On August 1, Nigeria lost a promising young medical doctor, Diasco Vwaere to death, in what was a completely avoidable situation. Vwaere was undergoing her mandatory one-year internship programme, known as housemanship at the Odan general hospital and had less than two weeks to complete the programme.
She had graduated from Babcock University and her life was literally just getting started until a poorly maintained elevator cut short her dreams and with it, brought untold pain to her family and friends. As we commiserate with her loved ones on her demise, we join calls to demand for justice and not the usual cover-ups and endless blame games.
Doctors are demanding justice for the needless death of their colleague, and so are we. Since the unfortunate incident, several individuals have come forward with accounts on social media platforms that the elevator had been faulty for years but no one cared to fix it.
The unsafe, unnecessarily hazardous environment in Nigeria has been a leading cause of medical doctors’ exodus to places like the UK
The Medical Guild via a tweet in 2020 had called the attention of Akin Abayomi, Lagos Commissioner for Health, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the first lady of Lagos State who is also a public health expert and former chief medical director of Harvey Road Comprehensive Health Centre in Yaba, as well as the Nigerian Medical Association to the issue of this faulty elevator.
Three years of inaction later, it has claimed a life. BusinessDay also reported that just last month, a group of doctors wrote to the hospital administration, warning them that the elevators were a safety hazard.
The hospital management has been reported to dismiss complaints, sometimes reportedly asking those who were so keen on activism to leave medicine for politics to try their luck on fixing things. The cynicism and lack of duty of care by those in charge of managing this facility like virtually every other establishment in Nigeria, is yet another reminder of why the status quo must change.
Dr Vwaere came crashing down from 10 floors, stuck for 40 minutes as frantic efforts were made to force the elevator open, and upon rescue, in a building full of medical workers, her life couldn’t be saved. Not because the many doctors there didn’t know what to do, but as reported, because there was no blood.
Her death must not be without punishment for all those whose actions or inactions may have led to the unfortunate incident. Someone and if possible, several persons must pay for this loss of life.
Top on the list of those who must answer for this must be the Chief Medical Director of the Odan general hospital. The CMD must answer for the negligence that led to a faulty elevator claiming a life, and threatening even more over the years it had been faulty and reported.
Also, it has been reported that Benjamin Olowojebutu, chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State zone, says the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA) should take responsibility. He is said to have claimed LASIMRA has the responsibility for managing public infrastructures in the state and does not report to the CMD. Whether this is true or not, the head of this agency and every field staff that would have been responsible for this hospital must be held to account for their part in the tragedy.
Also, BusinessDay reported a claim by the Medical Guild that the process of installation of the malfunctioned elevator was done by a contractor who did not have an elevator system installation certification. This contractor and the process leading to them being awarded the contract must also be investigated.
Sheriff Oborevwori, Delta State Governor, in a statement said Dr Vwaere, a native of Ewu Kingdom in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of the state, died because the hospital management failed to maintain their facilities. We agree with him, likewise his call on the Lagos State Government and the police to investigate the matter thoroughly to forestall a recurrence.
On its part, the Lagos State House of Assembly inaugurated an eight-man committee to investigate the accident. We expect this investigation would be one of the rare instances that thoroughness will be done, and justice served in the end.
Also, Kay Adesola, national president of the Association of Nigerian Private and Medical Practitioners (ANPMP) told BusinessDay that the rate of death among medical workers, especially doctors has become historically high in the last couple of months due to high burnout rate.
We are again reminded that the unsafe, unnecessarily hazardous environment in Nigeria has been a leading cause of medical doctors’ exodus to places like the UK, where they get to work in peace of mind, and with financial rewards too.
Doctors have had to go on strike to demand payment for allowances, including workplace hazards, but with every unfortunate incident like this, the country will continue to lose more of the already limited medical staff.
The lives of medical doctors must matter in Nigeria, even as they work to save the lives of millions of Nigerians. Despite the unpleasant work conditions they find themselves in, many have continued to work by self-motivation, and we should not give reasons that dampen their morale. For the safety of our doctors, we demand justice is done in this unfortunate, preventable accident.