Controversy trails death of health advocate in Nigerian hospital

Asokoro district hospital
Asokoro district hospital

Kayafat Abdulazeez woke up February 14 with plans to enjoy the lovers’ day with her fiance.

The 25-year-old, who lived at Mpape area of Abuja, dressed up for work in a black jean trouser and a T-shirt. But she decided to first go for a medical check-up at Asokoro Hospital.

According to her sister, Jamila who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, Kayafat worked at Transcorp Hilton Hotel and was in a high spirit that Thursday morning.

The Ondo State-born health advocate was a sickle cell patient, but had not had a crisis for a long time.

“That was why she went to the hospital on her own for a routine checkup,” her sister said.

“On that Valentine’s Day morning, she just felt she had to go to the hospital to do a checkup. Our younger brother went with her.”

But Kafayat’s trip to the hospital turned out to be her last.

Jamila said her sister died from medical negligence at the hospital, which failed to carry out the tests that could have saved her life.

But the hospital management in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES denied any negligence during Kafayat’s stay at the facility.

“We did the best we could for her considering her background history.”

Jamila said she was told Kafayat had been admitted to the hospital around 1 p.m.

“I went after work to see her. Initially she was stable, but her pains started, and she was taken into the emergency ward. Then, doctors ran tests on her and took her blood samples. After she was taken to the emergency ward, I went home around 11 p.m to get food.

“When I came back in the morning, she was already on oxygen. But the tests result was not available because the laboratory people could not find it until the doctors came and said they were with it.

“The doctors said they had to repeat the test and I took the test back to the lab. After about an hour, the result came in, and the doctor referred her for an X-ray. She was still on oxygen, but the pain had reduced that Friday morning. She could not breathe on her own.

“At the point of referral, the doctor said she should be put on urgency list. Then the hospital said they didn’t have mobile oxygen and that was where it all started.

“From that time until about 6 p.m, they were yet to do the x-ray because there was no mobile oxygen, according to them.

“However, I am sure they have mobile oxygen because I saw them using it on another patient at the emergency ward. Every drug prescribed for her was just for malaria. Even the nurse was complaining before giving her the drugs.

“The oxygen they brought was not working well, and the ambulance team said they do not give out their own for any reason. They kept saying they didn’t have mobile oxygen when I saw them using it on other patients. They later brought the oxygen she used that Friday evening.

“But throughout that night, again she was not attended to. They kept going back and forth, pumping drips into her.

“There was a time they came for routine checks; the consultants were just asking for information about the patient, and that was all.

“That Friday night, the oxygen she was using on her bed was switched off from somewhere else in the hospital and nobody knew. Kayafat could not breathe well again.

“At midnight, the patient was trying to remove the oxygen from her nose because it was not working again. This happened twice in the night and all they kept saying was that they did not know who switched it off.

“In the morning there was no consultant at all to treat her. They said they were thinking of preparing her for the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). She died at about 10 a.m on Saturday and that was when the consultants led almost about 10 doctors to treat her,” she said.

Advocates to protest medical negligence

Some of Kafayat’s colleagues, friends and health advocates are planning a protest to the hospital on February 21, to “call for action on the health care system” in Nigeria.

They said Kafayat died due to apathy, nonchalance and carelessness of the medical practitioners.

Speaking on the aim of the protest, Joseph Osuigwe, a human right activist, frowned at the attitude of the medical professionals who attended to Kafayat.

“Everyone has a right to the health care they need, which includes access to all medical services. It is important to know that access to proper health treatment is a human right. Denying people treatment is an abuse of the rights of citizens. Lack of value for the life of a patient is a violation of the right of the patient,” he said.

Mr Osuigwe said the emergency unit of the hospital did not treat Kafayat’s case with utmost urgency it required.
“Though medical practitioners are humans and can make mistakes, they cannot be exonerated when they take lives for granted. Of course, we appreciate medical professionals who have been showing total commitment to their calling to save lives.

“We are doing an outdoor assembly for Kafayat to do a national call for Action on our health system, not just because of our colleagues, but for those who may fall victims to such negligence.”

Mr Osuigwe said the protest would “demand an explanation from the hospital management on the death of Ms Kafayat; call attention to the poor healthcare system in Nigeria and call on the government to swiftly revamp the healthcare system.

“We cannot close our eyes to this fact, and we cannot pretend everything is normal because there is an urgent need to fix our health system. We want the #fixourhealthsystem campaign to continue until a proactive action is taken by the government to address these issues. A lot of things are wrong in our health care system,” he said.

Hospital Reacts

Reacting to the allegation of his hospital’s negligence, the Medical Director, Asokoro Hospital, Uche Afiomah, said Kafayat’s death was an unfortunate incident which she wished did not occur.

Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, she said the hospital did as much as they could do for the deceased based on her ailment and her background history. She denied that the patient was neglected at any point at the Accident and Emergency unit.

“It is sad that her death happened in this facility because we have been trying our best to make sure that no patient dies in this hospital due to medical negligence. I monitor the hospital activities myself, and I can say I trust my staff always to do what they are meant to do.

“We have 24-hour coverage at the A&E. We are also probing deeper into the case to make sure that the cases raised by Kafayat’s relatives do not reoccur again,” she said.

Mrs Afiomah said while it is unethically for the hospital to discuss the deceased with people who are not her relatives, she said the deceased was attended to at the A&E by two consultants, a cardiologist and a nephrologist among other medical officers. She said there were also nurses and other health workers on the ground who attended to Kafayat.

“All drugs prescribed were in the hospital and were administered to her. There is a pharmacy in the hospital where all drugs are available. There is also oxygen at the A&E. There was no point she was without oxygen nor had no care.

“The doctors and nurses offices are right in the A&E. As for missing records or report, we have an electronic health record system. We use electronic records so there is no way a report can be missing,” she said.

The head of clinical services at the hospital, Nnabuchi Chidi, who was also present at the MD’s office at the time she spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, said there was no time Kafayat was not attended to at the A&E, as the unit runs shifts.
“We think it was an inevitable death due to the inherent nature of the illness with the background issues. She had other background issues. In the morning she passed on, a medical officer was with the parent explaining to them her condition.

“Go and find out her medical history from the parents. For this case, she was not mismanaged or neglected at any point,” he said.

Mrs Afiomah said Kafayat’s case was not beyond what the consultants could handle.

“It is unfortunate that she passed on. With her medical history, we tried our best. The A&E does an internal audit, and I am sure they will audit what went wrong. We go extra miles at this facility for our patients. The truth is that we have limitations, but it has to do with space. But when it comes to care, we try as much as possible to give care,” she said.

Ineffective National Health Act

Kafayat died less than two weeks after a Nigerian university undergraduate, Paul Akpala, died at the National Hospital Abuja due to alleged negligence of the staff of the hospital.

The National Health Act provides how emergency medical cases in the country should be handled.

The Act, in section 1 Part 3 on ’emergency treatment’, said; “A health care provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency medical treatment for any reason. A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.”

Jamila, also a health advocate who works with Project Pink Blue, said she is aware of the National Health Act (NHA) as a body of laws signed in 2014 to address health issues such as that of her sister.

The Act provides a legal framework for the regulation, development, and management of Nigeria’s health system.

However, she said she had no plans of taking the matter up because of their mother who is still in shock over the death of Kafayat.

The grieving mother is a widow bringing up five children until Kayafat’s death.

“All we want is accountability so that other people will not die like my sister due to the negligence of this hospital,” she said.

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