The Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba has explained why accident/gunshot victims do not need a police report before they are attended to at any hospital or health facility in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, many health institutions have been reported to have failed accident/gunshot victims taken to them for first aid treatment. Many victims have lost their lives at vulnerable moments by being rejected at the hospital for not possessing a police report or for other reasons given by the health institution.
Recently, a young lady, identified as Ruth was hit by a speeding car. Ruth was rushed to the nearest hospital with hopes that she would be saved. It was reported that the hospital turned her down because she didn’t have a police report. Ruth eventually died from severe injuries sustained because she was not administered first aid treatment at the hospital.
There was also FunmiOdusina, a postgraduate student at the University of Lagos, who was rescued from drowning by her friends at a Lagos beach but was rejected by some private hospitals. She died on the way to the Lagos Island General Hospital. Another victim, Grace Obinna, was violently raped in her Ikorodu home. She was taken to two private hospitals, which refused to admit her. She also died on the way to the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.
Similar incidents included the 2008 case of Saka Saula, the then chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, who was shot in his house. A nearby hospital reportedly refused to treat him and he died on the way to a public hospital. There was also the case of two brothers, Raphael and Felix Omorukhe,who were attacked by armed robbers in Lagos. Felix died instantly, while Raphael survived for a little while, only to die later after he was turned back by private and public hospitals because there was no police report.
More recently, there has been public outrage over the death of a young woman named MoradeunBalogun who was attacked by armed robbers. It was gathered that Moradeun, who worked as a podcast host, was stabbed on the neck by her attackers. She was then rushed to R. Jolad Hospital in Gbagada where she died following the hospital’s alleged refusal to commence treatment without a police report.
Why Should Accident/Gunshot Victims Need Police Report?
While responding to the ugly trend of accident and gunshot victims dying due to a gale of rejection by most hospitals, the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba stated the usual demand for a police report before treatment could be administered is alien to Nigerian law.
“The position of the law regarding incidents where a Nigerian citizen is either shot, stabbed or perhaps involved in a serious motor accident or any other accident for that matter is very clear. Unfortunately, this position has been consistently misunderstood or mischievously misinterpreted by a few. The position of the law is that, if a citizen is either stabbed, suffered a gunshot injury or involved in an accident of any kind whether it’s a road accident, domestic accident or an industrial accident for that matter, if such citizen is rushed to the hospital, the medics are expected, as a matter of fact, by their oath of office to render medical assistance to that person immediately. There is no requirement of the law whatsoever that demands the production of Police report as a pre-condition for the commencement of treatment for such a patient. The only area where perhaps I need to do a bit more of explanation is the gunshot wound. When someone with a gunshot wound is rushed to the hospital, the medical personal on duty is required to immediately commence treatment on that patient without any waste of time. This is one of the cardinal responsibilities of a doctor, a nurse or any paramedics. The only duty imposed on them by law is that as soon as they commenced that treatment or perhaps they’ve been able to stabilize the patient, they are required to communicate to the nearest police station that someone with a gunshot wound is being treated in their facility. The reason for this requirement by law is simple, it is meant to clear particular mischief where an armed robbery suspect…might have escaped from the scene of crime finds himself in a medical facility, get treated and probably escape into thin air. So to suppress this mischief, medical personnel are required to communicate to the nearest police station as soon as the treatment is underway. Beyond this requirement, there’s no restriction on their duty.”
Who should be blamed for the ‘avoidable’ deaths?
In January 1970, there was a considerable number of arms and ammunition scattered around the country, and a large number of young people, demobilized from the army with no gainful employment, resorted to armed robbery as an easy means of making quick money. The robbers who sustained gunshot wounds after gun battles with security officers were sheltered by hospitals that administered treatment to them. So the then military head of state Yakubu Gowon passed the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act into law. The law banned hospitals from responding to emergency cases especially when they involved gunshot wounds.
However, the then military Head of State of Ibrahim Babangida in 1986, due to the increase in the number of the avoidable deaths of innocent gunshot wound victims, the decree was amended and hospitals now had to notify the police if they treated any gunshot victim.
In December 2014, under the new democratic rule, the then President of Nigeria, GoodluckEbele Jonathan signed the National Health Act into law.
The law stated in Section 20 (1) that a health care provider, a health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency medical treatment.
In subsection two, it states that a person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months or both.
Section 30 (1) states that a person may lay complaints about the manner in which he or she was treated at a health establishment and have the complaint investigated.
Subsection also states that the minister, commissioner or any other appropriate authority shall establish a procedure for the laying of complaints within the areas of the national health system for which the federal or state system is responsible.
Paragraph A of Subsection 3 states that the health establishment must display the procedure for laying complaints in a manner that is visible for any person entering the establishment and the procedure communicated to users on a regular basis.
However, worried by the recurring deaths as a result of victims of gunshot wounds being rejected from various hospitals, President Muhammadu Buhari on the December 29th, 2017 assented to the “Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Act, 2017.”
The Act in section one stated from the commencement of the Act, every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive, for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance, any person with a gunshot wound.
Section 2 (1) states that every person, including security agents, shall render every possible assistance to any person with gunshot wounds and ensure that the person is taken to the nearest hospital for immediate treatment.
Section 3 (1)states that a hospital that receives or accepts any person with a gunshot wound for treatment shall report the fact to the nearest police station within two hours of commencement of treatment.
Section 5 states, “A hospital that fails to make a report as required under section 3 of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000.00 and every doctor directly concerned with the treatment is equally liable on conviction to a term of 6months or a fine of N100,000.00”.
Addressing the Ugly Trend
A resident doctor in one of the privately-owned hospitals in Abuja, DrAudu Henry in an exclusive interview with Roots TV Nigeria stated that while no medical personnel would reject an accident or gunshot victim as their oath of office frowned at it, many hospitals lack the basic facility to administer the first aid treatment in some cases and delay could further worsen the situation.
While offering possible options to stem the tide, Henry said “I believe every doctor should have good training in emergency care, with the laws that have been enacted, we can provide facilities where such emergency cases can be referred to instead of driving into any nearby facility. If we have ambulances on standby that can go to such places with well-trained staff that can administer the first aid before reaching where they can obtain the secondary care, it will go a long way in reducing deaths as a result of such injuries.