He adviced me to seek further medical attention in a well-equiped hospital or better still get treatment abroad. I decided that I would seek medical treatment out of the country. But first I had to get a referral letter from a qualified doctor.
So, when I visited this popular city hospital - where the rich get their treatment – to get the referral letter, the doctor compelled me to a range of tests before he could prepare me the document. Let me note here that his demand, besides being professional, was partly based on the knowledge that my sponsor would be able to foot the fat bill.
He had the liberty to subject me to any range of tests that his biology teachers - from primary school to university - taught him just to fatten the cheque his hospital would receive at the end of the exercise. Believe me, after going through a marathon of tests, the bill that was sent to my sponsor was mind-boggling. I, on the other hand, left the hospital with a bag full of drugs I would never need in my life.
Anyway, during an EKG test, the doctor’s reaction and words sent shivers down my spine. The good doctor had been monitoring the machine when he suddenly jumped with joy while pumping the air in jubilation. While he was at his antics he kept on repeating the word “Excellent!”. Before I could ask what the good news was about, he feigned a moment of sadness before he said: “Sadly for you Kijana, this is not very good news. Your condition cannot be treated in the country.” He paused before he continued rapidly that my condition was very rare to treat.
I gathered that his rapid explanation was an attempt by him to get back to his joyful moment. I was being viewed as a temporary inhibition. As he joyfully announced my death sentence, I lay on the hospital bed feeling like a guinea pig. In a sad way, the doctor reminded me of Jose Maurinho’s exaggerated goal celebration (especially during his stint at Chelsea). I gathered that it was the first time the jack ass had met a patient with my unique condition.
His sheer joy at learning something ‘new’ from his EKG machine completely overshadowed the fact that I was suffering from a life-threatening condition. Here I was receiving the worst news of my life and he was celebrating the fact that his stupid EKG machine can actually discover a disease. If only he knew how I hated his rotten gut at that moment? Even as I left the lab later he was still drooling over his machine.
I later discovered that some of the drugs he gave me have adverse side effects that include, but not limited to, hair loss, kidney failure, loss of teeth, pneumonia, indigestion (constipation) and total impotence. He never mentioned a word while handing me the medicine. When this truth hit me, I decided that I’d rather wait for the operation abroad. And the wait was worth the while.
All I am saying is that the medical sector has to change immediately. If a country’s population cannot trust its doctors, then such a country is doomed. The medical sector is the only one which calls for 100% trust by its clients. It is fitting to remember that most of the healing depends on faith. How do we expect to get better when the thought of visiting a hospital sends chills down our spines?
If I die believing that my problem was beyond human help, I'll go with a smile on my face. Otherwise, there is no cruelty like dying with the knowledge that a careless doctor had something to do with it.
When my time to die arrives I beg to be taken to Muhimbili