Last Thursday, at around 8.30am, I sat in the queue at the Sir Sanusi Hospital waiting to see the doctor. There were 15 of us in the women’s queue and about the same number in the men’s.
Two men came in suddenly carrying an old man. They sat him on the floor as there was no space on the bench. A man in the queue asked if others would let the old man see the doctor when the next person is called in. The old man said that it wasn’t an emergency and he would wait his turn. He said he just had difficulty walking and his companions would not go at his pace, so they carried him.
One woman grumbled that some people exaggerate their illnesses so they get ahead of the usually long hospital queues. Another woman pointed out that she had seen a woman actually passing away in the queue at the very spot where we sat. The women then went on to discuss how, if they had a choice would go to a private hospital, where they won’t have to spend the day on the queue, or see people die while waiting.
They went on to discuss how hospital staff ill-treat people, how the doctors are in a hurry to write a prescription even when the patient has not finished listing the symptoms. They concluded that if you could afford private hospitals, very good health care is available.
DFID Nigeria has 3 Health Programmes currently running in Northern Nigeria. As the Social Development Adviser, I work with the Health Adviser who manages from the 'demand side' – getting the right approach for helping people, and supporting communities to actually demand for better public services. A lot has been done in this area through earlier DFID and other donor programmes.
However, there is still a lot to be done to get people to start expecting some positive response from the state. As a local person, I know that the challenges are not as overwhelming as they seem and with the constructive input of service users, we can make the changes they see as current problems. There is also a need to get the state to start improving its service delivery so people have the indication that the state is trying at its own end. The demand side and supply side need to be pursued from their different ends to have an aggregated push towards reform.