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BusinessDay

Protest forces hospitals to step up response but doubt lingers over sustenance

Vaccine production: Buhari asks Osagie for progress report

Hospitals stepped up emergency responses, particularly to gunshot victims, in the wake of the violent twist to the #EndSARS protests across Lagos and Nigeria last week.

But many still doubt that the positive development will be sustained in the aftermath of the protests.

Given the scattered violence countrywide, Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, ordered all federal tertiary hospitals not to reject any patient with evocative injury on account of inability to pay for service, to avoid needless loss of lives.

As opposed to demanding that victims of gunshot wounds present police reports and provide deposits, hospitals were quicker to save victims’ lives this time, focusing on the case at hand.

Some analysts consider it a smart way of averting the anger of rampaging citizens at a time when the national mood was already tensed up.

Both government hospitals and private hospitals rose to the occasion, with some organising makeshift tents to save victims who grew in number within a short period.

Read also: Unfortunate turn of #ENDSARS protest to dampen FDI inflow possibilities

The Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), which is the largest tertiary hospital in Lagos, only needed information on what transpired to roll out emergency actions. The triage system was effectively accelerated to speed up intervention.

To expand its capacity to admit fresh emergency cases, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja and the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute-Metta erected tents outside their medical and surgical emergency wards.

Kelechi Otuneme, LUTH’s public relations officer, speaking on the development, assured that the hospital has structures in place to sustain prompt clinical intervention during emergencies.

“During COVID-19, LUTH has treated more than 500 patients without charge. We dedicated about 120 beds to COVID-19 patients. There have always been positive trends and we will continue to sustain it,” Otuneme said.

“All over the world, there is no hospital that has adequate space for accident and emergency. When the emergency is filled up, patients have to hold on until we admit some of the ones in the emergency or discharge them,” he said.

Despite a ‘Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act’ signed in 2017, accident and gunshot casualties in Nigeria still die due to hospital rejections.

In 2019, Othniel Anselm, a Twitter user, narrated how his sister and her friend who were hit by a drunk driver died after a Nigerian Air Force Hospital in Jos, Plateau State, failed to attend to them without a police report.

But following the shootings at the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday, October 20, private hospitals including Grandville Trauma Centre, Ajah; Doren Specialist Hospital, Ajah; Reddington Hospital, among others, were quick to respond.

However, not much could be done immediately in the instances of victims whose degree of injury needed an X-ray assessment or blood donation.

“The #EndSARS movement and the #EndSars protests have taught us that we have each other’s back. May God heal the wounded, console the grieving and heal our fatherland,” Doren Specialist Hospital tweeted in a show of empathy with victims.

When the #EndSARS protest shifted focus from police brutality to other perennial social problems, health reform was listed among the fresh set of seven demands of protesters from the Federal Government.

They asked that the government declare a state of emergency on the health sector and increase budgetary allocation to the health sector by 50 percent.

“We demand mandatory health insurance for the vulnerable population in our society as NHIS is not doing enough to serve all Nigerians. We demand that adequate provision be put in place to protect the rights and privileges of physically challenged citizens in Nigeria,” they said in one of the requests.

They also demanded proper implementation of the National Health Act of 2014, including the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.

If the government yields and implements these demands, one of the ripple effects will be to save more Nigerian lives through healthcare systems kitted with the right tools and technology to respond to clinical emergencies.