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Abuja lawyer’s death in hospital causes disagreement

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie and Sodiq Omolaoye, Abuja
04 January 2022   |   2:44 am
There are worries over the cause of Abuja based lawyer, Barrister Ernest Elaigwu’s death at Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Jabi, Abuja.

There are worries over the cause of Abuja based lawyer, Barrister Ernest Elaigwu’s death at Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Jabi, Abuja.

Consequently, his colleagues and family have rejected the cause of his death as given by the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja.

Elaigwu, was until his death the Head of Chambers in the Law Firm of A.A. Ejembi and Company (Enene Chambers).

He was on December 26, 2021, reportedly admitted to the Emergency Ward of FMC jab on a referral and died on Wednesday, December 29, despite treatment administered by the hospital.

In a letter addressed to the Chief Medical Director of the hospital and signed by Barr. Aba Ejembi (Principal Partner), Enene Chambers, the family and colleagues of the deceased said they suspected an attempt at corrupt practice few minutes after his death.

The letter dated January 1, 2022, obtained by The Guardian on Sunday added that the deceased did not die of COVID-19 as alleged by the hospital in the death certificate.

It reads in part: On December 26, 2021, Ernest St. Louis Elaigwu, was admitted at your facility, the Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, Abuja on a referral. He was admitted to the Emergency Ward.

“Upon his admission, a COVID-19 test was immediately administered and the result came in as negative. Other tests, including scans, were also administered. Unfortunately, despite the treatment administered by the hospital, at about 8:30 am on Wednesday, December 29, our Learned Friend passed on to glory.

“However, what we suspect was an attempt at corrupt practice began to unfold a few minutes after his death. First was the delay in taking his corpse to the morgue. After an inordinate delay, the family and colleagues present were informed that it was necessary to conduct a Lassa fever test on the body as they suspected that it was the likely cause of death and that the family should make payment for the test.

“The family and colleagues countered that at no time, for the four days that their brother and learned friend was on admission was Lassa fever ever suspected and that if it was, then the level of medical negligence exposing everyone to danger, was inexcusable.

“At that point, the request for money to conduct any Lassa test was abandoned. Secondly, the mortician informed family members that there was going to be some delay as they had to properly kit up to enable them to take the body to the morgue.

“After waiting for a long while, the mortician and his team appeared in their white regalia with an ambulance to take the body. They proceeded to put the body of our deceased learned friend in a body bag despite the spirited protestation of members of the family and colleagues present.”

According to them, on December 31, when the family members went to the hospital to get the death certificate, they saw to their utter shock and dismay that the cause of death on record was Perforated Typhoid and COVID-19.

They added that this is despite the fact that a COVID-19 test was administered and turned out negative on December 26, 2021.

They, therefore, demanded the immediate withdrawal of what they called the false and offensive alleged cause of death as being COVID-19 related while calling on the hospital to issue a certificate bearing the true cause of death, which according to them, throughout the treatment regime was said to be typhoid related, among others.

“We seek immediate removal of the body of our learned friend from the body bag as his cause of death does not warrant such treatment.

“Release of the body to the family to enable his young wife, his 2-year-old son, his parents, other family members, colleagues and friends to pay their last respects and bring about closure,” the letter added.

When contacted, Head, Clinical Services, FMC, Jabi, Dr. Joseph Eziechila, on behalf of the hospital, condoled with the family of the late Elaigwu for the death of their loved one.

While admitting that a COVID-19 test was conducted on the deceased when he was brought to their facility, he told The Guardian that it was only a rapid test that was conducted on him due to some symptoms, he showed, and which he tested negative.

The doctor informed that only the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has the facility to carry out comprehensive COVID-19 tests.

According to Eziechila, such a test could even prove negative, while the patient is in the true sense, positive until Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is conducted.

He added that in the course of the treatment, NCDC was contacted to carry out a comprehensive COVID-19 as well as Lassa fever tests but unfortunately, he passed on before they arrived.

Speaking on the reason for depositing him in a body bag, the doctor stated that any patient with such suspicious symptoms should be deposited in a body bag to reduce the risk of contamination.

According to him, depositing the remains in a body bag does not in any way diminish the personality of the person, but a way of curtailing risk of infections by medical personnel and other patients. “The global standard is even double body bag”, he said.

“NCDC collected the sample from the morgue and the result came two days ago. The barrister tested positive to Lassa fever.”

He stressed that it would have been unprofessional to pronounce that he died of COVID-19 when the test result stated otherwise.

According to him, if the late Elaigwu had tested positive to any of the two diseases, he would have been transferred immediately to any of the facilities that treat such as the facility is not yet accredited for the treatment of either Covid or Lassa fever.

“If it was a confirmed case, we wouldn’t have kept him. Yet, we cannot transfer any patience to Gwagwalada for such treatment until it is confirmed by NCDC. If we had transferred him on suspicion, no hospital will accept him”, he stated.

He also denied knowledge of the hospital demanding money for the conduct of Lassa fever test, stressing that since it has no facility to conduct such a test, the hospital wouldn’t be in a position to demand service charges from the family.

The hospital is very sorry for the death of Ernest because it is not easy to lose a beloved member of a family,” Eziechila added.

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