This morning, I was driving towards Yemetu in Ibadan and I saw a Keke Marwa rush into the UCH 2nd Gate. Inside was a woman with a dangling foot that’s almost severed from the upper part of her leg. It’s an horrific emergency but then I realized an emergency is not always an emergency in UCH.
I know a bit about that tertiary health institution. The accident and emergency unit is one of the scariest places I’ve ever been. The most unfortunate part is that you don’t see paramedics rushing out with gurneys and wheelchairs to wheel an emergency patient straight to the treatment room. The patient remains in the vehicle that brought him or her while an emergency staff comes to make observation about the severity of the case. I guess there’s no facility to cater for everyone at once, a situation that is symptomatic of the rot and inadequacies in our health delivery system.
For about 4 months in 2009, I was a regular visitor to UCH while battling an illness so I was able to observe some of the ways things work. The stress on patients and their minders is incredibly high. Last year, I had another visit to UCH. I was at Iyaganku to visit someone in police detention when I saw an acquaintance based in Oyo at the police station. He had a blood-soaked bandage across his head which covered one of his eyes. When I approached him, he narrated how he suffered a gun shot wound to the eye at a ceremony in Oyo three days before.
I asked if he had been to the hospital and he responded that he had been referred to the UCH but that the police had requested him to come and make a statement. I approached the IPO and berated him for considering a statement above the medical care of a gunshot victim. I took the man in my car and set out for UCH around 1.45 pm.
We arrived about 20 minutes later. He was not attended to until around 6 pm due to confusions about the unit that would treat him. In fact, we made payment somewhere and we were later asked to go for a refund so that we could pay elsewhere. The said victim couldn’t get a bed until about 10.15pm, about 8 hours after we arrived.
I remember the sad case of Alhaji Rashidi Adebayo Salawu (alias Atingisi). He was shot by an apparent assassin in his house in Oyo and then rushed to UCH. On his bed, he personally gave a statement about what happened in his own beautiful handwriting yet he later died in what could be considered as medical negligence. You’ll wonder how a very conscious victim who had the energy to write his own statement would die a few hours after. In fact, when someone was later charged for his murder and the prosecution sought to tender his statement as dying declaration, the court rejected it as such because it felt Alhaji Atingisi’s statement could not be said to have been made spontaneously as he was deemed not be in reasonable expectation of death! Yet he died.
Recently, a close individual who had settled down in the United States arrived Nigeria for the Ileya festival. One night, he was returning from a visitation to a friend’s place and crashed into a stationary refuse truck parked without C-caution. While it was sad that he was trapped in his vehicle for several hours with no one to rescue him until about 5 am and then rushed to UCH, he was not immediately attended to. Issues of payments before treatment, tests etc delayed proper procedures until around 10 am by which time it was too late. He passed away.
I also have a case of a beloved who passed away because even as an in-patient, he couldn’t be placed on dialysis machine early enough as the machine waited to be cleaned and then rested before being deployed for the treatment of the beloved.
Around the South-West, UCH is the pre-eminent hospital yet sad tales of negligence are recurring decimals. One hopes someone somewhere will read this piece and cause a positive turnaround.
Olagunju, who represented Oyo East / West state constituency between 2015 and 2019, is a lawyer.