Have you used a fake health centre for medical treatment before?
What happened? How did you feel? When did you realise they were less than what they claimed?
Whatever your feelings about an average Nigerian, you are hardly likely to question their industriousness or enterprise; and their determination to survive.
In many places outside home, Nigerians are recognised for stellar achievements that seem to belie the challenging mix of contradictions that exist in the country which has so much potential for brilliant developments.
These days, multiple health providers exist including fake health practitioners.
Take a few examples in our gallery here:
The existence of this group (and persistence) despite a growing population with access to improving social media connections and exposure to online communication inspires frustration and ridicule in equal measure.
No doubt, the provision of healthcare is good business.
If you live in any of the busy cities in Nigeria, then of course you will be familiar with these places that do not officially meet the 'definition' of a competent health facility.
However, they do their best to draw clients with strong promises of effective treatments of a variety of medical disorders.
As people will always have one form of complaint or the other, there is a steady demand for a set of payable services - hey presto! – business success.
It has now become popular in social media to share images of the signboards and notices of these ‘shops’.
To people of medical background, they can be amusing in the way they combine the ability to cure vastly different medical conditions; as well as the language used.
But this scenario loses the joke appeal when the complications from mismanaged health conditions leads to loss of life!
As you will see, some of the terms are adulterations of real medical terminology.
This calls to question whether those who produce these signs and run these ‘shops’ ever attended any Medical Laboratory, Nursing or Medical school etc
The most common issues are with misspellings of basic medical terms such as:
- Semen misspelt ‘seman’ for example; or Fasting, misspelt ‘fasten’ and Pregnancy misspelt ‘Pregnency’ in images 2 & 3
- Root and Harb (maybe they meant Herb?) in image 1 doesn’t induce too much confidence in me when they advertise the ability to cure.
- ‘Goloria’ for Gonorrhoea
- ‘Taiford’ for Typhoid
- ‘Civilis’ for Syphilis
- ‘Orsa’ for Ulcer
- ‘Diabitis’ for Diabetes
- ‘Fabros’ for Fibroids.
Why this is no joke
Maybe if you are brave enough to walk through the doors you are greeted with smiles and laughter and reassured – it’s a just a joke to get clients in – but No!
Really, people who put up these signs have a goal.
They want the unsuspecting health care user to come in and place themselves at their mercy and believe they have the skill to help them and cure their ailments.
Let us avoid the argument that in Nigeria we speak multiple languages and 'English is not our first language'.
To those who say – ‘it’s just words, it doesn’t matter’ , - actually: Yes. It. Does!
These boards/signs speak to carelessness in attention to detail and frivolous claims – is that how you want to be cared for?
Or for your relative and friends?
And if you think it escapes you then maybe your driver or house-help in a lower social stratum frequents these places, and you know - their lives also matter.
But more broadly, this speaks to negligence on matters of public safety and threats to public health in Nigeria from medical treatments at fake health centers.
Poor health care provision is perhaps most consequential.
Improving health care provision in Nigeria is an issue for multiagency collaboration at federal, state and local levels.
There is a need for political leaders to recognise that investing their political will and capital to drive the right policy supports with the appropriate regulation as well as resources in the health of Nigeria IS one of the most important investment of all.
It has potential positive, social, economic, and political multiplier effects and impacts that will lead to a fairer, just, equitable and greater Nigeria.
Quality universal health coverage that ensures access and affordability at the point of need is the unique safety-net that all Nigerians desire and deserve.
So, we must interrogate the activities of ‘quacks’ running all kinds of ‘shops’ at every corner or turn in rural and urban neighbourhoods.
They offer false hopes and exploit vulnerable Nigerians.
Conditions of people, already victims of our weak health systems are worsened.
- What are the qualifications of the owners of such establishments that permit them to offer the services they claim expertise in?
- What are the tales told by those who use the service?
- When things go wrong, what happens?
Governments at federal, state and local levels need to work collaboratively to agree on standardising and regularly accrediting health facilities and providers in Nigeria.
This will improve quality and access to systematically eliminate quackery in health care delivery in Nigeria.
Access to quality health insurance also helps reduce people's vulnerability to fake health centres.
Finally – if you know someone who has used one of these places - good or bad experience and health outcome; please share the experience in the comments section below!
Till then, Stay Well!
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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