Grieving journalist narrates how doctors abandoned dying son; teaching hospital launches probe

Main entrance to the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi.

Authorities at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi, say they have launched an investigation after a seriously ill seven-year-old boy died after doctors denied him a life-saving emergency procedure for more than 18 hours.

In an unusual step, the hospital management paid a condolence visit to the boy’s family Thursday, where it announced a panel had been set up to review the troubling case.

Yusuf Abdulkareem, son of PREMIUM TIMES Maiduguri-based assistant editor, Abdulkareem Haruna, was admitted to the hospital early Monday of intestinal complications resulting from typhoid.

Mr. Haruna said his child arrived at the hospital 7a.m., yet despite his emergency situation, which included a perforated and blocked intestine, was not given any medication until 5p.m.

A planned surgery to unblock and repair the intestine was never carried out for more than 18 hours after when the boy passed away.

The hospital initially complained it would have difficulty rallying doctors for the procedure, and suggested referring the case to hospitals either in neighbouring Gombe or Plateau States.

It later confirmed it could conduct the operation. But as the situation deteriorated, the hospital suddenly announced the operation would have to be postponed to the next day, without giving reasons.

Meanwhile, doctors and nurses on duty provided no temporary measure to help the boy’s failing system, as he continued to vomit, while his condition worsened, his grieving father said.

When he slipped into crisis at about 2 a.m., gasping for breath, none of the two doctors on duty was available to help stabilise him.

A doctor, who had apparently been sleeping somewhere within the premises, only showed up nearly two hours after the boy had passed about an hour later.

“God gives and takes life, but they never gave our son the care we rushed him there to get,” Mr. Haruna said.

He said the “unprofessional conduct of the doctors and wicked attitude of some of the nurses towards our son and many other patients at the ATBUTH shouldn’t go unpunished”.

Emergency surgery

The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa hospital, named after Nigeria’s first prime minister, was established in 2010 after then Bauchi state government converted its former Specialist Hospital, Bauchi, to a tertiary hospital.

Residents of Bauchi say the hospital that should serve as a referral health facility has barely improved on its services in the last seven years, lacking in basic equipment and personnel.

The hospital is dogged by allegations of medical negligence that has led to several avoidable deaths.

Mr. Haruna said he arrived the hospital on Monday at about 7a.m. after his son spent the previous night complaining of severe abdominal pains.

“I was asked to go and do scanning of his abdomen, which I did,” he narrated. “The scan showed he had infection in his stomach and that the intestine had some blockage and perforation which prevented the child from passing stool from about two days.

“Despite that finding, which ordinarily demands an urgent surgery, nothing was done on him in form giving fluid or drip to stabilise his failing veins. It was at about 5p.m. that the child I took out of the house by 7a.m. was given any form of medication,” the father said.

Mr. Haruna said the head doctor in the paediatric unit later confirmed that the child would need surgery, but said he was unsure if a surgical team could be quickly assembled due to lack of doctors. He muted the idea of referring the case to Jos Teaching Hospital or Gombe Federal Medical centre.

The family would later be told the operation would be done in the hospital.

A partially relieved Mr. Haruna said he was asked to carry out several blood tests, which he did.

But events took a more horrible turn when the head of surgery department later arrived to examine the child that evening, but saw no need to rush him for emergency surgery that he needed. Rather, the surgeon said the procedure would be delayed till the next day.

Things would get even worse.

“The nurses on duty on that night didn’t give my son his medication even when my wife pleaded that the boy was due for his next medication at 2am,” the father said.

When the boy later went into crisis and was gasping for breath, none of the two doctors on duty was around.

He said a rusty oxygen machine they tried to use on him failed to work. Only one of the nurses responded while the second who was the senior refused come to help.

“My son died in the hands of my wife; not the nurses, because they gave up on him as they could not do what the doctors ought to have done had they been around. The nurses could not reach them because they said they did not have the doctors’ phone numbers,” the father said.

On Thursday, the hospital management, led by Abubakar Kadas, chairman of ATBUTH medical advisory committee, visited the bereaved journalist’s family and promised an investigation. He acknowledged things had not been professionally done.

“We are sorry about what happened and we come here to assure you that we have set up an internal panel to investigate the issue for appropriate disciplinary actions,” Mr. Kadas told the family.

“We as a management of the Teaching Hospital Bauchi don’t normally do what we came here to do. But your son’s case is a special one and that is why we are here to express our sympathy,” Mr. Kadas added.


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