Success story of Nigerian doctors in USA at Onitsha
Recently, a Nigerian doctor based in the United States of America, led a team of medical professionals under the aegis of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA), New Jersey chapter, to Onitsha where they rendered free health services to the people of Anambra State. Senior Health Correspondent FLORENCE UDOH, who covered the exercise, reports.
•Success story of Nigerian doctors in USA at Onitsha
DISTURBED by the poor healthcare facilities in Onitsha town, Anambra State, the Obi of Onitsha (Agbogidi) His Royal Majesty, Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, invited the Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA), New Jersey chapter to conduct a free medical exercise for the people of Onitsha and its neighbouring communities.
The team which comprised of 30 specialist medical experts; about 20 of them Nigerians, five Caribbean South Americans, two Koreans and three white Americans, spent a week in Onitsha community offering free medical services.
Led by Dr. Adeniyi Ogunkoya, ANPA chairman, the team not only brought succour to the Onitsha community, they also saved the life of a poor widow, Mrs. Regina Ekenechukwu; who but for their intervention would have died of a ruptured appendicitis.
In the words of the widow, "only God Almighty can reward these doctors because I saw death coming but God used them to show me His love? "I was in pains for two days, I was dying slowly and I had no money for treatment. I was told I needed N10.000 for the operation. A widow like me, where was I to get the N10,000. I really thank God for using these doctors to save my life."
Mrs. Ekenechukwu, a petty trader who sells vegetables, spoke through an interpreter Mrs. Abigail Nwosu, who is a nurse. To her, the doctors demonstrated what true charity is all about.
For the one week, the doctors spent in Onitsha, from August 7 until 13, 2005; 50 surgeries were carried out, most of them, hernia and appendicitis cases. Eye tests were also carried out for those with eye problems and many persons received free eye glasses. About 30 cases of tooth problems were treated, and 45 bone fractures were amended too.
Some of the beneficiaries who spoke to Daily Champion at the General Hospital, Awka Road, Onitsha, where most of the operations were carried out, expressed great happiness at the benevolence of the ANPA doctors.
A 55-year-old tailor, Mr. Sebastine Onuoha, an indigene of Awka, who had been suffering from hernia (a medical condition which results in part of the intestine sticking out through the thigh or sometimes through the upper waist region) for over six months prior to ANPA’s visit, showered encomiums on the doctors for coming to his rescue.
Said he, "for the past two months I could not attend to my shop due to excruciating pains I was experiencing because of this hernia."
"I did not have the N20,000 I was asked to bring for the operation in one private hospital in Awka. But now, I thank God that since I was operated upon free of charge by these kind doctors four days ago, I now hope to open my shop for business next week."
Onuoha also commended the foresight displayed by the Obi of Onitsha in inviting the medical team to lend a helping hand to the people. Another beneficiary of the medical mission, Mrs. Ebere Okorafor, who was suffering from incessant haemorrhage from her genitals for over four months, saw the ANPA’s visit as one to be appreciated with redemption songs.
Mrs. Okorafor, 46, a widow and mother of three children did not only benefit from the free hysterectomy operation (removal of womb) done on her which solved the problem; she also had her 16-year-old daughter’s pile treated as well.
Her daughter, Ifunanya who did the talking since the mother could not do much talking after the rigours of the surgery, told Daily Champion that the ANPA doctors were indeed God-sent.
"My mother sells food stuff in the market, but because she became very sick four months ago with both hypertension and this bleeding ailment, I was now saddled with the task of taking care of her shop. Most of the little money made, went for her drugs. We are poor and so we had no money to do the operation that required about N20,000. But God has wiped away our tears by bringing these doctors to help us.
"I am also grateful to them for treating my pile. Before now, when I stool, my anus used to hurt so much, but now I can go to toilet without pains. Only God alone can reward them for their kindness."
Daily Champion who interacted with the doctors at the dinner/gala night put together in their honour by the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace, Valeria Okeke observed that most of the doctors were shocked by the huge turn-out of patients daily at the Onitsha General Hospital, which could not contain the old men, women and children that came to seek medical help.
Dr. Obaze Ofunne, a paediatrician with Hackinsa Hospital, New Jersey, lamented "it is shocking the dire need of healthcare facilities in these parts, what really is the government doing for these people?
Government should see what the needs of the people are and provide for them. I think the basic need of the people here is healthcare they should provide it free, especially for the poor."
The team leader, Dr. Ogunkoya, told Daily Champion he was happy that many lives have been saved through their efforts.
"I thank the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, for inviting us to give free medical treatment to his people. It is very rewarding for us because I feel satisfied that we are able to help our people," he said.
Dr. Ogunkoya who blamed federal and state governments for not making healthcare available and affordable to the people, especially the poor, pointed out that they had in their one week visit, treated over 1,000 cases of diabetes, typhoid, hypertension, among others.
Dr. Suyan Barrow, a professor of Dental Hygiene at the New York University remarked that "these people are in dire need of urgent medical care." Government should live up to her responsibilities and provide adequate healthcare services that they require."
The Catholic Archbishop who was excited over the good work done by the team, noted that they have indeed displayed what true brotherliness and charity is all about.
"These doctors have without any doubt displayed the love that our Lord Jesus Christ spoke about when he preached on the Good Samaritan. By showing kindness to our people, they have reminded us that there is hope for a better tomorrow."
Speaking with our correspondent, the Obi of Onitsha said: "I saw the need for good medical care for my people, so when I travelled to the U.S.A last year and met with Dr. Ogunkoya, I urged him to bring his team. And he saw the need and obliged me." "I must commend them indeed for their benevolence. They each paid their airfare by themselves, they also brought free drugs worth over three hundred million naira, not to mention the free expertise/skills. We the Onitsha community, are very grateful to them. All we have done is give them accommodation and take care of their feeding while here. That is all, which cannot be compared to their goodness to us. May God indeed bless them abundantly."
The Obi however lamented the non-challant attitude of government towards the health needs of the people, noting, "All Nigerians need to be given basic quality healthcare, it is their right."
Many of the Nigerian doctors among the ANPA team, said they felt heart-broken at the way the people have been subjected to little or no healthcare facility in Onitsha.
All the Nigerian doctors who barred their mind, including Dr. Chike Aguh, a surgeon; Dr. David Ezeani, a paediatrician; and Dr. Okereke Acholonu an optometrist, lamented the deplorable state of facilities in the Onitsha General Hospital.
Corroborating the doctors’ views, the ANPA Onitsha local coordinator in Onitsha, Dr. Clement Okafor, said even elementary items like oxygen mask, surgery gloves, surgical blades, were not available in the health centres in the area. In fact, the local doctors have no tools to work with, he said.
Dr. Okafor who is the Medical Director of City Hospital and Maternity Home, Odoakpu, Onitsha, said it was pertinent for government to allocate adequate funds for the rehabilitation and supply of equipment to all health centres in Onitsha and the country as a whole, since good health was a basic need and not a privilege.
He commended efforts of the ANPA team, noting that highly skilled and trained human resources, especially in the area of medicine, are probably Nigeria’s most valuable asset to the world. But unfortunately and no thanks to the deplorable infrastructure in the country, many of these experts have migrated to foreign countries.