By Adedotun Ajayi
Ever heard stories where a gunshot victim in Nigeria dies because the hospital refused to treat him without seeing a police report or people dying avoidable deaths because police report could not be provided in that emergency period. I’m sure you must have heard many stories on such unfortunate deaths in Nigeria.
An accountant, Odiri Onosigho, had lost his life after being shot during a robbery operation at First Gate bus stop, Festac, in the Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State last week.
It was learnt that the robbers suddenly appeared and shot the 32-year-old in the chest while attempting to dispossess him of his phone.
His friend Michelle and some good Samaritans rushed him for treatment but hospitals rejected him because of the absence of a police report.
According to Michelle, she said “So, we left the government hospital and rushed him to a hospital, but they rejected him there too. They also took him to two other hospitals, but he was similarly rejected. All these hospitals were asking for a police report”
Another one of such stories was the story of Mr. Christopher Ojika, aka Scanner, who died one of such deaths in Port Harcourt in October last year. He was shot by armed robbers at the ATM while trying to make a withdrawal to fix his vehicle. He was taken to three different hospitals and was not treated by any of the medical personnel until he gave up the ghost.
Just recently, a young lady, Moradeun Balogun who was stabbed in the neck by armed robbers on her way back from work in Lagos was reported to have been rushed to a hospital and wasn’t attended to because there wasn’t any police report.
Mr. Precious Owolabi was reported to have been shot on duty in Abuja. He was also rejected by the nearby hospitals which led to his death.
These were few out of several other cases that did not attract the attention of the public when things like this happen and the life of the victim is in danger, the next logical thing to do is to rush the affected person to a place where his life could be saved which is an hospital. Happenings like these could be much avoided if only everyone is aware of the laws and, such is ready to play his or her part.
That leads to a question that eagerly begs for an urgent answer. Should an hospital request for a police report before treating someone whose life is in danger because of a bullet wound? Should an hospital even reject any patient at all?
According to Leye Adedeji, Medical Doctor and a public health educator, who said sometime in 2017 the Nigerian Senate passed a law which made it a crime for hospitals to refuse to treat gunshot victims in Nigeria. In his words he said, “Firstly, hospital followed the instructions given by the government to attend to victims of bullet wound not until the police begun to harass and in some cases arrest medical workers for treating gunshot victims under the pretext that these gunshot victims were criminals (and had been injured in gun battles with the police) and therefore by treating the patients, they were assisting criminals”
“In 2014, the National Health Act was passed, and it provided in Section 2 that a health care provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency medical treatment for any reason; and a person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100, 000.00 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both.
With the passage of that law, you would think that the issue of refusing treatment of gunshot victims would have been put to bed. But it wasn’t, after the passage of the law, hospitals still refused to treat victims without a police report, because police will still definitely harass them for carrying out their duties.
“Therefore, in 2016, the House of Reps introduced this bill to categorically deal with the issue and put it to bed: Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Bill 2016. It was passed in the House of Reps and sent to the Senate for concurrence.
“Once the bill is finally a law, there is no excuse for medical practitioners not to treat victims, or for the police to harass medical practitioners for treating victims. If a medical practitioner refuses to treat a gunshot victim, he or she can be held liable for negligence and can be sued.
But the question is, whether the law has been effective or not?
A medical practitioner (name withheld) in his words said “It is a logical thinking if we give it a deep thought. a patient was rushed to the hospital 1am with bullets wounds or has been stabbed. Logically medical personnels would think this person is a criminal that was shot or was in an unwanted place and was stabbed. There are first aid medications that can help reduce the pain till the police are involved, to me taking care of such patients can be risky, because police will definitely come to ask questions”
According to Phil Obaisi, Medical strategist and consultant, in his words, said every hospital is to receive and treat gunshot or bullet wound victims without police clearance, even without payment of an initial deposit, such hospital is duty bound to report to the nearest police station within two hours of commencing treatment on the victim.
“I see no reason why anybody with a gunshot wound should be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment by any person or authority including the police or any security agency. The first duty of medical personnels is to save lives, the police and security agents should stop harassing hospital personnel and let them carry out their duties respectively, at least until the person with the gunshot wound is certified okay and no longer in need of medicare by the Chief Medical Director of the hospital where he is receiving treatment. Then after the person is healthy, the police can carry out their investigation and receive or arrest such person”