When Sandra David, a 29-year-old staff of the Bank of Agriculture, was in March diagnosed with gall bladder complications requiring surgical correction, she asked for only a few days off work and headed for the Federal Staff Hospital, FSH, Abuja.
The facility was established by the federal government primarily for the care of its public servants, but also other residents of the Nigerian capital.
“We all expected the treatment and recuperation to take a short period and that she would return to work very quickly”, recalled late Ms. David’s sister, Sophia.
“But days ran into weeks and she was still at the hospital. Rather than tell us the truth about her situation, they waited and waited for my sister to die,” said Sophia, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
PREMIUM TIMES obtained the results of medical tests conducted on Ms. David the first day she walked into the hospital. It showed that she had Cholelithiasis.
The condition entails presence of gallstones in the gall bladder, and multiple uterine fibroid, which refers to non-cancerous growths in the muscular wall of the uterus.
According to medical experts, the treatment of gall stones depends on the stage of the problem when reported; while multiple uterine fibroid had the tendency of causing the patient to develop swollen stomach.
As also indicated by the medical reports obtained from the FSH, Ms. David was expected to stay at the hospital for four days after surgery, before returning home to continue recuperation.
But trouble began after the surgery when Ms. David reported pains in her stomach.
“After the surgery, she was complaining of stomach pains but they said it would be fine,” said Sophia.
“Three days after the surgery, they asked us to go home, that everything was okay. A few days later, she complained (again) of pains but they said she should not worry, that she would get better.”
According to Sophia, her sister’s pain persisted, however, and her stomach grew in size as if she was pregnant. So five days after the complaint, they returned to the hospital and Ms. David was rushed back to the theatre.
“They told us this time that my sister was retaining water and that she lacked protein in her body”, said Sophia.
It was later found that the patient was retaining bile. Her body was opened up again to remove the ‘accumulated water’ and to transmit fluids of protein into her.
But in the process, her sister alleged, the surgeons punctured her lungs, resulting in another complication that caused Ms. David to pass out temporarily.
“Immediately they came in and resuscitated her; but in that process they bruised her lungs, so she had blood clot on the lungs”, explained Sophia.
Ms. David’s treatment at the FSH had by then lasted over three months.
“On June 20, they told us that the hospital staff were on strike and that we should go home. They didn’t even suggest that we take her to another hospital.
“We had to ask for a referral, which they reluctantly gave. But they failed to state the actual condition she was in before leaving the hospital.
“They just said she had a bile leakage. They did not state that they had punctured her lungs and that she had blood clot around her lungs. Such things were not stated,” the sister of the deceased recalled.
Sophia said her family only got the true picture of Ms. David’s grave condition when they arrived the Nizamiye Hospital, the Nigerian-Turkish medical facility in Abuja.
“When we arrived at the Nizamiye Hospital; they told us that she had only about 30 per cent chance of survival; that she would have to undergo several surgical operations which would cost N6 million to N8 million.”
The family managed to raise over half the needed money from after an appeal for help was made to the public through the social media.
But the surgery came too late to save Ms. David’s life.
For several weeks at the hospital, she battled seizure of breath, memory loss and other severe complications at Nizamiye Hospital.
On July 2, 10 days after her birthday, Ms. David suffered another seizure.
This time, it was fatal. She died.
“The doctors came and told us that they were sorry,” said Sophia, her voice cracking from suppressed sobs.
She added that the doctors explained to the family that her sister’s death was caused by complications from the blood clot and the bile leakage which could not be stopped completely.
A surgeon in the team that treated Ms. David at the Nizamiye Hospital told PREMIUM TIMES that the patient’s condition was complicated by the spread of secreted bile around her abdomen and liver.
The surgeon, who preferred anonymity because he is an expatriate who would not like any problems with his Nigerian colleagues, explained that his surgical team tried to remove the excess bile in Ms. David’s body and to create a passageway, to curb the spread.
“We tried to reduce the bile leakage from as high as 650mills to less than 200 daily,” he said.
The surgeon added that the leakage could not be completely contained, because it was difficult to trace the source. He said blood supplements were given to the patient to create a natural healing process. But all the efforts to save her life failed.
“We had told the family that she had an enormous chance of dying, when she came,” said the surgeon. In spite of the nature of the complication; the hospital did its best, he said.
The medical negligence in Ms. David’s death is already being investigated by the regulator, the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council.
Officials at the Council declined to speak on the matter. An official, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on condition of anonymity, said the council had written the Federal Staff Hospital as part of its investigations into Ms. David’s death, a fact later confirmed by a staff of FSH.
OTHER CASES OF NEGLIGENCE
It was not only the David family who had unpleasant stories to tell about FSH, considered one of the top medical facilities in the Nigerian capital. Eddy Pious is another bitter former patient of the hospital.
He told PREMIUM TIMES that he registered with the hospital in 2008. But it was in 2015 that he suffered his worst experience of what he alleged to be the hospital’s inefficiency.
