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Patients, relatives complain of poor services as facilities wear out at LUTH


LUTH front gate

LUTH front gate

Management blames situation on ageing facilities, over burdened with cases
supposed to be handled at primary, secondary care levels

40-year-old Mr. Godwin Ebodagbe was rushed to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) with gun shot injuries sustained after a robbery attack at a facility in Agbara, Ogun State, where he was posted as a Police officer.

Ebodagbe was admitted into LUTH’s accident and emergency room on the November 19, at 4:13pm with an eight-hour history of gunshot injury at the back with associated bleeding from the gunshot wound.

The police officer with hospital number 658887 was resuscitated with intravenous fluids, analgesics, antibiotics, and his blood was obtained for investigations.

The Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon who was in charge of Ebodagbe’s case, Dr. Israel Akinmokun, noted that Ebodagbe was diagnosed of gunshot injury which affected his spinal cord. The surgeon later asked him to do thoracolumbar radiographs and abdominopelvic ultrasound scan.

Two days later the specialist discovered that he was yet to do the CT myelogram as requested. “I explained to him that the decision to intervene surgically would be based on the availability of this investigation,” said Dr. Akinmokun.

But the patient replied that finances were the problem. This revelation prompted the doctor to ask him why he was not on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as many of the public servants.

He later encouraged him to ask any of his colleagues to help him. The following day, one of his brothers arrived and decided to take care of the cost of the CT myelogram.
But rather than doing the scan recommended by the surgeon, the radiologist suggested that Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) should be requested.

“I wrote a small note to the radiologist on the reason for the choice of investigation but a reply insisted that MRI would be better. I was later informed that the MRI machine has been down since Saturday, 21st, November. I, thereafter, sent a request by text message to the Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) to allow the patient leave the premises for the MRI investigation by 1:26pm…

“He eventually had the MRI done on Wednesday, November 25, and was admitted and transferred to ward E2 that same day. The brother discussed his concerns about what he overheard the radiologists saying about scattered rays but I assured him not to worry about that. The brother was to return for the MRI report later that night.

“On the November 26, I was informed that he requested for a referral to University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan due to proximity to his place of abode and that of his relations. His request was granted and a referral letter was written to that effect. He left after completing his clearance.”

But the patient and his relatives differ. They complained of the attitude of the health workers and the insistence that an MRI test, which costs about N70, 000, must be carried out before a surgery was performed on Ebodagbe.

Because of the poor services including the non-functional MRI and delay in conducting the surgery to extract the bullet from the police officer’s spine, the family said, they decided to move him to UCH.

The Ebodagbes are not the only patients dissatisfied with services received at LUTH. Complaints are enormous, from ageing infrastructure to high cost of medical treatment, bad attitude of health workers, dirty environment and toilets, and water scarcity.

There are also complaints of non-functional surgical theatres and long list of patients waiting to have surgery. Some of the patients claim they have been on the waiting list for as long as eight months.

Some relatives of patients say the consultants assigned to patients rarely come around to see their patients.

A daughter to a LUTH patient, Mrs. Chinwe, narrated to The Guardian her experience when her mother, Mrs. Gladys Ifeyinwa Nwangwu, was on eight-week admission at the hospital.

She noted: “In March, my mother was admitted and had a major surgery on her right leg. She was later admitted into ward B1 of the hospital that same evening.

“As the closest relative around her, I went through both pleasant and unpleasant situation in LUTH.

“The first stage of torture was the long-distance trekking one must embark on every day to get prescribed drugs which one can hardly find at LUTH pharmacy. Sometimes you may have to go as far as Mushin just to get a drug – and the prices are often exorbitant. It is so frustrating that we relatives end up fallen sick even before the patient recovers.

Chinwe also complained about the attitude of auxiliary workers at the hospital. “They are often unwilling to assist the sick person, and you may need to give them tips to do something as basic as giving the patients a hand.

“Due to high number of backlogs of patients that have either missed their appointed dates of operation or they were rescheduled due to doctor’s strike, the patients will have to commence another process of admission.

“The toilet facilities inside the ward are at deplorable state. Visitors and relatives don’t have access to use toilet facilities within the ward; except you go outside to use the public toilets at designated points. So we briskly enter fast food joints nearby to use their toilet facilities and end up patronising them.

