Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji
My procrastination and fears over where to seek medical care in Nigeria because of festering insouciance, unsafety, incompetence and lack of care etc in local hospitals here finally caved in to pressing health needs the previous week. I had to see a doctor fast before it became too late. My body had shown signs of sheer fatigue within that period. Compounding the problem was severe but quiet headache amidst neck ache. All signs and symptoms were too strong to be ignored. I had to see a doctor fast because I was actually afraid.
At the hospital, an unfamiliar one at that, I really could not find my way around. The hospital was simply too big. I mean too big in size though the architecture was simple. The hospital was also very neat and tidy. There were a lot of outpatients but this was not causing delays as each patient was promptly being attended to.
On arrival, I had walked straight to the reception where I requested to be allowed to see a doctor. I was politely asked by the lady receptionist if I was on appointment or otherwise. I replied otherwise. She did not waste time to refer me to the appropriate section where emergency patients like me were taken care of. On getting there, which was centrally situated at another section of the hospital, I met another lady called Esther (not real name) who had the appellation ‘Hospital Clerk’ on a lapel on her chest.
Esther was warm and amiable. She was also friendly and caring. She was available to help, and did not waste time in giving me full assistance. She took my details with panache and proceeded to get my papers ready for one of the doctors on duty to see me. I was then invited to meet a staff nurse. The nurse, a woman who probably was in her early forties was so kind and nice. She requested me to narrate how I was feeling. My answers enabled her to set a draft for the doctor I was to see later.
I did notice that while all these were going on, that all data being extracted from me were accordingly being entered into the computer. There was no manual writing. I realized that Esther never did get off her chair for anything. She simply submitted my file through the internet to the staff nurse who on conclusion forwarded same through the internet to the Dr. Gregory Groetsema.
I was thereafter ushered to meet face to face with Dr.Gregory. The meeting was not a sit-down and face-me meeting. I had to be taken into a special room, more like a theatre. I was made to undress and put on the hospital gown. Then I was made to lie on my back. The doctor further confirmed from me all the information already extracted by the staff nurse before proceeding. He had me had an X-ray, a blood test and then a High Blood Pressure (HBP) check amongst others. It was exhaustive. For the first time in my life (all having been spent in Nigeria), I was receiving a first class medical attention. I was stunned, what a contrast!
What actually stunned me was not only the maximum attention and care on offer here, but the realization that all through the duration of my stay starting from the clerk and to the staff nurse as well as the doctor nobody asked me about money as a pre-requisite. I was neither asked to pay for card nor consultation fee. Money was not placed as a number one thing. I was short of words.
In this state of utter bewilderment, I looked up and saw what beautifully hung afar as the hospital’s Mission Statement. I stretched to read its clearly and legibly written letters.” In the spirit of our founders, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the daughter of Charity Health System is committed to serving the sick and the poor. With Jesus Christ as our model, we advance and strengthen the healing mission of the Catholic Church by providing comprehensive, excellent health care that is compassionate and attentive to the whole person: body, mind and spirit. We promote healthy families, responsible stewardship of the environment and a just society through value-based relationship and community-based collaboration”
O’Connor Hospital has been an integral part of San Jose for more than 100 years, serving the needs of the community with compassion, commitment, and attention to the mind and spirit, as well as the body. Established as a Daughters of Charity hospital in 1889, O’Connor Hospital has a mission of service to the sick and the poor. Throughout its’ history, it has provided compassionate, skilled, and effective care to the ever-changing San Jose community. Only with the assistance of like-minded, community-oriented individuals and businesses and their philanthropic gifts has its growth and effectiveness been assured.
O’Connor Hospital is recognized nationally as a leader in the delivery of innovative and quality health care. Top three garlands in this sphere include; first, being one of the only 22 hospitals in California to receive the “Excellent in Patient Safety and Health Care Quality Award” for its commitment to safety and quality. The award was given jointly by four of the state’s leading health plans, Aetna, Blue Shield of California, CIGNA Health Care, and United Health Care. Second, O’Connor has been designated by the joint commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a certified Primary Stroke Centre, and earned the gold seal of approval for healthcare quality. JCAHO certification means O’Connor complies with the highest national standards for safety and quality of care. Third, O’Connor Hospital received the Health Grades Distinguished Hospital Award for Patient Safety. This prestigious designation puts O’Connor in the top three percent of the 4,267 hospitals Health Grades analyzed nationwide for patient safety.
I was at O’Connor recently on the occasion of my recent visit to the United States to receive an award being conferred on me by The Tech Museum of Innovation at San Jose, California. On arrival at the Newark Airport in New Jersey, I felt signs of health unbalance. This persisted and grew to discomfortable heights while at Buffalo, New York. It caused me serious unease even while on an outing at the Niagara Falls.
My flight from Buffalo to Philadelphia was pleasant but my health was an issue. I was sick. I was afraid of myself. This continued even while on transit at the Philadelphia international airport all through the six hours flight to San Francisco. It was horrible. Yes, it was, bearing in mind that I am a bloody common Nigerian with no health insurance in the United States.
All those fears were promptly dispelled at O’Connor. At the hospital, non-possession of insurance did not become a hindrance. I saw professionalism, I saw state of the art equipments, I saw commitment, I felt the care. It was total.
At O’Connor I realized why many Nigerians die prematurely from untimely deaths. I saw the insincerity of our government. I cried, I wept for Nigeria. I craved to see an urgent reformation of our health sector. It was this desire that ignited my earlier question ‘which hospital should I attend’. In O’Connor hospital, I saw one, but ironically in afar land. How many of my brothers and sisters can afford the luxury of the opportunity of benefiting from a hospital as good as O’Connor ?
First published in 2006