What Nigeria should do to expand access to plastic surgery –Surgeons

Lara Adejoro

The Nigerian Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons says the nation must address the challenges of poor public awareness, out-of-pocket payments for health services and poor healthcare financing, to expand access to plastic surgery in Nigeria.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, President of the association Prof. Jacob Legbo noted that poor health facilities, inadequate personnel and systemic corruption pose huge challenges to the practice of plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty involving the restoration, reconstruction, or alteration of the human body. 

According to Legbo, there is also a need to address the long duration of plastic surgery training, low pass rates at exit examinations, and brain drain to expand access to plastic surgery in the country. 

“Scarcity of plastic surgeons in the country could be multifactorial – including long duration of the training, few training institutions, low pass rates at exit examinations and brain drain, amongst many others.

“Increasing the number of plastic surgeons in Nigeria requires addressing the issues mentioned, amongst other measures.”

He said after the first degree, it takes about six years of training to become a plastic surgeon. 

“It could take longer, depending on the circumstances surrounding the training programme,” he added. 

Legbo noted that plastic surgeons treat health conditions ranging from congenital anomalies to acquired causes like infections, trauma, tumours, and metabolic syndromes causing body disfigurements.

He, however, advised Nigerians who need plastic surgery to visit the right places like teaching hospitals or accredited private hospitals.

“Usually, when you have an issue and you go to a government hospital and if the doctors or health personnel cannot take care of the condition, they will be able to refer you to an appropriate hospital.

“The important thing is to seek help in the right places,” he said.

The don noted that plastic surgeons know their limits and will not handle any case they cannot handle.

“If the surgeon has started a procedure he or she can’t handle, then he or she will seek help. When you don’t know your limit, then it becomes a problem, even if you have the certificate.

“A fake plastic surgeon is the one who pretends to be what he is not.

“Plastic surgeons know their limits because even as a plastic surgeon, it’s not all cases of plastic surgery that I can do. There are certain cases I refer to my superiors and even my junior colleagues.

“The problem we have with fake plastic surgeons or some traditional healers who call themselves surgeons or plastic surgeons is that there is no law regulating their practice.

“This is because when someone’s practice is not regulated, it becomes a danger to the society,” Legbo said.

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