The bomb blast which occurred a few metres from the Eagle Square, venue of the 50th independence anniversary celebrations left about 20 persons dead and scores of others injured.

The casualties would have been less if prompt medical assistance had come their way,  writes Victoria Ojeme in Abuja

GOING by the hype and the government, the nation’s 50th  independence anniversary was planned to be one with a difference.  Government which came up with a controversial budget of N6 .5 billion, fully mobilised both the public and private sectors to make the celebrations grand.

The budget was the highest vote for such a celebration in the nation’s  history. A substantial part of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, was closed to traffic as Nigerians trooped out to make final preparations to commemorate the historic occasion.

The Minister of Health had days before the celebration assured that the Ministry and its ancillary services were primed and ready to offer efficient and quick medical assistance should the need arise on October 1st.

Alas, two bomb blasts in quick successions midway into the celebration, some metres away from the Eagle Square, punctured the seeming readiness of the nation’s public health facilities to cope with medical emergencies.

Minutes after the blasts, which left several people dead and many others in critical condition, the medical care was no where to be got. It took over 30 minutes for the first  medical assistance and evacuation to take place. The blasts occurred in quick succession, the first at 11.30 am while the second took place moments later.

A medical ambulance belonging to the Federal Road safety Corps(FRSC) actually arrived the scene at 12.15, more than 30 minutes after the first blast. But this was early enough to evacuate the critically injured to the nearest health facility for emergency life saving procedures.

To the credit of the FRSC medical ambulance, some of the critically injured were taken to some public hospitals which included the National Hospital, Wuse General Hospital and Maitama General Hospital.

Apart from the seeming late emergency response by the medical ambulances, the dearth of  medical emergency response procedures at most of the government hospitals may have led to the increase in the number of casualties.

At the National Hospital  where some of the victims were taken, about two were brought in dead, while 36 people came with varying degrees of injury. Many were left to lie on the bare floor unattended to and  six of them bled to death apparently due to lack of adequate emergency medicare.

Vanguard Features, VF learnt that there were obvious signs of lack of co-ordination, going by the manner some of the critically injured were attended to in a perfunctory manner.

There was also no attempt to set up an effective information and public communication desk at the front office, which could have enabled relatives to access information on the identity of casualties.

Such information would have contributed in assisting medical personnel on call to get information on blood group and other life saving medical history of the victims, but this was not the case.

Even when the statutory public relations unit of the hospital opened its doors, the staff failed to offer inquisitive journalists and anxious relatives any useful information.

In fact, some relations of the victims who accompanied them to the National Hospital openly lamented the shabby and uncoordinated response of the medical personnel on call.

A relative of one of victims who died shortly after being brought in by the medical ambulance attributed his demise to the poor response of the hospital.

According to him, “when we brought him, he was still talking and in fact pleading to be attended to but one of the nurses shouted on him at shut up. And he stopped talking and I made efforts to plead with them also to attend to my brother, but one doctor came and shoved me aside.

They did not even have the courtesy to tell me that my brother had died, until I came into the room and saw him lying still on the floor which means they did not even attend to him till he died,” he lamented .

The scenario was different at Maitama General Hospital. The Chief Medical Director and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecology,  Dr. Francis Alu took charge of receiving 23 victims of the blast, including one brought in dead. The CMD immediately led his team of medical personnel on call to attend to the most critical cases, but two of them still gave up the ghost.

The CMD, also called all medical personnel who were not on duty to report  immediately to work and cancelled any change of shift or duty.

The Maitama Hospital Management also had a better organised public communication and information response system in place. At least, relations of the blast victims were offered useful information and treated with consideration.

The Hospital management were also on hand to offer useful information to prying journalists. The CMD and the public relations unit actually responded to enquiries from the media without breaching the patient/Doctor confidentiality clause.

VF learnt that some vital information on the medical history of victims supplied by relatives assisted the medical personnel to attend to them (victims) promptly.

At the Wuse General Hospital , nine victims were brought in. The hospital’s medical personnel on call were able to respond quickly hence no deaths were recorded.

Those who spoke to VF noted that the unfortunate incident has exposed the unpreparedness of the nation’s public health sector to respond to emergencies.

50 years, after independent, it is sad, that it took only the quick intervention of the FRSC medical ambulances to be able to evacuate victims to the hospitals.

Enquiries at some of the hospitals revealed that they didn’t have serviceable ambulances. Where ambulances were available, the authorities claimed they were not notified of the emergency until they saw victims being brought in.

Observers are of the view that it did not speak well of the Federal Ministry of Health that on a day of such major medical emergency, its doors were under lock and key.

As at the time of filling this report, most of the victims in the various hospitals had been discharged. This reporter was refused access by CMDsto the few left in the hospitals.

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