The National Medical Council in Cameroon is calling on government officials to close 1,000 hospitals it says are operating illegally.
The council says the hospitals do not have enough trained medical workers and equipment. It says the medical centers are endangering the lives of millions of people.
But some of the centers have trained, part-time medical workers. These doctors and nurses work in more than one clinic as a way to increase their earnings. And some doctors have left their jobs at government-operated hospitals and opened clinics so they can earn more money.
This is not a new problem for Cameroon. And it seems to be growing. Early last year, VOA reported that the Ministry of Health had identified 600 illegal hospitals and clinics.
Then, like today, it said they were responsible for causing deaths. More than a year and a half ago, the health minister said the government would target illegal clinics and close them if they did not have permission to operate.
Cameroon’s medical council now says 200 medical centers are operating illegally in the capital, Yaounde. Reporter Moki Edwin Kindzeka visited one such clinic recently. He spoke with Yannick Ahanda, one of 20 people waiting for medical care.
He says he likes to go to private clinics because patients do not need to wait a long time to see a doctor or nurse. He adds that at government hospitals, patients are sometimes told after a long wait to return later because the doctor is not there or at a conference. He also says health care is better at private hospitals and clinics.
An ambulance has brought a 66-year-old woman to the Yaounde Central Hospital. Sylvie Manga is her daughter. She says her family turned to the hospital for specialized care after several failed attempts to treat her mother at a private clinic.
“You will not imagine that they operate and they forget pieces of cloth, they forget it in the stomach. We carried the patient back home. After some time, we discover that the wound is not getting healed. When we take her back to the hospital, she is operated (on) again and the piece is removed.”
Tetanye Ekoe is vice president of the medical council. He says the group cannot stay silent while people suffer because of poor care from untrained workers.
Professor Ekoe says there are more than 1,000 illegal and secret hospitals and medical schools throughout the country. He says many use unqualified doctors, laboratory technicians and others to treat patients.
More than 500 medical doctors and 5,000 nurses are trained in Cameroon every year. But in 1996, when the economy worsened, the pay of doctors was reduced by 60 percent -- to about $300 per month.
Dr. Viban Eugene owns a private medical facility. He says some doctors open clinics so they can earn more money. He says patients get better care at clinics than at government hospitals.
“There he’s going take more care, there he’s gonna take more time to give adequate care. But in the hospital there are so many people, so many patients, he is not going to get more time.”
The medical council says all doctors working in such hospitals and clinics who are not council members are practicing illegally.
The World Health Organization says Cameroon has only about 25 percent of the doctors it needs. It estimates that Cameroon has one doctor for every 40,000 citizens. The country is home to 22-million people.
I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Moki Edwin Kindzeka reported this story from Yaounde. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in The News
clinic – n. a place where people get medical help
facility – n. something (such as a building or large piece of equipment) that is built for a specific purpose; a center
prefer – v. to like (someone or something) better than someone or something else
stomach – n. the organ in your body where food goes and begins to be break up after you swallow it
unqualified – adj. not having the skills, knowledge or experience needed to do a job or activity
adequate – adj. good enough; satisfactory
practice - v. to do something again and again; to follow customs or teachings