Patients face serious challenges in the process of seeking medical treatment in public facilities such as teaching hospitals all over the country. The hardship faced include; inadequate medical personnel and equipment to treat them, insufficient basic facilities that can make patient stay in hospitals worthwhile. Hence the hospitals which are supposed to provide help for the sick end up adding to their pains.
Investigations carried out by our correspondents in some teaching hospitals across the country revealed that majority of the sick, particularly inpatients, are enduring double trouble. The patients and their relatives, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said the problems they encountered included sleeping on bare floors, following shortage of bed spaces; and inhuman treatment by health workers.
In some of the hospitals, patients alleged that medical personnel referred them to private health institutions. The authorities of some of the hospitals explained that overcrowding of the tertiary health institutions was caused by failure of the primary and secondary health care institutions but the patients and their relatives insisted that they were not doing enough in health care delivery.
A father mentioned that his 18- month old son was asked to sleep on bare floor at ATBUTH. For instance, at the Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi, a public servant, who spoke to one of our of correspondents on condition of anonymity, criticized the medical attention given to his sick son at the hospital. He said when his 18-month-old son was ill and his wife took him to ATBUTH on April 12, there was no bed space for the little boy.
He stated, “They (the workers) ran some tests on him and discovered that he had malaria. My son was to be admitted, but it was so unfortunate that there was no bed space in the hospital. All the beds were occupied and we had paid for a bed space. Later, they took us to one bed at the Gynaecology Ward very close to a bathroom. The place was smelly and we could not stay there.” He said he complained to a doctor, who said he could not do anything “except if we can lie on the bare floor or we should go back to the trauma centre.” The public servant said, “I couldn’t leave my son like that in that kind of condition. Mosquitoes bit my son to the extent that parts of his body were swollen. The electric fans there are not working. There are no mosquito nets and the worst of it, there is no care for the patients by the medical workers. In that hospital if you go there, you may end up dying because of the terrible attitude of the members of staff.”
Another respondent said her father-in-law was taken to a smelly room. She described her experience at the teaching hospital as bad when she took her father-in-law to the hospital.
Idris said, “He was in the hospital for over 38 days but we were asked to go and do some tests in Gombe State, which we did and it was discovered that he had leukaemia. “They then transferred us to a place called Sami-Sami ward and immediately we were transferred there, we were not taken to the main ward. What they did was that they took us to one small room and the whole place was smelly and there was no light there.”
Another resident of Bauchi, Ahmed Mohammed, said when he took his wife to the hospital for treatment, he was asked to deposit N10, 000 but he had only N3,000. “So, I begged the doctors but they didn’t agree. I was sad because I thought she was going to die. I had no choice but to transfer her to the State Specialist Hospital, Bauchi, where she was treated.”
Mohammed said although the hospital had qualified personnel, patients went through a lot of stress trying to make payments before they or their relatives could be treated. He said, “There is a lot of bureaucracy in the hospital. You have to go from one place to the other to pay. Where you will pay the money is different from where you will collect the receipt. After collecting the receipt, you will take it to another place and then they will stamp and sign before you take it to where you will be treated.”
There are no enough bed spaces, says ATBUTH CMD. When contacted, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Alkali Mohammed, said ATBUTH had its challenges like other public health institutions. He said, “As far as bed space is concerned, I am not surprised. We don’t have spaces often. It is not news. One has to look at the circumstances we are in. Agreed, we are a 700-bed hospital, but if you look at the catchment population we are serving, I will say Bauchi has inadequate hospitals.
“If you go to our trauma centre, it is now overstretched because of the influx of patients. Although we are doing an expansion, I assure you that if nothing is done at the primary and secondary health care institutions, we cannot meet the demands in the state.”
The CMD said sometimes, it was the patients that would prefer to lie on the floor when there were no bed spaces. On the maltreatment of patients, he advised those affected to make formal complaints, adding that the management would investigate such cases.
