Igbologun Snake Island Had No Hospital – Gbolahan | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Igbologun Snake Island Had No Hospital – Gbolahan

Posted: Jun 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

..I Built One To Make Healthcare Accessible

Dr. Sodipo Gbolahan is Medical Director, Igbologun Medical Centre, the only hospital in Igbologun Snake Island, Apapa, Lagos. During a recent field visit to the island, organised by Development Communications Network (DevComs) for journalists, the general practitioner in an interview with Sunday Independent, says he established a hospital in the hard-to-reach area to bring health services close to the over 20,000 residents. Chioma Umeha writes. Excerpts:

I finished from University of Ibadan in 2005 and did my National Youth Service (NYSC) in Nsukka. I later returned to Ibadan and worked with Ibadan Central Hospital for a year and half, before moving to Tolu Medical Centre in Olodi Apapa, in Lagos. I was in Olodi Apapa for close to a year, in charge of pregnant women as the Medical Director (MD). Am always very close to my patients, apart from just treating them, I also get to know them well.
There were these three pregnant women who usually come for antenatal then, these women were very beautiful and they dressed very well.
I always use them to cite examples for the rest to follow. Then, it happened that we lost one of them, while the second one lost her baby. So with much pain in my heart, I asked the friend that brought her to the hospital, what happened to her. She told me that she started bleeding one late night. So I said to her: “You have my number, why didn’t you call me so I can bring ambulance to the place?’’.
She said the ambulance cannot reach the place. So I asked again: “is that place part of Lagos?’’. She said answered in the affirmative. So I said, if there is a place ambulance cannot reach in Lagos, I want to know that place. After the day’s work, I took a bike to where I can get a boat as the address was given to me. So I arrived at Snake Island around 3 pm. That was in September 2009.
I walked round the whole area looking for a hospital. To my surprise, there was no single hospital. Luckily for me, I asked for a nearby Primary Health Centre. When I got there, it was already closed for business at 3 pm. I was wondering how will a hospital close by that time 3 pm, so I said, okay, something must be wrong. So I found out that it was a Primary Health Centre which is primarily maternity centre that focus on child delivery. There was no hospital on this Island at all.
By that time, I was newly wedded and was planning to go abroad. About half of my mates who graduated the same time with me were based overseas. After six months, I began to struggle with the thought of setting up a hospital at Igbologun community.
I asked myself: Must we all go abroad and live, what happens if all the good doctors we have go abroad, we will live our family behind in the hands of quacks. Even if we sending money regularly to them, that won’t solve their problem.
On the other hand, I felt that it was bad to for me to do my medical practice in Igbologun community. It is easier to tell someone that you were planning to go to America or UK to practice, than say, I am planning to go to an island, a village to establish a hospital.
However, I shared with my wife about the thoughts I was battling with and she said, no. She was pregnant then and was planning to go to American to take her delivery. Immediately she left Nigeria, I just resigned and came to this place as she will not be around for close to six months.
Before embarking on the project, I asked if any hospital has been established before in the community. They said: Yes. I asked: What happened to the hospital? I was told they just closed down. Therefore, I asked for the contact of the then owner and I called him and inquired why he left. He told me that the people are so poor and that they are not used to hospital, rather patronise traditional birth attendants (TBAs).
I concluded that I was going to give it a trial for six months and that if it doesn’t work, I will shut down and go abroad to join my wife and child. I started with only a room apartment and placed a notice outside the building which read: “Qualified Doctor Around, Now 24hours service.”
I used my salary for that month to rent the room, but there was no bed, nothing. The first person came because there was an emergency in the night and someone suggested to them that there is a doctor here, so I treated him and he got well. Within a month, people started coming, and after two month I was able to make more than I had expected. Therefore, I decided to turn this to a hospital. More people started coming, this is my fifth year now on this Island.

Which type of patient do you normally receive?
My patients are mostly the vulnerable groups – children, pregnant women and the elderly ones. I attend to about 180 pregnant women.

Do you have any government assistance?
There is none for now.

What is the most common illness do you usually treat?
It is the normal complications of pregnancy which are mostly, bleeding; threatened abortions, eclampsia and obstructed labour that often require surgery.

Do you charge for your services?
Yes, I charge for my services, but I won’t allow a patient who doesn’t have money to die. You can see this woman now, she just came with her baby and she doesn’t have money, I can’t say that I will not treat her baby because she does not have money; I need to save her baby’s life first.

Have you ever had a medical case that is beyond you? How do you move the patients?
Yes, many times, I don’t have to stress myself. I have a speed boat; all I do is call my speed boat to take them to the mainland, where they can get better services.

What are your basic challenges working in this community?
The major challenge is poverty. Then the second one is ignorance. They see the hospital as a place of last resort. A hospital should be the first place to report any health issue. Also, infrastructures are not there. As you can see I am running on generator.

How do you manage complications that requires an incubator, what do you do? Do have alternative incubator, lifesaving equipment for women, to stop them from bleeding among others?
No, I simply transfer them to other hospital. If someone donates to us, we will be glad, for now I can’t afford it. However, I have Magnesium sulphate and life shock garments. It was an NGO that gave us all these materials.