2, June 2016
The Laquintinie Hospital incident has not only shocked the entire nation, it has indeed thrown up many questions about healthcare in a country where elections focus more on individuals rather than on issues and policies that can enable the country address those issues that have blighted the people’s lives. The pictures of a woman slaughtering her own sister within a certified medical facility just to save her sister’s twins is an indication that the country’s healthcare system is suffering from serious issues. This is a job that was supposed to have been done by health officials of that medical facility, but since money has replaced humanity in our own country, lots of people, including medical doctors, have simply walked away from the theory of being there for their fellow citizens for a philosophy wherein money is the be-all-and-end-all of life. There is nothing else that can really beat this gross display of inhumanity by Laquintinie hospital officials. And this case is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Many Cameroonians have lost their lives just because of inhumanity and carelessness in our hospitals. When you visit some of our hospitals, you end up shedding tears when you see how fellow citizens are treated. Not only are these hospitals not equipped, they have, at best, been reduced to consultation clinics and, at worst, funeral homes. Our hospitals are now places where people pay their transport fare to spend their last days. The type of things that happen in Cameroon’s hospitals could kill a patient even before they get to meet the medical doctors who themselves have become businesspeople. Nowhere else in the world, except in Cameroon, is someone charged for being on the premises of a medical facility. In most hospitals around the country, access– not to the medical officials – is paid. Laquintinie is very much notorious for that. This underscores the point that even emergencies are not considered as emergencies, if the patient or their loved ones accompanying them do not have money to pay for access. This even gets worse if you have to meet with the medical doctors themselves. If you do not have money to deposit, then yours is the kingdom of pain and death. Nobody will attend to you and many hardworking, but unfortunate Cameroonians, have lost their lives just because of this type of mentality that is very much countenanced by a government that is more elitist than populist.
Of course, the Laquintinie incident seems to be a wake-up call. Even members of the ruling party are calling for disciplinary measures against officials of the hospital. But it is not the hospital that is the problem. Laquintinie is just a symptom of a disease that has affected the entire nation. Moral decadence and inhumanity have become the cancers of our country. This is a country where crooks are hailed as strong men, thieves are revered and con-men have become models to our children. Punishing Laquintinie hospital officials will be a welcome measure, but such a measure will not address the issues facing the entire nation. You do not eradicate a disease by striking at the branches instead of the roots. Cameroon is gone down the drain. Morals have disappeared from the country. The community spirit and strong sense of citizenship that characterized the country in the 70s, 80s and, maybe, the 90s have simply migrated to other parts of the world. Go to most schools in the country, and you will be shocked beyond expression at the attitude of the teachers. If levels of healthcare and education have taken a nosedive in Cameroon, it is surely not in error or by accident. It is the way the government has run the system.
The notion of Garbage in, Garbage out (GIGO) also applies to human systems and not only to the computer. Take a look at the way teachers are recruited and you understand why standards of education have suffered over the last two decades. Most Cameroonian teachers are simply a bunch of people who are fleeing unemployment. They are not driven by the passion we saw in our teachers in the 60s and 70s. Teachers were the makers of men and they exuded knowledge wherever they were. Compare them to what we have today, and your mind will bleed for a country that is already on life support. For the medical field, the story is grimmer. Many of our medical doctors have simply transformed the Oath of Hippocrates into an Oath of Hypocrisy. For sure, these doctors were pushed into our faculties of medicine by some invisible hand and even when they cannot perform properly in school, they cannot be dismissed. That should explain why we have lots of butchers in our hospitals wielding long, sharp knives. They are always prepared to operate or to exaggerate the extent of the patient’s illness just to make a quick buck. Cameroon needs a new vision, a vision that will place the citizens of that country at the heart of every action.
One would think that after the colourful celebrations of the International Women’s Day in Cameroon, Cameroonian women will be treated like queens every day. But the nasty and unpardonable incident that took place at the Laquintinie Hospital in Douala underscores that the nation and its leaders are simply paying lip-service to the whole notion of women and their rights. Worse of all, is the public’s indifference; indifference that has pushed me into questioning the whole notion of a collective conscience in our country. While the hospital officials have gone mute since the incident took place, government officials, for their part, have been struggling to provide explanations, some of which have been at best annoying. How could a country endowed with some of the finest human resources on the continent be going through this for so many decades. Why should we be losing our women at a time when technology has simplified delivery across the world? And where is our collective conscience. Our silence in the face of this disaster is tantamount to acquiescence. While we may have been reduced to sorry spectators of events in our country, let’s not forget that our silence is being considered as approval of what is happening to some of us. If this can happen to Mr. A, then it will one day happen to Mr. B. This has nothing to do with tribe or region. Our leaders should be held accountable and this is one moment that can enable our leaders understand that we cannot always be taken for a ride. Silence cannot always be golden, not when human life is involved.