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Looking Back

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Looking Back

May 1962

Scot will be Nigeria’s Flying Doctor

This autumn, at the end of the rainy season in Northern Nigeria, beside 16 primitive landing strips hacked out of bush and scrub, radio transmitters will crackle into life and the first links will be established in a new medical service for 20,000,000 people.

The man behind the venture is a Scots Presbyterian from a Moray manse, Dr Neil Duncan.  Trained in Charing Cross Hospital, London, he flew thousands of miles in Australia in the pioneer Flying Doctor scheme.

Two years ago he carried out a survey of an area four times the size of the British Isles. The first sixteen landing strips are being prepared for this autumn, and he hopes in three years to have between 35 and 40 in operation. This will be a tremendous boost to the existing medical services in Northern Nigeria.

The health of millions living in remote villages is at present in the hands of dispensary attendants whose training is very limited. Supervision of these attendants by the Medical Officer is restricted by the pressure of work in the city hospitals and the time needed to travel long distances over bad and sometimes appalling roads.

The Flying Doctor service will use radio and air communications to provide adequate clinical supervision and continual training for local dispensers. The dispenser will have daily radio contact with the Flying Doctor and advice on cases beyond his competence.

In emergencies and epidemics special flights will be made by the doctor.

Medical services will have priority, but other services like education, welfare, agriculture and forestry, and missions will be able to utilise the scheme. Mission hospitals will have radio contact with the Flying Doctor.

The regional government of Northern Nigeria is able to provide only about 2s.3d. per head for health service, as against our £14 per head in Britain, and this inadequate sum must cover salaries of doctors and nurses, training of staff and the upkeep of outlying dispensaries, upkeep of their 40 hospitals.

The care of blind people alone is a tremendous expense and there are millions incapacitated by many other crippling diseases, many of which could be prevented by health education and proper diet.

Only half a million of the eight million children attend school and because of lack of milk, vegetables and other sources of protein, thousands die before they reach school age. The Flying Doctor Service for Nigeria is being run in conjunction with the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.

It is interesting to note that Flying Doctor Service was inaugurated 34 years ago by another Presbyterian, the Rev Dr. John Flynn.

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