It’s no news that the healthcare system in Nigeria is in shambles. Patients often complain of negligence, lack of resources or wrong and expensive treatment plans. In this article, I spoke to five Nigerian women about their experience receiving health care in Nigeria.
When I was 16, I kept having these unbearable stomach aches, so I went to the hospital to get tests done. My mum went with me that day but when I went to get the results, I was alone.
The doctor said I had an ulcer and urinary tract infection. He kept complimenting me, which I thought was weird. He asked if I smoked or drank and the last time I had sex. I told him I wasn’t sexually active, he said he didn’t believe me and he could check if I was lying. He came closer and started touching me. He said we could go into the theatre and he’d insert something in my vagina to check if my hymen was still intact. I felt like throwing up. I can’t remember the excuse I gave, but I left without even collecting my drugs.
The next time I went back, I begged a friend to follow me. After that day, I went to register in a new hospital. They’re quite professional here, and I feel comfortable going to see my doctor.
During NYSC, I had an infection but the lady I was with at the time didn’t so I went to see a doctor. He said I should come with my sex partner for him to be treated too. At this point, he had not run a test, so he didn’t know what kind of infection it was but he assumed it was sexually transmitted.
I told him I didn’t have a sexual partner. Of course, he felt I was lying. He did the test, and it was not an STI. He gave me the news, and he didn’t even feel the need to apologize for his assumptions.
In 2015, I had an inflamed appendix. The doctor at my school prescribed antibiotics to prevent a rupture and stop the inflammation pending when I could finish my exams and get the surgery done.
The drugs worked but they made me constipated. After my exams, I went to see another doctor. I told him I needed to use the toilet.
The doctor said I was a surgeon’s nightmare because I was fat, and it would be difficult to navigate my organs. I told him I was okay and I just needed to poop but he wasn’t listening to me. I got another scan and they saw my appendix was back to normal. He still wanted to do the surgery, but he had insulted me so much that I told myself I’d rather die than get it done at his hospital.
Some weeks ago, my neighbour took me to the hospital because I had been throwing up all night and my fingers were cramped, folding into my palm.
The health workers seemed to be more concerned with how I looked than giving me the care I needed. One nurse asked if I was a boy or a girl. Another asked why I was dressed like a boy. I brushed past the comments and repeated my complaints. As I explained that my fingers were refusing to move, one of the nurses came around the table and asked, “Why are your fingers not moving?” I said that’s why I came here. She said, “Move your hands. I said move it. Tell yourself you can move it. Pray, talk to God.” I let her try for a while but it hurt so I recoiled and told her I just needed fucking fluids. It was such a weird experience.
I went to the laboratory to get tested for infections. The lab attendant was male. He led me to a room where he asked me to lay down. Anyway, I felt really uncomfortable while he was taking the swab sample.
When he was done, he started asking if I had a boyfriend and if we used protection when we had sex. I wasn’t even sure how to respond. It was my first time getting tested so I had no idea what the standard procedure should have been. The thought of going in for tests terrifies me now.