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How hospital’s negligence caused death of Nigerian undergraduate

About six hours after he was brought to a public hospital, a student injured by armed robbers was not treated by hospital staff, witnesses have said.

The student, Abiodun Babatola, eventually died.

Mr Babatola, a 200-level student of the Department of Management and Accounting at the Obafemi Awolowo University, could have survived if the police and school hospital management acted promptly, students and staff have said.

We gathered that Mr Babatola, who resided at ‘Adam and Eve’, one of the hostels in the outskirts of the university, died at the University Teaching Hospital around 9 a.m. on Saturday, December 22 after sustaining a machete cut on his head.

Witnesses told this newspaper that the late Babatola was rushed to the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital (OAUTHC) around 3 a.m. on Saturday.

Upon arrival at the teaching hospital, Mr Babatola was denied treatment by the management of the OAUTHC who insisted on presentation of his school identity card, we learnt.

Nigerian law mandates that all emergency cases are treated promptly and even prescribes fine and jail sentence for hospitals and their management that fail to treat such cases. But that did not deter the OAUTHC, whose officials refused to explain their actions when confronted by this reporter.

”He was not attended to because the teaching hospital said they cannot confirm his studentship and they were asking for money for blood. Perhaps, if he was with his ID card, he would have been treated. They abandoned him,” a friend of the diseased who accompanied him to the hospital said.

A classmate of the deceased who pleaded anonymity said the insistence of medical personnel at the teaching hospital cost Mr Babatola his life.

”We were writing test on Saturday morning when we heard about his case. What we heard was that his ID card was not available and the hospital did not permit the doctors to attend to him,” he said. ”He loves (loved) to relate with people but unfortunately, we heard the irregularities at the teaching hospital did not help the situation.”

A witness, a staffer at the school, who did not want his name in print for fear of being victimised, told our correspondent that the deceased was left unattended to for six hours before his death.

He said, “At the teaching hospital, they did not also attend on time. I followed them to the teaching hospital and got there around 3 a.m. but they did not attend to the boy till he died in the morning around 9 a.m.”

Police, Security Arrived Late

Apart from the hospital staff, university security officials and police did not also arrive on time “due to the poor state of their vehicles.”

“It was on Friday/Saturday night that it happened at Adam and Eve. The police were handicapped. They don’t have vehicle but arrived late with okada (motorcycle). In fact, the Chief Security Officer of the school had the need to use his private car to convey the boy to teaching hospital.

“The truth is the irregularities of the university and the police did not help matter. If the university has a sound hilux (van) to attend to emergency, even the CSO may not have used his car,” the staff who witnessed the incident said.

A witness, Akeem Alao, told our correspondent that the deceased was injured on the head with a cutlass wielded by the robbers. He corroborated the staffer on the lateness of the police.

“We have been witnessing robberies before now but not a deadly account like this. We called the police but they did not come on time,” he said.

Hospital Evades Enquiries

Meanwhile, the management of OAUTHC has been evasive in explaining their stance. Officials of the hospital did not confirm or deny the allegation of negligence but chose to pass this reporter from one person to another.

When CAMPUS REPORTER contacted the office of Chief Medical Director, Victor Adetiloye, at the teaching hospital, his personal assistant who spoke with our correspondent said enquiries should be directed to the public relations officer of the hospital.

”I am the personal assistant to the chief medical director but I will direct you to the PRO of the hospital so that you can speak with him,” the official said.

However, when CAMPUS REPORTER reached out to the PRO, Oluwakemi Fasoto, she refused to take responsibility (of responding) and redirected this reporter to the CMD.

“You will speak with CMD and he is the only one who can speak on anything relating to the office.”

When CAMPUS REPORTER told her the CMD office instructed us to call her, she said: “He is the one that will respond”.

Subsequent calls to the CMD’s office were not answered.

Also, speaking on the incident, the police area commander in Ife, Folorunso Adegboye, was silent on the report that they arrived at the robbery scene with a motorcycle and late.

“There was a robbery attack in one of the private residences occupied outside. Unfortunately, I don’t know the cause of the attack. He has (had) an injury in the eyes during the attack and was rushed to the OAUTHC where he died.”

He, however, said the police is making ‘serious efforts’ to get the suspects.

When contacted, the school’s spokesman, Abiodun Olanrewaju, told us on the telephone that he was unwilling to ‘speculate’ on the issue.

“I was not there and I don’t want to speculate in relation to that. All I know is that it is painful to lose our student.

“The university prays to God for the parents for the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. So, losing someone is not an idea of shifting blames. We don’t do that. The guy is no more and we should respect his spirit. That’s all I want to say,” he said.

Hospital’s Action Illegal

Meanwhile, the hospital management acted in contrary to provisions of the National Health Act.

Signed into law in 2014, the act, which came to effect in 2016, provides that hospitals shall not refuse persons treatment in emergency situations.

Section 1, part 3 of the law provides for ’emergency treatment’ under the “Right and Obligations of Users and Healthcare Personnel.”

It states as follows:

“(1) A healthcare provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency medical treatment for any reason whatsoever.

“(2) Any person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000.00 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both.”

Irate Students

Reacting to the development, the Great Ife Action Committee blamed the university administration and Nigerian police force over the failure to provide adequate accommodation and security for students.

“We condemn the unfortunate incidence and strongly hold that there is no other place to put the blame than the doorstep of the university administration and Nigerian police force who have consistently failed in their primary duty of providing adequate accommodation and security for students.

“The incidence is not an unexpected event to us, as we have always raised the dangers and insecurities that abounds in town residences against the arbitrary accommodation policy imposed by the Ogunbode-led administration, but it fell on deaf ears of the university administration,” the activist group said in a statement.

Troubling Pattern

The incident at OAU appears to show a pattern emerging in Nigerian universities where the poor attitude of university staff causes the death of students.

In October, Austin Okafor, a 300-level student of Entrepreneurship at the University of Benin died due to alleged negligence of staff of the institution’s teaching hospital.

In September, at the University of Abuja, Precious Joshua, a 100-level student of the university died due to poor implementation of mandatory National Health Insurance Policy for students.

In the case of Ms Joshua, students and staff alleged that the inability of the school clinic to offer her emergency treatment caused her death at the university teaching hospital despite the efforts of doctors.

Also, in May, a final year Pharmacy student of OAU, Yusuf Abidoye, died of abdominal pain.

His close friend, Oluwasanya Akanmu, a 500-Level Pharmacy student, recounted how the deceased battled to stay alive.

He blamed Mr Yusuf’s death on the then strike by university health workers who are members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).

Accommodation Challenges

At least 72.2 per cent of OAU students live outside the campus as there are only 7,217 bed spaces available in the school’s hostels.

This can only cater to a minimal percentage of the 26,000 estimated number of undergraduates.

OAU has eight halls of residences for undergraduates which have bed spaces as follows: 1,524 bed spaces in Awolowo Hall; 1,198 in Fajuyi Hall; 880 in Angola Hall; and 560 in ETF Hall for male students. This equals 4,162 bed spaces.

The other four female hostels have 3,055 bed spaces with Moremi Hall having 987 bed spaces; Alumni Hall, 402; Mozambique Hall, 1,166; and Akintola Hall, 500.

Following the school’s new accommodation policy of decongesting the halls and banning unauthorised residency early, this has led to drastic changes.

Before the new policy, a room officially for six occupants could have between nine and 12 or more persons illegally.

Some rooms now have four occupants and many which in the past accommodated between nine and 12 authorised occupants, now have six.

This has led to many students like the late Mr Babatola settling for alternative accommodation outside the campus.

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