Dozens of health advocates on Thursday gathered in front of Asokoro Hospital, Abuja, to protest the death of one of their colleagues, Kafayat Addulazeez, due to alleged medical negligence.
In anticipation of the protest, over 20 police men were stationed at the hospital gate.
Ms Abdulazeez went to the hospital on February 14 for a routine medical check up. She was, however, placed on admission and died in the hospital two days after.
The Ondo State-born 25-year-old was a sickle cell anaemia patient, but her family said she was not going through the crisis associated with the condition at the time she visited the hospital.
The family blamed her death on negligence of health workers in the hospital.
Speaking on the protest, Joseph Osuigwe, Executive Director, Devatop Centre for Africa Development, said the outdoor assembly was not only for Ms Abdulazeez.
He said it was held as a point of contact for other people who have lost their lives because of the negligence and apathy of medical officials.
He said cases such as Ms Abdulazeez’s had been happening in Nigeria but nobody has spoken out.
“Every life is important. We are doing this as a way to call for national action because our health system has failed us,” he said. “Instead of the health system to protect lives and save lives, it is even taking away lives.”
He called on the government to address the challenges in the health system.
“And also for the medical practitioners who are involved to explained to us what happened? What are the tests? What are the result of the tests?
“Let’s know what happened to Kafayat. You cannot just say you gave a proper treatment and you diagnose with no evidence. She came to the hospital on 14 and died the next two days,” he said.
Mr Osuigwe also called on the government to declare a state of emergency on the health sector. He said every Nigerian has a right to medical services and health should be made a national priority.
“It is a right of citizen to have a full treatment and that is our anger. We are using this protest as a first step to show our distress because we want to first have an explanation from the hospital and then amplify to the national level.
“The next step is to reach out to the respective authorities. We do not want to end it here because if we do not take more action, more people will be lost through this way.
“We want to make sure we are having a regular campaign called ‘Fix Our Health System’ because the problem is not just the doctors, but the whole health care system.
“It is not just in Abuja, it has been happening in different states. We are making sure we spread the message that the government should come to the attention of this. There is a need for a state of emergency in the health system.
“If health is not a national priority many lives will be lost. In fact they should declare a state of emergency in the health, we have spent many billions of dollars outside the country because of health issues so government should make it a national priority. It should not be an option, there should be money invested in the health system and medical professionals need to be trained again,” he said.
Also a colleague and a friend of the deceased, Aisha Zuberu, said she was a remarkable person who worked for humanity all her life.
Ms Zuberu also called for the overhauling of the country’s health system.
“Just the way they say education needs to be looked upon, the health system also needs emergency intervention from the government. I have heard so many cases of needless deaths in the hospital.
“Though I was not at the hospital at her time of treatment so I cannot ascertain that she was neglected, the statement from her parent or family cannot be wrong either. If truly, the neglected her, the need to check themselves, doctors need to be checked,” she said.
Ms Zuberu lamented the attitude of some health professionals, citing their use of phones while attending to patients.
“There is no point going to the hospital with phones, there is a policy of putting phones on silence when working, it is a good thing to do. Also if a patient is critically ill, they should give the patients their utmost attention and not say that because they are not related to the president, they do not treat them,” she said.
Hospital management reacts
The medical director of the hospital, Uche Afiomah, later addressed the protesters.
Expressing her condolence to the protesters, families and friend of the deceased, Mrs Afiomah said the hospital did not neglect Ms Abdulazeez at any point.
She said the management of the hospital was also saddened by her death.
“She was duly attended to,” Mrs Afiomah told the protesters.
“She was here on Valentine’s Day at 1 pm and the doctor saw her, examined and put her on appropriate management according to all the clinical and ethical guidelines.
“She was seen an hour later by the consultant physician who also managed her. The consultant physician was on ground 24 hours later to still see her until she succumbed from the complications of her illness.”
The MD said the family of the deceased has requested the hospital to investigate the circumstances under which she died.
She said a clinical audit was ongoing and involved the health and human services secretariat and Servicom.
“Every matter regarding issues raised and the outcome will be communicated to the family and to you in due course. If there are any gaps identified they also will be treated with the urgency deserved from the management and also the health and humans services secretariat.
“Investigation is ongoing and we want to say that Asokoro Discrict hospital discharged every due care to Kafayat, a young lady that everyone loved, is supposed to receive from the Accident and Emergency,” she said.
Health expert/advocate reacts
Reacting on the issue, a medical consultant and health advocate, Dale Ogunbayo, called for proper investigation based on the deceased’s background history. He said her death cannot just be concluded as a case of negligence.
He advised people to learn more about the Patient’s Bill of Rights within the National health Act.
Mr Ogunbayo said every death should be investigated to get the root cause analysis.
He said getting the root cause analysis of every death is the only way the nation can correct things at the health system level and not just on individual case.
He said root cause analysis would determine if the cause of death is either from the patient’s side, financial root cause or from the physician through shortage of staff, equipment or other hospital services.
“As for Kayafat’s case, doing a root cause analysis is important right now. Nobody knows the full truth on the death of Kafayat and every life is important. They have to investigate not because they want to find someone to blame but to know how to strengthen the system.
“The root cause analysis will show necessary steps to be taken to make amendments in the health system. By the National Health Act standard, a root cause analysis should be part of the system to know the root cause of every death in order to bring sanity and development to the system,” he said.