Over the past three weeks, I have been inundated with calls and social media messages from relatives of patients who were denied medical care or whose care has become irregular due to COVID-19 regulations. During the total lockdown, reports of movement restrictions against patients and health workers by law enforcement agents were common. At present, the rejection of seriously ill patients is apparently at an epidemic level.
About three weeks ago, I received a phone call from a friend whose Lagos-based in-law in his 40s was in respiratory distress after a few days of illness. They had called Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), samples were taken for COVID-19 testing and result was being awaited. But no hospital would admit him for treatment. I personally called the medical directors of a couple of private hospitals in Lagos. From what I gathered, I can confirm that private hospitals no longer admit severely ill patients. They said those who managed patients that were later diagnosed of COVID-19 were criminalised, blackmailed and their facilities shut down for three weeks by the government for doing so. No other hospital wants to risk such treatment.
I have been dealing with another case in Lagos where a man with fever, diagnosed and treated for “malaria and typhoid fever” was not getting better. They contacted NCDC four days ago and yet to get a response. The patient doesn’t eat and no hospital has agreed to admit and treat him. The family is frustrated, panicking and scared for his life.
Furthermore, the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is also costing lives. This has taken the life of Wisdom – a young man I know personally. He was knocked down two weeks ago in Lagos and was reportedly taken to General Hospital Isolo. He was conscious after the accident and suspected to have fracture. He probably lost so much blood, became breathless and was asking for oxygen. He didn’t get needed help and had to move to another hospital. Before a serious intervention could happen, he died.
Some weeks ago, I secured an intervention in a case of a 20 year old cancer patient in Enugu who alleged that her treatment became irregular because of the COVID-19 measures. More so, a colleague also drew my attention to how she lost a relative in Abuja last week who was moving from one hospital to another, after being rejected, till he died. These are just some cases in which I was directly contacted. There are many others that I have heard from my friends in the media.
The data on victims of these tragic outcomes of COVID-19 control measures on potentially COVID-free patients is not being tracked, so we may not know the magnitude. However, the implication is that a known asthmatic who has an attack may likely die because private hospitals will reject the person for the fear of being shut down because of the regulation against managing COVID-19 patients. Public hospitals may also reject patients because of a lack of PPE. Known hypertensive patients with left heart failure and fluid congestion in the lungs may suffer a similar fate. Anyone of us or our loved ones may have a health emergency and may become a victim.
I am really concerned about this and I pray that the authorities take action on this without delay. I will be forwarding this piece to relevant authorities and platforms until a positive outcome is achieved. If you read up to this point, please kindly do same – forward the message to influential quarters until something good happens. Government must keep doing all that is necessary to #MakeOurHospitalWork for everyone anywhere in Nigeria. Citizens should also play their part by holding government and health workers accountable.
May God bless the efforts of the leaders of the Covid-19 control in Nigeria and grant them more wisdom to do what is right and life-saving in every circumstance.
Dr. Laz Ude Eze is Convener, MakeOurHospitalWork Campaign