Worthy feat



The successful separation of conjoined twins, Mercy and Goodness Ede, by a team of Nigerian doctors comes as one of the best pieces of health news of 2019/2020.

This is because of the poor state of health facilities and the low morale often associated with medical personnel in Nigeria due to the very challenging work environment. We give kudos to the team, led by paediatric surgeon Emmanuel Ameh, that successfully separated the twins.

According to reports, the twins had been checked into the hospital for some time to enable pre-surgery formalities and for some needed equipment to arrive the country. We commend the discreet and diligent way the doctors handled this very delicate medical project.

For the team to have held up the excitement over the success they achieved to ensure that nothing went wrong as a result of premature celebrations is highly professional and commendable. It just shows that the doctors were more concerned with the project than any other ego or professional enthusiasm that might endanger the patients.

While history shows that conjoined twins dates back to thousands of years, the Siamese twins born on May 1, 1811 Chang and Eng, in Bangkok, Thailand, became the face of conjoined twins as they were the first to get global attention through records.

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They led normal lives, even getting married and having their own children and only died at the age of 62. However, not many conjoined twins have been as lucky as the Siamese twins.

Many were either stillborn or died a few months or years after birth. Records indicate that girls have more likelihood of being conjoined. The degree of organs shared by twins determines their survival rates.

Medical science and advancements in the field have helped many conjoined twins to be surgically separated to lead normal lives. However, for a country like Nigeria, poor health facilities have affected the survival of normal children and adults.

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The few recorded incidents have had to be taken to either India or other countries. This has its limitations as the financial implication could be very huge and even post-surgery maintenance costs might be discouraging.

The very laudable feat achieved by the 78 medical personnel should be celebrated given the very limiting environment within which they operate. We salute their courage and dedication.

We however urge the federal and state governments to take a deeper interest in healthcare not just as campaign slogans but as a serious matter that ought to be addressed with all the commitment it deserves.

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If the health sector receives the needed infrastructural investment, the need for government officials to scamper abroad for the most common health issue will reduce. What the team of experts has proven is that, as always, Nigeria has an abundance of human capital that can hold their own in any field of human endeavour, in this case, medicine.

The only things lacking are the infrastructure and the political will to make policies to encourage investment in the sector and to compel agencies to play by the rules.

Nigerians are known to be one of the nationals with high rate of medical tourism, with the attendant forex expenditure. The fact that conducting the surgery in the National Hospital, Abuja, reportedly saved the country about $20m says something about our sense of economic policy.

There must be a decision not only to equip the National Hospital, venue of the surgery to be ready for both post-surgery emergencies, but other health emergencies too. Our political elite must walk the talk by equipping and patronising our hospitals.

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