Water scarcity, insecurity at UNTH. Also, investigations at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, revealed that the institution was battling with problems of insecurity and lack of water supply. On several occasions, both patients and medical staff have been attacked by armed robbers inside the hospital as a result of inadequate security. “If you go round the hospital, you will see water tankers everywhere. The water in the tankers is not for the patients, but mainly for the cleaning of the hospital. So patients were required to provide water for themselves,” a patient who gave his name as Onyedikachukwu said. Another patient, Dugwu Hyacinth, said he had been in the hospital for over two weeks and had spent N350 to buy water.
In an interview with The PUNCH, the Chief Medical Director of the UNTH, Christopher Amah, acknowledged that power and water supply had been major challenges of the hospital. Amah said that the management was working hard to address the challenges.
But a relative of a patient at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, who identified herself only as Chinenye, told The PUNCH that mosquitoes bite at the hospital remained a major problem for patients and workers. She said, “Since we came here (UPTH), mosquitoes have been biting us. Mosquitoes bite people here both in the day and in the night. I have been here for a week, but it is only during the day that I sleep. I cannot sleep at night because mosquitoes torment us.”
But a member of staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hospital management fumigated the premises once in a week. Also, the acting Public Relations Officer, UPTH, Elebha Meni, said the mosquito menace in the hospital had reduced drastically as the management had tackled it. Patients accuse UBTH doctors of diverting patients
But at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, one of our correspondents observed that the wards were always overcrowded with patients. One of the patients, who gave his name simply as Osaretin, said the problem of overcrowding in the hospital was an indication that the UBTH had insufficient medical workers. He also lamented the poor treatment meted out to patients by consultants and doctors.
Osaretin added, “Because of the large crowd, the few doctors on the ground are not always able to give thorough attention to the needs of the patients. At times, they will refer you to their private clinics where they will promise you better services, but at exorbitant fees.” Another patient, Kingsley Nwachukwu, who came to the UBTH from Warri, Delta State, lamented inhuman treatment by some workers. Nwachukwu, who described his spleen-related ailment as death-threatening, said, “Another problem is the manner of appointments they give to patients with critical issues. Can you imagine being told that your next appointment is three months away, whereas you are dying gradually?”
But the management of the UBTH, through its Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, Prof Casimir Omuemu, described the allegations as untrue. He said, “This is a general allegation and my first response is to say that it is untrue. The UBTH is currently at an all time high in terms of functionality and our admissions and out-patient clinic visits are increasing daily.
“There is absolutely no need for any patient to leave the UBTH for any other hospital. If such an incident is reported, it will be investigated and dealt with decisively.” Also responding, the Chairman of Medical Consultants Association, in UBTH, Dr Stanley Okugbo, said allegation that patients were being referred by consultants to their personal hospitals was new to him.
He said, “That is very surprising and new to me, because the UBTH is not known for that. We have not heard that before. Maybe some patients may have some issues with the care in the hospital, but as to being diverted, no.” At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, both the patients and medical doctors complained of absence of streetlight which, he said, had worsened insecurity around the health facility.
The President, Association of Resident Doctors, LUTH, Dr Kayode Makinde, told The PUNCH that there was the need to beef up security and provide light in the area where a medical doctor was recently killed by robbers. Makinde told The PUNCH that the problem of patients not getting bed spaces was because the facility had been overstretched. He said, “LUTH was established in 1962, the population of Nigeria has grown astronomically and investment in health has been on the decline. When you compare Nigeria’s health allocation to countries such as Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa, you will understand why they have better facilities and bigger capabilities.”
Patients also complained of lack of bed spaces at LUTH and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja. The President, Association of Resident Doctors, LASUTH, Dr Fatai Balogun, said the lack of bed space was a common occurrence in the hospital and other big health facilities around the world. “It is everywhere, and I can assure you that if LASUTH have 5,000 bed spaces it will be filled up. Government should open up other hospitals and stop putting all the patients’ hope on LASUTH. There is a limit to what LASUTH can do in terms of bed spaces,” Balogun said.
Also, when one of our correspondents visited the Ladoke Akintola Teaching Hospital Complex, Idi Seke, Osogbo, he observed that the hospital was busy with human and vehicular traffic, while the Accident and Emergency Unit, one of the busiest wards in the hospital, was too small to accommodate patients.