DEBATES over the supposed law that forbids hospitals from treating patients with bullet wounds without a police report re-surface each time a hospital rejects such patient. Many have lost their lives because they did not have a police report, which is not ordinarily easy to obtain.
The police have often denied that such a law existed, yet it would be an issue when the next armed robbery victim is refused treatment at a private hospital.
Stories that a hospital in the neighbourhood where Bayo Ohu, The Guardian Assistant News Editor, was shot refused him treatment, has brought the debates to the fore again. Mr. Ohu died from his injuries.
The police defended the order in the past with the reasoning that it was meant to ensure injured armed robbers do not get medical attention.
It is amazing that while these debates are going on, with loss of lives, a 13-year-old press release the police made on 4 July 1996,Â said medical practitioners can treat cases of armed robbery victims. Saturday Vanguard published the directive:
The Inspector-General of Police, Force Public Relations Department, Force Headquarters Annex, Ijora Causeway, Lagos.
4th July, 1996
“The Nigeria Police is disturbed by various statements credited to medical practitioners as regard treatment of victims of gun injuries or motor accidents.Â Medical practitioners have the cardinal responsibility of caring for the injured and the sick, according to the ethics of their profession.Â The Nigeria Police will in no way be an obstacle to this important duty.
“Accordingly, the Inspector-General of Police has directed all Police personnel throughout the country not to molest any medical practitioner treating victims of gunshot or motor accident.Â Members of the public are also at liberty, as good Samaritans, to assist victims of motor accidents as part of their civic responsibilities.
“The need for security consciousness no doubt makes it imperative for medical practitioners to notify the police at their earliest possible convenience, the presence of such person(s) in their clinics or hospitals.
“This is with a view to clarifying the status of the injured person(s).”
(Signed): Tunji Alapini,Â Assistant Commissioner of Police, Force Public Relations Officer.
Are hospitals aware of this or refused to follow the directive which also covered provision of medical services to accident victims. It is also possible that while the police sent this press release out to the media, no official copies went to the Nigerian Until another death â€¦(NMA), which would have directed its members to comply.
We suggest the police should immediately dispatch this notice to the NMA, which we believe would inform its members of this latest impetus to save lives of armed robbery victims.
Fears of abuses should not be good reasons to waste more lives. Cases of hospitals or medical practitioners found to be in violation of the provisions, including the need to inform the police, should then be treated in the same manner as those abetting armed robbery.
We hope the matter is finally settled.