By Simeon Mpamugoh

Dr. Geoffrey Orajekwe is the founder of All Fingers Are Not Equal Accident And Emergency Int’l Health Foundation, Kirikiri Town, Apapa Lagos. He is also the medical director of New Nigeria Hospital. In this interview, he speaks on how the foundation is impacting on the residents of Kirikiri Town among other issues.


Tell us about All Fingers Are Not Equal Accidents And Emergency Int’l Health Foundation and its benefits to the community?

Well! As a medical doctor who’ve gone through all the medical processes: medical school, housemanship, to the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) and sitting as the honcho of New Nigeria Hospital, there are a lot of things that happen along the line of my practice, which I think is an eyesore hence the need to float the foundation. The questions I always ask myself are: must someone be allowed to die in the hospital because he/she has no money to deposit for treatment? The answer is no. Then how can somebody be rushed to a hospital on emergency, bleeding and the doctor on duty knows that the bleeding is something he can easily stop with less than one thousand or five thousand naira, yet he is insisting that the patient makes a deposit of fifty or one hundred thousand naira before he could proceed with the treatment? Is it not better that the life of a patient is saved first, and he/she willingly and happily pays? The medical oath every doctor took is life first before money.

When I was in some hospitals in the course of practice I saw patients who died as a result of those scenarios. There were some laboratory services where one might sometimes need blood but if the patient who needed the blood didn’t have money, they would not release blood to him/her. Although it might not be the fault of the owner of the laboratory but of the government’s position. So All Fingers Are Not Equal Accident And Emergency Int’l Health Foundation was established to bridge the gap in medical inequality in the accident and emergency sector.

How has the foundation helped the less privileged?

We have done that in many ways. Last month we paid a bill of three hundred thousand naira (N300,000.00) for a patient we never knew before. He came to my hospital and his case was not what I could handle. He was having Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), which is a prostate issue, and a catheter. And the doctor with the general hospital that was supposed to attend to him probably was not on seat and they asked him to come back in two weeks time. Meanwhile he was still bleeding. When they brought him to my hospital in such a condition, I examined him and felt it. I invited my driver who drove him to another hospital. The hospital gave him a bill of eight hundred thousand naira (N800,000.00). I called the doctor and asked him to go ahead but to reduce the bill, between five hundred thousand and three hundred thousand naira (N300,000.00-N500,000.00) because the foundation was the one footing the bill. When we did the Packed Cell Volume Test (PCV), it revealed between 24-25 meanings that we needed a blood transfusion before surgery. Because the doctor is a friend who knows much about the foundation, he accepted three hundred thousand naira (N300,000.00). I called a friend, who transferred one hundred thousand naira (N100,000.00) to the doctor. I also called another friend, Christopher Aminu who is based in Switzerland – he is a major stakeholder who is always eager to contribute to the objectives of the foundation – and he transferred the balance to the doctor.

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What are the objectives of the foundation?

As the founder of the foundation, my goal is to put smiles on the faces of patients by helping in the treatment and rescue of the less privileged, those in severe accident and emergency situations like road traffic accidents, blood transfusion and surgeries. Today medical inequality has become rampant. You find people sometimes with gunshot wounds. Some of them are as a result of accidental discharge. Even if the person is an armed robber or not, save the life first. The victim may have been lured into it because of the circumstances of the country. And an armed robber/criminal can become a good citizen tomorrow. We have seen it happen in many instances where once an arm robber or criminal became a preacher of the gospel.

So the duty of a doctor is to save lives first. And by God’s grace All Fingers Are Not Equal Accident And Emergency Int’l Health Foundation has been living up to it aims and objectives including to provide health programmes management to educate people on factors that can reduce accident and emergency, and first aid approach. Mrs. Joan Abaziuwa is our partner and the founder of Plus Consulting Career Club (PCCC) in Maryland, United States of America. She helps to bring African Students to the US, assist them and they come back better equipped in terms of training and experience. So, the foundation is envisioned to provide Nigerians, western system of medical practice where life is valued above lucre.

How prepared do you think Nigeria is for future outbreaks of infectious and noninfectious diseases?

To be candid, Nigeria is not prepared. Everything about Nigeria and Africa in general has been politicized. In Western world, they can predict the emergence of certain diseases in their continent and start bringing preventive measures immediately. And that is where the department of community health comes in; preventive medicine. Under community health, there are other branches called Global Health Science and environmental health. Then you have these infectious diseases like HIV, AIDS, and COVID-19. The western doctors will know that certain infectious diseases had broken before and they will create a department for guidelines and analysis: “could it be as a result of airborne or waterborne disease? Okay from now onwards the regulatory body; which is National Agency for Food and Drug and Administration Control (NAFDAC) in Nigeria, should put an eye on the sachets of water being registered and ensure that they are truly analysed and registered and those in the field should be monitoring the situation.” And the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) will ensure it is certified. And they will be sharing ideas with counterparts abroad in the same way Nigeria will share ideas with member countries in West Africa.

For example in terms of topography, Nigeria will be sharing ideas with the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Niger Republic etc about tropical diseases outbreaks. Because what happens to Nigeria in terms of disease outbreaks may happen to her neighbors in West Africa hence there is need for collaboration, border to border monitoring that is devoid of politics. It will not be for instance there is HIV 1 and you claim it is HIV 10 or Lassa fever when you don’t have anyone just because of politics or may be you want to share from the grants made available by donor agencies to arrest the diseases, you make false claims, forgetting that Nigerians and indeed Africans are intelligent when it comes to doing the right thing.

What advice do you have for the political class?

My advice is more of a plea to our politicians. In the name of whatever anyone of them references, they should remove politics, tribe and religion in health care matters because it is divine. If it is handled with politics today, someone will be the victim tomorrow. As members of the political class today they should know that they might not be there tomorrow. So they should once in a while patronize public hospitals by getting themselves admitted for minor ailments so that whenever they are passing a bill on health matters, they would be able to know whether the information is true or false. For me I don’t see why the president cannot use local hospitals like St Nicholas and other standard ones. I think it’s better to treat a wealthy man in Nigeria. God forbid he dies in the country, we wouldn’t have to spend a humongous amount to fly his corpse back home. To fly a corpse from the United States of America or any other foreign countries costs millions of naira. But in Nigeria, it is free of charge. When someone dies in Nigeria, it is straight to the mortuary. So any politician who is against quality health care delivery at affordable cost to the citizens of this country should note that if they can afford it abroad, many of their relatives may not be able to afford it and the consequence is death. The masses are feeling the pains of the high inflation rate and it is better to start addressing it now by ensuring that the presence of the political class is felt in the healthcare sector. They can begin by making sure that their various communities witness a standard and well-equipped hospital as a constituency project in order to avert the medical future of communities being at risk.