By Sola Ogundipe
There was pandemonium at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba, Lagos, on Monday June 24, 2013, following a breakdown of law and order at the Federal health institution’s Accident and Emergency (A & E) ward in the outpatient’s department.
The mid-morning incident, which shattered the peaceful atmosphere, brought activities at the A & E ward and adjoining departments and units to a standstill for several minutes, after an enraged mob stormed the premises, unleashed mayhem on the hospital staff and innocent bystanders, and blocked the entrance into the ward with a wooden a coffin.
Findings revealed that the incident, which was precipitated by a minor disagreement between some hospital staff and relatives of a patient earlier admitted into the ward, quickly snowballed into a heated argument that became a shouting match which almost degenerated into a full scale assault, but for the timely intervention of the Police.
Eyewitnesses said the disagreement started around 9.30 am, shortly after relatives of the unidentified male patient, who allegedly died not too long after being admitted into the A & E Ward, stormed the hospital premises to demand a death certificate and release of the deceased’s body.
The mob, which was disorderly and aggressive, attempted to forcefully gain entrance into the accident ward. It threatened to unleash fire and brimstone if it’s demand was not granted. In no time, the ever busy ward was quickly shut down and services put on hold while hospital staff went into hiding.
A hospital source disclosed that the deceased, a 35-year-old unidentified man, had been rushed to the LUTH from the National Stadium, about 10 minutes drive away in Surulere, where he collapsed following a bike ride from Orile.
Although the mission of the deceased at the National Stadium could not be immediately ascertained, it was however, gathered that the man was later rushed to the hospital in an unconscious state, but could not be revived till he died early Sunday morning.
“As soon as the man was confirmed dead, the relatives requested to retrieve his body, but they were informed about the requirements by the hospital to carry out postmortem on patients who die within 24 hours of admission,” the source noted.
Investigations revealed that the relatives did not take kindly to all explanations by hospital staff about the mandatory post- mortem. They flatly refused to give consent to the post- mortem, but kept up the demand for issuance of a death certificate.
There was heavy Police presence when Crime Guard arrived the hospital premises later on in the day. Although calm had been restored, fierce-looking men of the Lagos State Rapid Response Squad, RRS, were observed at the main gate controlling movement in and around the premises. Detachments of policemen from Area F and the command headquarters, Ikeja, were also seen at strategic positions within the premises.
Confirming the incident, LUTH’s Spokesperson, Mrs. Hope Nwawolo, said repeated attempts to explain the requirements of a Coroner case to many deceased’s’ relatives were often rebuffed. “When a patient dies unexpectedly within 24 hours of being admitted into the hospital, the rule is that it must be a Coroner case.
A mandatory post- mortem must be performed to determine the cause of death that is to be written on the death certificate.” Nwawolo noted that it had become commonplace for relatives of deceased patients to be apathetic to giving consent to postmortems in the rush to claim bodies of their loved ones for burial, even when the deceased obviously died of unknown causes.
“When relatives opt for postmortem, consent is required, it is mandatory under the Coroner Law as an investigation, an inquiry to determine certain facts about the identity of the deceased and the events leading to death.
When relatives decline, the hospital gives the option of collecting the bodies but would not issue a death certificate. Such relatives would however have to sign our book that they opted to collect the body without the official death certificate against hospital advice to carry out a post -mortem.
“In this case, the people suddenly stormed the hospital, disrupted normal services, harassed medical staff and demanded that the body of their dead relative must be released at all cost. They even brought a coffin with which they blocked the entrance into the Accident & Emergency Ward.
They would not consent to the post -mortem, yet wanted to be issued the death certificate even after they had been well informed of its importance. When matters were getting out of hand, we had no option than to call in the Police in order to maintain the peace and also protect lives and properties. The Police responded promptly. They have always come to our aid whenever we call on them,” Nwawolo remarked
Crime Guard gathered that eventually, it took the intervention of the Police, and more composed members of the deceased’s family to convince the others to accede to the requirement of the postmortem. The consent was given, the postmortem was carried out, the death certificate was issued and the body was released.