Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 11 March 2007

The failing health system in Sudan

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The Case of Doctors’ Hospital

By Amgad A. Mohamed A. Latif

March 10, 2007 — The illness of my aunt and the circumstances surrounding her medical treatment and her subsequent death at the Doctors’ Hospital in Khartoum in January, 2007 have motivated me to write this article to highlight the failure of the health care system in Sudan.

One of the problems that I observed is the lack of interest from the part of the health provider, in particular the medical doctor, to learn about the health history of the patient. In Sudan, Unlike in Egypt or other neighboring countries where patient’s health history is usually required and taking into consideration to determine the kind of treatment for the admitted patient, medical doctors, particularly many specialists in Sudan usually don’t inquire about the medical history of the patient. For example, specialists often tend to ignore the importance of consulting the patient’s family doctor or the person who is familiar with the patient’s health conditions. Specialists instead always rely on the information provided to them either by the patient or those who are caring for her/him.

There is also no proper and thorough diagnosis of disease due to lack of or poor laboratory facilities in the country. In such a situation, medical doctors sometimes depend on their personal judgments to determine the patient’s illness and possible prescription drug. Consequently, because of unclear diagnosis of the patient’s medical condition, some doctors tend to prescribe medication which is either ineffective or harmful for the patient. For instance, during the course of my aunt’s treatment, a doctor prescribed mistakenly heart medication to her knowing that she was not suffering from any heart illness. When he confronted by one of my relatives who happened to be a pharmacist with his mistake, the doctor got offended and refused to continue her medical treatment. We finally had to beg him to resume her medical treatment due to the difficulty of securing another doctor during the holidays. Such situations usually put the patient at risk. Sadly, many innocent men, women, and children have lost their lives due to medical maltreatment.

It is very common for medical doctors knowingly to prescribe medications which are not available in Sudan. When this occurs, the patient and his relatives are compelled to secure the medication from neighboring countries, notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia because of their proximity to Sudan. However, if the patient has no relatives or someone known to him/her in Egypt or Saudi Arabia to get the medication, he/she will continue to suffer and may well die in the process. Moreover, when the prescribed drugs are available in Khartoum, they are very expensive and can only be acquired by those who can afford.

Besides lack of prescription drugs and their high cost, many hospitals in Khartoum lack many basic hospital supplies that are necessary for providing proper medical care for patients, particularly those with terminal illness. Given such conditions, patients are compelled to pay for almost everything needed for their medical treatment. This of course led to sky rocketing of hospital bills, placing heavy burden on the patient and his/her family members.

Given the fact that government’s funding of the health care system is very limited coupled with government high taxing of medical doctors, many Sudanese medical doctors and other health providers operating in Khartoum particularly have lost, in my view, their humane and ethical responsibility of caring for the patient. Instead some medical doctors become more concerned about the financial benefit that they could gain from treating a patient. Sadly, greed replaces humanity and compassion in Sudan’s medical profession. This is evident in the case of my aunt when the doctor who was treating her at the Doctors’ Hospital in Khartoum gave our relatives her medical bill just two days before her death. This clearly shows that the doctor and the hospital have already made their decision that my aunt is not going to survive, but they made sure that they collect their medical bills before her death.

The author is based in New Jersey, USA. He can be reached at halfatown@gmail.com



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