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

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

    Ben Ezeamalu’s sister was a victim of this failed government. This is yet another case of Abdulkareem Haruna’s son.
    When will you people end your propaganda for a failed government?
    We have heard severally how you people and your APC government tout their critics as losers and looters, who criticise this government.
    Please note, that i am not rejoicing over the death of your son, but a concerted call for this inept government to seat up earlier may have saved the life of the child.
    They do not want restructured Nigeria, neither do they want self-determination campaigners to go. They would rather things continue on a downward slide as their legacy to Nigerians of their time.
    The next moment they talk about hate speech, for a people who have no brain to lead.

    • GusO

      You are rejoicing over the death of Mr. Haruna’s son. You’re are callous.

      May the Soul of his Son rest in peace.

  • chinedu

    This experience is about normal in Nigeria today. The so called tertiary health institutions are overwhelmed as a result of so many factors. They lack modern diagnostic and treatment facilities like radiation machines. The primary health centres are inexistent. Private hospitals are unaffordable. Our people have the tradition of reporting very late to the hospital. There are a plethora of problems but the most important appears to be the attitude of the government officials who engage in medical tourism for themselves and their families for even common ailments like malaria. This obviously is done with the people’s tax. I sincerely thing that if they have been facing the same scenario as being reported here,the needed change would have occurred. If they had lost their children, wives or even themselves,the changes would have been made. The way forward will be to restrict all government workers including the president from embarking on medical tourism.


  • Senator D

    This is the many reasons Bubu goes to London for ear and teeth check-up…Sorry for your loss bro… Losing a child is NOT something I wish for even my enemy…

  • Braithwaite Umenta

    Meanwhile both locally and overseas trained doctors are jobless, walking our streets. Some years ago it was easier to see 10 political science degree holders jobless than to see 1 doctor jobless, today a lot of doctors are unemployed. Yet you go to hospital, doctors are inadequate, tell the management to employ doctors, they tell you no resources to pay new employees, tell the government to increase allocation, they tell you there’s no money, may be government should do a partial privatization of our tertiary hospitals, this will help, i know it will be more expensive, but it is better than losing a loved one due to lack of personnel and equipments . No doubt our government has been a bad manager. Take heart Mr Haruna, in Nigeria only the rich find it easy.

  • Du Covenant

    Why is this facility called a ‘Teaching Hospital’ in the first place?. Based on what has been reported here alone, is it not scary to learn this is how our young generation of doctors get trained?. If the ‘head of surgery’ missed the gravity of the situation in case despite the initial sloppiness, how long has this ‘head of surgery’ been practising medicine?. Too many questions than there are answers when it comes to the Nigerian situation. May his sould rest in peace!…

  • tsunami1earthquake

    I don’t know what these doctors learn during the various medical trainings. The nation has barely come out of doctors not treating trauma patients without police report to this kind of screaming case of medical negligence.

    In any civilized society in which Nigeria is one, there must be a balancing of acts to provide justice; and that’s why the law of tort exists in our law books. The situation does not end with mere visits by the Hospital Committee to commiserate with family of the deceased. No, the hospital must be made to take full responsibility for the tort committed.

    Accordingly, the family of the deceased must sue the doctors on call for negligence where the hospital would be vicariously responsible. This is what the law in any civilized society demands. By the time hospitals began to realize that they could be sued for negligence, everybody in the hospitals would have to sit up and wake up to their responsibilities.

    And, without prejudice to any court action, the Nigerian Medical Council would have to wade in and question the wisdom of the doctors involved in this shameful act. If possible, they could suspend or terminate their practice licenses.