Mr. Pious said his doubts about the hospital first occurred in 2014 when his wife had to be rushed to the hospital.
She had been given a drug, Leonat, for the treatment of malaria. “After three days, she started bleeding profusely and we rushed her to the hospital. They ran a pregnancy test and discovered that my wife was seven weeks pregnant.”
The pregnancy came eight years after their marriage, so the family considered it a special development.
Mrs. Pious received antenatal care at the FSH and had no complications until the last days of the pregnancy. “On May 24 we ran a scan and it was found that my wife was 38 weeks and three days pregnant. That was on a Monday. The following day, she started complaining of pains and it was as though she was going to be delivered of her baby at that point.”
Mr. Pious said he rushed his wife to the hospital but that he had to make a distress call after waiting 40 minutes in the hospital before they attended to her.
“My wife was in pains and I became desperate. I saw on the wall a number for people to call if they were dissatisfied with the hospital for any reason. I called the number.”
He said the recipient of the call told him someone would come over to attend to him. A couple of minutes later, some men walked into the consulting room and confronted the attendants. It was not until then that they demanded Mrs. Pious’ hospital card for her to be checked in, the husband said. “They told us that we should return home after checking my wife; that her pregnancy was not yet due. It was about 1 p.m.so I was very reluctant to take her home. I asked them to admit her, but they refused,” recalled Mr. Pious.
That night, Mr. Pious said his wife noticed blood when she tried to urinate. But when they returned to the hospital, they were again told that she was not due for delivery.
On June 1, Mrs. Pious was finally taken into the theatre for the delivery.
“But when they came out, they told me that my baby had died in the womb, that his heart had stopped”, said Mr. Pious.
“They said that June 1 was her EDD (Expected Date of Delivery), but they also knew that EDD could either be seven days earlier or later. My wife was already 38 weeks pregnant, yet even with the pains, they refused to remove the baby.
“They didn’t even refund the extra charge for the caesarean operation they had suggested, despite the fact that my wife was delivered of the baby without CS”.
Mr. Pious said his family was still expecting a child after the still-birth, and10 years after their marriage.
MORE SORRY CASES
Another patient, John Paul, a lawyer, said it was his wife that prevailed on him not to institute a legal action against the FSH after losing their baby at the hospital.
“My wife had an early labour after 26 weeks of pregnancy. They delivered the baby alive and my wife said she could see her baby breathing after it was delivered.
“But they handed me a dead child in a nylon bag, like everything was alright. They gave no explanations, nor did they attempt to show any sympathy”.
Happily, Mrs. Paul was successfully delivered of a baby a year later in 2015, but not at FSH.
“She had a similar experience when in her 29th week she entered into labour. This time, the National Hospital took better care of the baby and he is a year old today,” said Mr. Paul.
Another patient, who sought anonymity because she does not want publicity, also narrated her experience at the hospital.
The woman, a mother of one, said she registered with the hospital when she was about six months pregnant.
A week after she registered, the woman said she felt ill and went to the hospital to check her health.
“I was actually seeing a private doctor; a personal gynaecologist, but I wanted to be on a safe side so I registered with the hospital.
“A week later, I felt funny so I went to the hospital; they said I had slight pneumonia and they gave me antibiotics. After taking the drug I felt even weaker and I called my brother in-law who took me home.
“That night I felt very bad. I also began feeling pains under me. I returned to the hospital, where it was found that I had contraction. After they discovered this, I was made to wait for about one hour before they asked me to trek through a two-story building, upstairs.
“At the ward, they put a drip on me and abandoned me. There was an ongoing strike action at the time. They said they only had about two nurses available and as such they could not attend to me. Even when my water broke, it took over 40 minutes before they came to me. At that time my baby was already dead,” said the woman.
She further said although she had paid over N50,000 a week before, the hospital was ill prepared for her delivery and almost used a blade to cut her through.
“They were asking for blade to cut me up. Fortunately for me the placenta came out on its own,” she added.
HOSPITAL WON’T COMMENT
For about one month, PREMIUM TIMES tried to get the management of the Federal Staff Hospital to react to the various cases of alleged medical negligence that caused the death of the victims.
In all cases, our efforts were rebuffed.
After a visit where our reporter was blocked from seeing the Chief Medical Director, Chinwe Igwilo, an official letter was delivered on December 5, stating our findings and demanding an interview.
Officials at the hospital on that day said Ms. Igwilo was not in the country and promised to contact PREMIUM TIMES when she returns.
The hospital never got back.
Subsequent calls made through the hospital’s spokesperson, Kayode Olomofe, were initially answered, saying Ms. Igwilo was not around.
Mr. Olomofe ignored subsequent calls and would not reply text messages.
A senior official at the hospital, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that at least one of the cases was being investigated by the management.
“We have already been communicated by the (Ms. David’s) family’s lawyers and the Federal Medical Council is already looking into the matter, so we can’t talk to you about it,” the official said.
“As for the other people, we are not aware of any complaint.”