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Health care: Stakeholders calls for rapid treatment for crash, gunshot victims

Poor medical response to cases of emergencies especially to accident and gunshot victims has become a major concern to stakeholders in the nation’s health sector.

Stakeholders are of the view that prompt response and quality of healthcare given by some medical practitioners have over time become questionable. Negligence of patients who are mostly accident and gunshot victims at private and public hospitals had for some time resulted in the deaths of many patients across the country.

The inability of good Samaritans or family members who take road accident or gunshot victims to hospitals to present police reports has led to needless deaths as some health workers would refuse to attend to them.

A case in November 2022 prompted an investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of a former Commissioner for Information in Niger State, Danladi Ndayebo, at a specialist hospital in Minna. Ndayebo was involved in a motor accident along the Minna-Suleja road and was rushed to the hospital but reports linked his death to negligence on the part of health workers.

The situation prompted the inauguration of a committee by the government to look into the matter after the state government expressed concern about response to emergencies in public hospitals.

Also, in an earlier report, the family of one Tunji Adebara, alleged in 2022 that when he and other passenger were rushed to a general hospital in Lagos after sustaining injuries from a road accident, some of the hospital workers were said to have requested the contacts of Adebara’s relatives instead of attending to him. The delay, it was alleged, led to the death of the printer who was said to be in a semi-conscious state at the time he was rushed to the hospital.

The victim’s wife, Tola said when the family discovered that Adebara was among the victims of the accident at the Library bus stop, along Ayangburen Road, they rushed to the emergency ward of the hospital where the doctor in charge told them that he was brought dead.

Though there are laws mandating hospitals to handle emergencies, some health workers feared having issues with the police treating accident or gunshot victims.

Sections of the Nigeria Health Act stipulated punishments for medical providers who neglect victims of emergencies. This is further enshrined in the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act, 2017. The Act mandated medical facilities to accept victims of a gunshot for immediate treatment without a police report.

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In April 2022, a member of the House of Representative, Jude Ngaji, moved a motion against the increase in the reports of medical negligence in the country which he attributed to lack of sufficient medical practitioners and infrastructure to cater for the medical needs of the people. He decried such a development, saying despite the increasing number of victims, there was a low level of formal complaints and lawsuits for compensation due to factors such as ignorance, poverty, and reluctance to seek redress against such erring medical practitioners.

In his comment on the issue, President, Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Uche Ojinmah, said it was the duty of a medical practitioner to carry out a resuscitation for a victim during emergencies whether a police report attesting to the cause of accident was presented or not. He added that after treatment had been administered on such victims, the doctor could then inform the police about the case rather than neglecting the victim.

He said, “When there is a gunshot, the doctor also needs to know whether it is a legitimate one and when they ask about that they run away but the doctor will need to start resuscitation. When you are doing resuscitation and you have stabilised the patient and those that are supposed to bring the police report did not do so, report it to the police yourself. The truth is that there is an Act that supports treating those victims but many people have had a bad experience when they went ahead to start treating people to look for a police report.”

He stated that people, especially the helpers of a victim, often absconded whenever a police report was requested, noting that most of them do so to evade harassment and unnecessary interrogation by police.

Ojinmah appealed to the police that though extant law on such cases protected both an emergency victim and his or her helper, the police should obey the provision of such laws to reactivate Nigerians’ intentions and desire to assist a dying accident or gunshot victim.

According to him, Nigeria has found itself in a situation where citizens lack emergency medical ambulance services, hence the need to encourage people to render help when they come across such victims.

He added, “People abscond when they ask them to bring a police report and that is the major problem, especially when people do not follow the law that they are supposed to obey. Making that law is good but our police should try and respect the provision of the law. The ball is on the table of the police to tell their members to respect the laws of this country. The police should obey the contract of the law.’’

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Asked whether it was ethical to the medical profession for health workers to neglect gunshot or accident victims, the NMA president noted that it was wrong for a medical practitioner to abandon a patient or victim.

Ojinmah noted, “They are not supposed to abandon them but hand them over to someone of a privileged cure to take care of them. It is in the pledge that medical practitioners should take care of themselves when the victim or his or her relatives are violent. In the situation where we are now there are no emergency medical ambulance services. We are our own ambulance services so 10 minutes is just the difference between living and dying for a bleeding victim. The most people can do is to help any accident or gunshot victim and make sure you take care of yourself too.”

Also, spokesperson for the state police command, Benjamin Hundeyin, explained that the command had often urged caregivers to see gunshot victims as their responsibility, adding that the law permitted them to treat a victim before reporting to the police.

He said, “There is no law that says they shouldn’t treat those victims. We have made the announcement countless times that every caregiver has the responsibility to save lives and inform the police later especially when it is a gunshot wound. They do not have to ask for a police report before treating somebody because that is the position of the law on that issue.”

He stated that there was a cordial relationship between the state police and the leadership of the NMA, saying medical practitioners should also be publicly chided when they failed to be professional at their duties.

He added, “In Lagos State, we have a robust partnership between the police and NMA. The chairman of NMA in Lagos often speaks with me almost on a weekly basis. People should also call out doctors for being unprofessional at their duties just like they do to police when they misbehave. We have told the leadership of NMA to issued a joint statement informing doctors and many of them don’t ask for police report before treating victim what they do is to treat them and call the police that “see, I’m treating something like this,’’ so the few ones that failed to do that should be called out and reported to the NMA.’’

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In his view, Force spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, said it could be as a result of selfish interests when doctors decided to reject an accident or gunshot victim.

He noted the position of the Force was that medical practitioners could accept victims of accident or bullet wounds, adding that during or after treatment either the Divisional Police Officer or the Area Commander in their vicinity could be informed.

Adejobi said, “The police have come out point-black to tell them that it is not proper if they reject accident victims or victims of bullet wounds because of lack of police report. The police have told medical doctors that they should accept the victims and that while treating them, they should call either the DPO or the Area Commander closer to them and inform them about it and from there police will take charge. When on admission, if any doctor is rejecting such victims, it is for his or her own selfish interest or other reasons. Most times they only reject and hide under the pretence of telling them to get a police report. They should attend to all patients whether they are accident or gunshot victims.’’

On the claim that some cops often harass doctors for treating gunshot or accident victims, Adejobi stated that their men had been enlightened to go beyond harassment of fake and quack doctors practising illegally, adding that such individuals should be reported to the regulatory body.

He stated, “Majorly, most of the doctors that say police harass them are impersonators. They might be fake doctors or lab attendants who just opened a clinic and are doing certain things. You can’t be treating bullet wound victims without telling the police. It’s going to be a sort of conspiracy. We have corrected cops that if you notice a quack doctor or someone who is practising illegally, it is not enough for police to harass them. All they need to do is to call the relevant regulatory body to assess the person. It is not professional to just go there and start harassing them. The best thing when they notice such a person is to call the regulatory body to assess and take necessary actions. The right thing must be done.”

He further said that the fear of the unknown was the only reason people found it difficult to offer assistance, adding that lack of adequate investigation process was a contributing factor to the problem.

 

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