Hospitals in Nigeria are rejecting dying and critically ill patients over fears of spreading the Chinese coronavirus, an investigation by Premium Times found on Friday.
The paper interviewed at least ten individuals who said they themselves, or someone they know, were rejected from hospitals because of a lack of space, resources, and personal protective equipment. Moses Ogidi, a hotelier, shared how a customer staying at his hotel in Gwarinpa Estate fell desperately ill and yet was unable to get her treatment.
“For three days, she didn’t come out from her room so we knew something was wrong. I went and discovered she was critically ill,” he explained. “It was at the National Hospital that I got mad. They didn’t even want to touch the patient or give us any reason for turning us away. They simply refused to admit the patient despite seeing that she could not move … I can’t take her back to the hotel because she was pooing and peeing on herself.”
The woman has since been taken to a private hospital where she is still receiving treatment.
A similar experience was recounted by Rhoda Ameh, a resident in a town just aside Abuja, who was turned down by doctors while suffering from typhoid and a fever.
“I was here about two weeks ago when I was down with typhoid and fever,” she told the Times. “I wanted to see the doctor but they told me that the hospital was not attending to out-patients at the time, only those on admission. I inquired to know why, I was told it was management decision.”
Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on the Chinese coronavirus, admitted to the crisis in May when he told journalists that Nigeria has suffered as a result of hospital’s failure to treat patients with other illnesses than the coronavirus itself.
“The PTF has received rather sadly, reports of continued refusal by medical institutions to receive and treat patients for fear COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus],” he said at the time. “This has resulted in several unfortunate and avoidable fatalities and statistics have shown that there is a drastic drop in the percentage of attention being paid to other [unrelated] ailments. Truth be told, we are having more deaths from non-attendance to other diseases than even COVID 19.”
Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire echoed those concerns, confirming that many people in a critical condition had been rejected for treatment.
“Over the last few days, I have also received reports of very sick persons being rejected at our hospitals. Many have died outside or on the way, having been denied attention in more than one hospital. It is not acceptable that persons lose their lives to health conditions which could possibly have been cured, or may not even have been COVID-19 related.”
The Minister of FCT and I had a meeting today with the medical directors of both Federal and FCT government hospitals in the FCT catchment area, where it was emphasised that no patient be denied treatment or rejected, and that all health workers will be trained and retrained on infection prevention and control and issued PPE and materials required for discharge of their duties.
In addition to this, all government hospitals in FCT will become COVID-19 sample collection sites, so that walk-in cases can have samples taken to be forwarded to NCDC for testing. This assures users and caregivers of reduced bottlenecks and improved efficiency in our response. We intend to scale this up to other states of the Federation.
The country has faced multiple setbacks in its handling of the pandemic. In May, the country’s doctors went on strike in response to a lackluster welfare package that did not include adequate protective equipment. Days later, coronavirus patients broke their quarantine in order to protest the conditions under which they were being held, which included being deprived of food, medicine, and essential care.
Authorities have also enforced bizarre punishments on those seen as violating the nationwide lockdown. That same month, the governor of Rivers state ordered the demolition of two separate hotels for allegedly hosting guests.
Nigeria has so far recorded just under 35,000 cases and 769 deaths, which given its population of close to 200 million is an incredibly low number. Many had advised skepticism towards Nigeria’s official statistics given the widespread lack of testing as well as the government’s propensity to spread false information for their own benefit.