By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
The recent brutal assassination of Guardian Newspaperâ€˜s Assistant News Editor, Bayo Ohu triggered off criticisms and condemnations against the attitude of hospitals in Nigeria towards victims of gun shots.Â Â In fact, many people, both within Nigeria and abroad rose stoutly in total condemnation of the lingering act of inhumanity being flagrantly displayed by hospital authorities over such serious cases.
The Police swiftly defended itself through their Inspector~General, Ogbonna OnovoÂ who, not only directed doctors to treat such victims, but assured that his men would not be an impediment to the crusade.Â Â Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also rose with one voice and quickly drafted a bill to checkmate such ungodly act of mans inhumanity to man.
While they are still working on the bill,Â the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) asserted the readiness of their members to toe the part of sanity but with a proviso that they should not be allowed to bear the brunt.Â Â They also pointed out the inherent danger their members who compromised in the past were subjected to, especially on the hands of members of the gang of wounded criminals who usually turn back to terrorize doctors for informing the Police.
In the midst of these arguments and counter~arguments, a Non~governmental Organisation, Crime Victims Foundation of Nigeria (CRIVIFON) described the hullabaloo as â€œRhetorics without actionâ€.Â Director of the Foundation, Mrs. Gloria Egbuji told Crime Guard that something concrete should be done now or the argument will continue without positive results.
â€œThere is no difference from what they said when we started this fight in 1998 and what is happening today.Â Â The fight has been on but I donâ€™t see any changes.Â This is why I received the directive given by the IG, NMA, now additionally NAS with mixed feelings.Â Though I am happy that the issue is been put in the front burner but not quiet convinced that anything positive will come out of it.
The issues there is saving human beings.Â The hospitals had not been willing to save lives of accident/gun shot victims brought to the emergency wards because of police report.Â These are issues that, a split second can save the life of the affected person.Â Â When we started, weÂ identified that the issue is critical to victims of crime and those who become victims of crime may not necessarily be the criminals.
Much as we are not fighting for the criminals to be saved but we are fighting so that peopleâ€˜s life should be saved because you can not be hiding under the pretext that you donâ€™t want to save the lives of criminals and then you left the innocent victims to die because in most cases, if it is criminals,Â their members have a way of smuggling them out some where to save them.
But in this case when people are helpless, they are going through the trauma of the crime that befall them and then they run to the hospital to get their lives saved.Â Â The doctors are there deciding whether to act or not to act.
For us, the issue is very-very devastating and disturbing because in this country where victims donâ€™t have any kind of remedy what so ever, you donâ€™t have that remedy that can be done with the trauma of crime then you now face the issue of losing a loved one.
It is so traumatic and no civilized country should allow that to happen .Â If we do,Â itÂ means we donâ€™tÂ value the lives of human beings.Â I expect that people should rise. I expect the doctors to carry placards and go on strike for this.Â Â Let them do some thing very significant if they know they are serious but they are just talking.
â€œWe are looking forward to that bill at the Senate coming through.Â Â Already, I have people, we are discussing with some group from far away London.Â Â I have been communicating from USA.Â Â They have been writing to me, they feel so torched about this.
And all those people who have been victimized by hospitals, who lost their lives for failure to be treated, we are going to take back.Â Â We are going to sue those people to court.Â Â So, we are eagerly waiting for that bill to be passed so that we can now be armed to sue those people and then get remedies for those people.
When we talk of remedy, how much remedies can you get but at least we can use it as an advocacy and see how we can find solutions and end to this matter.
â€œWell, this is what we find every day in Nigeria, when issues come to public knowledge like that, you will find the organizations concerned, each person will be running to the other side.Â As far as I am concerned, the whole organizations haveÂ roles to play.Â The police will say we have not said this, the doctors will say they said that.Â So, it is so obvious, police are very powerful.
No doctor wants his hospital to be closed down but still, if I were aÂ doctor and I have taken that oath, I donâ€™t mind, let police come and close my hospital.Â Â I will rise and people will support me.Â And the police are sitting down in their office saying they have issued a directive on the issue.
People still doubt their sincerity. So, I think police should go a step further than just making that directive because they know that IG is in Abuja.Â Â Â Commissioner is in the commandÂ officer and the big managers are there.Â Â The people who are very close to those people, the hospitals that people will normally run to may not be the commanders who issue that directive.
So, there is need for them to go the extra miles.Â And we are suggesting a form which we want the whole hospitals to have.Â Police should sign up to that form so that treated victims should fill this form, complete it and return it to the nearest police station.
â€œAnd then be ready to defend themselves or even raise their voice so that the public can come to their assistance.Â Â Although,Â some doctors are saying that one of their reasons for refusing victims may not necessarily be because they are criminals.
They are saying they need insurance coverage.Â Â That the Federal government should go ahead to provide more facilities for the hospitals, they should provide insurance coverage for such doctors and set up a funds that if you able to save lives of victims that were unable to pay, at the end of the day, you can claim an amount from such fund which the national health insurance can provide for those doctors.
By that you are providing securities so that some of those doctors we spoke to who are saying that supposing we treat people and they were unable to pay, some of the facilities we use to stop all these bleeding are very expensive.
Supposing we are not able to replace our money what happen and the person says I have no money what do you do.Â But I still feel that practicing medicine,Â you still have a piece of social service to offer to people, so you donâ€™t expect all money.
It is like most social services, doctors take an oath to save lives and that becomes paramount in their job.Â So even if weÂ Â have to listen to them that their money will not be payed for those of them who do not know that they have gone into medical practice to save lives .
Then let the government go the extra mile to provide them that safe nest so that if they have problems they can fall to that and let Police also go on more campaign .
I said it in 1996 there was a directive.Â Â Coommassie had one all the successive IGPâ€˜s hadÂ always denied when we say treat victims.Â But in practice, it is not happening.Â Â They should ask themselfs questions.Â Â Why is this things reoccurring even ten years after why is it still the same.
No shift.Â Â Â So,Â the two, NMA and police should have stake holders forum, they should have awareness campaigns.Â Â They should do it more frequently.Â Â Go down to the grass roots,Â carry out the campaign, issue directives, give it out to press.
Then, that is when we will know that they were serious.Â If they just sit down there in Abuja and issue one directive or the other,Â let us see a guide line from NMA that it circulated every where they can even send it our office, we will take the responsibility of circulating it to hospitals so that is when we will know that they are very serious.
â€œWe are suggesting a form which they will complete.Â Once they treat such person, they have to take it to the polices stations.
The nearest police commander can sign that form before they claim and of course, there are other provisions by insurance companies they know how to safeguard those areas and they will always be able to know because by the time the doctor finish the treatment, complete the form, go to police station, counter sign it, the insurance person comes in to verify, they will check through the victim and at the end of the day, they will be able to check what their work together.
â€œWhat advice will I give in the sense that if you are in emergency, you are in a terrific situation.Â Â You are running helter ~skelter.Â You donâ€™t know what to do.
Our advise is that when they get to a hospital and are refused treatment, they should try to explain to themÂ what IG said and all that and if they donâ€™t get treated, they can call our office on Crime Victims Foundation my number 08035080416 or come toÂ No.20 Larawoloko Street Gbagada Estate Phase 2 .Â Then they can also send email on crimevictimsng.com.Â Any email or phone call we receive we will act accordinglyâ€.