“Finally, I need to note that the same stress you encounter during the process of admission into the ward is also equivalent to the period of discharge. The process of discharge is so cumbersome because it requires that patients keeping all the official receipts being issued since the first day of admission. The receipts for prescribed drugs, blood, laboratory test, scan results, ward/bed, nurse fees, surgical fees and others must be presented to each department for proper record before a certificate of discharge certificate can be issued.

“After going through series of unpleasant and unbearable encounters during my mother’s admission, I was sick for almost two weeks before I fully recovered from the stress.”

These complaints made The Guardian to examine the situation at LUTH.

It was found that the hospital until recently was using only three of the six-suite modular surgical theatre. However, the theatre is now closed and under refurbishment. The hospital, however, is making do with departmental surgical theatres.

It was also gathered that the federal government poorly funds the institution. In fact, a source that prefers anonymity said that the subvention they get from the government is only enough for paying salaries, that 90 per cent of the funds used in running the hospital come from internally generated revenue. The source said, the situation has made the hospital to go into so many Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to remain afloat.

During the visit, The Guardian noticed that the second gate is under locks and key, and was surrounded by heaps of dirt.

Also, toilets within the building were in a mess – the floor was unclean, water closet and hand basin were damaged, and tap control and toilet door were broken.

Notwithstanding, patience seems to be satisfied with the competence of the medical personnel. From interactions with few patients in various sections, it was observed that services offered at the hospital were adept, reliable and on time. One particular patient waiting at the lobby who requested anonymity expressed his satisfaction on how the doctors were always prepared to listen to their complaints and ready to provide solutions or refer them to areas where they will be attended. He said one event that fascinated him was when someone crying in paying was rushed to the hospital.

“I was impressed the way the doctors were quick to her response and ready to help her unlike another general hospital I was at last week where everyone was acting nonchalant and the doctors behaved like they were disturbed,” he said.

Another reporter’s experience at LUTH is not so different. Following rumour surrounding the poor state of things that should be of benefit to the patients and the lack of some basic infrastructure at LUTH, a surgeon who pleaded anonymity said the speculation was untrue when The Guardian visited the hospital last week.

Undoubtedly most recognised and patronised hospital in Lagos, when visited, our correspondent observed a calm atmosphere among staff of the hospital, as daily activities went on normally, although there were complaints from wards and patients on the delayed activities of the health workers, poor hygiene of the toilets and other facilities in the hospital.

A patient who pleaded anonymity expressed his sadness about the unsatisfactory performance of some medical consultants in the hospital.

“To be sincere, I have been in this hospital for close to five days now and the consultant has only visited our ward just once which is not a good thing. He came in for few minutes and left without a word to those of us who have been here for hours to be attended to,” he said.

The patient further complained on the breakdown of some machines in the hospital.

“Another annoying thing is that their machine has been faulty since yesterday and up till now they have not done anything on it. The response we get from them is ‘our machine is faulty, until we repair it, only then can we carry out the test,’ which should not be after all it is a matter of life and death.”

Also, another patient who spoke in confidentiality disclosed that the cost of drugs is expensive.

“I am just surprised at the rate they sell their drugs here. The cost of medicines that should be purchased at cheaper rate is sold at expensive rate, whereas you get the same drugs cheaper outside. LUTH is not a small hospital, which everybody knows, the more reason the drugs should not be expensive. For example, the drug you can purchase at N8, 500 in the hospital, you will get same drug at N7, 000 which is unfair,” she said.

She added that the condition of some of the toilets in the wards is poor and advised that proper hygiene should be maintained so as to prevent the spread of diseases and sickness.

Meanwhile some patients and their relatives commented on the poor attitude of some of the medical staff towards patients.

“They display this ‘I don’t care’ attitude in them towards their patients and visitors. Our presence here is to get treated and even ensure our relation also receive their treatment and then go back to resume our normal activities. If we pay attention to their attitude towards us, we will make a fight but we just have to let go so that our treatment will not be halted,” they said.

They also visibly expressed their anger on the processes of the management towards patients, which they say is unnecessary as they keep referring one from either one department or ward to another before they can fully be attended to.

However, some cleaners who were sighted heading towards the taps complained of the distance.

When our correspondent approached one of them and demanded for some water to clean up a stain on her dress, the cleaner expressed, “what do you want the water for because the place far and we can not waste any droplets of water, I am not sure you can not even follow us down there.”

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