Sometime in December last year, a car swerved off the Isolo-Egba road in Lagos and rammed into a motorbike with riders.
A lady on the bike was badly wounded in the accident. In fact, her stomach was virtually ripped open with the intestines coming out.
The hapless woman was rushed to a nearby clinic by sympathetic passersby but she was denied medical attention by the nurses on duty.
Miss Iyabo Ogunbamiwo, a 25-year-old undergraduate, who witnessed the scenario, recalls that the woman’s rejection by the nurses could not be justified under any guise.
Obviously, the lady’s rejection by the clinic could have stemmed from past experiences with security agents and other factors relating to issues such as bills’ settlement.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the umbrella body for Nigerian doctors, has repeatedly described such rejections of patients as very unfortunate.
The NMA, nonetheless, attributes the reluctance of doctors to promptly treat accident and gunshot victims to misunderstandings between doctors and security agencies.
A recent forum on “Emergency Response to Victims of Gun Violence and Road Accidents in Nigeria”, jointly organised by CLEEN Foundation, the Lagos State branch of the NMA and the Lagos State Police Command, sought to address the problem.
Dr Adedamola Dada, the Chairman of the Lagos State branch of the NMA, blames avoidable deaths from accidents and gunshots on “buck passing between security agencies and medical practitioners’’.
He says that some doctors had complained about harassments by security agencies after they treated gunshot and accident victims without security clearance.
“There are instances where doctors have been arrested for performing their duties in treating gunshot victims.
“On their own part, the security agencies have blamed medical practitioners for demanding money before treating accident victims,” he says.
Dada, however, says that more lives can be saved if such misunderstandings are duly resolved by all stakeholders.
He adds: “It is, therefore, obvious that we need to forge a new relationship with the police on this issue – a relationship that will entail mutual respect and good cooperation with a good system of communication and witness protection policy.’’
Dada, nonetheless, stresses that doctors have a responsibility to render efficient services, just as patients are obliged to pay for their treatment to enable the clinics to remain in business.
Mr Azubuko Udah, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), stresses the need to arrive at a consensus in solving the “misunderstanding” between security agencies and doctors since anybody can become a victim of road accident or gun attacks in robberies.
He says that part of the orientation given to policemen relates to how to handle matters relating to homicide, gunshot wounds, while rendering emergency services.
“The police have established procedures on how to handle these matters professionally,’’ he says. Udah, nonetheless, stresses the need to fully equip the country’s hospitals to motivate doctors, while the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) should be provided with requisite logistics to enable them to effectively manage accidents.
“The Police Highway Patrol is still in existence but there is hardly any police division that has ambulances to attend to road accident and gun shot victims,’’ he says.
The police chief believes that if the police are properly equipped, they will not be found wanting in the performance of their duties.
The FRSC Sector Commander, Mr Jonas Agwu, bemoans the difficulties which his men encounter when ferrying accident victims to hospitals.
He says that most hospitals often reject accident victims, insisting that a certain amount of money has to be paid before the commencement of any treatment.
Agwu, nonetheless, insists that the FRSC Act makes it unlawful for any hospital to reject accident victims, adding that such offence attracts a fine of N50,000.
He recommends stiffer penalties for offenders, saying that the current fine is too paltry and cannot serve as a deterrent.
“Some hospitals, especially private hospitals, usually give one excuse or the other: either there is no vacancy in the mortuary or some money should be deposited before the commencement of treatment,’’ he says.
Agwu pleads with members of the general public to always stop and render help whenever an accident occurs, adding that the victims could even be their relations or friends.
Dr Mike Ugbeye, a Consultant Trauma Surgeon, estimates the rate of trauma deaths in the country as 1,320 per 100,000 people.
“Most deaths occur within the first hour of injury; often before the patients arrive at the hospital. The causes of death in these cases include severe brain and cardiovascular injuries, for which treatment is of limited value,’’ he says.
Ugbeye says that system deficiencies in the Nigerian environment are largely responsible for the high incidence of trauma in the country.
“Most roads and highways are regarded as death traps, as they are poorly maintained. Pot-holes, black-spots, debris on either side of major expressways are the norm on Nigerian roads,’’ he says.
Ugbeye, who is also the Head of Training, Research and Education, National Orthopaedic Hospital, recommends the introduction of a trauma management programme for the citizens, while road users are mobilised to be more careful.
“There must be information dissemination to the general public, while a trauma management programme should be incorporated into the curricula of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions,’’ he says.
Besides, Ugbeye calls for a review of traffic laws in the country to enhance safety on the roads.
He calls for a total ban on the use of motorcycles for commercial transportation, saying that commercial motorcycles account for most of the accidents on the roads.
He recommends the re-introduction of rail services to help out with transportation of goods, while keeping heavy-duty trucks off the country’s major highways.
Moreover, Ugbeye proposes the production of radio programmes in local languages to educate the people on safety precautions.
“Occupational health and safety requirements must be enforced in all institutions, while the certification of safety in the workplace should be revised at regular intervals to ensure compliance,’’ he says.
He recommends the Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS) course for all officers and men of the uniformed services, including the police, the FRSC, the military, the Customs Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
The citizens certainly expect that all stakeholders will pool resources to ensure safety on the country’s roads, homes and workplaces, while the hapless victims of accidents should be promptly attended to, as part of efforts to save lives.
Ngwakwe writes for NAN