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Government hospitals detain patients in Lagos

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By Gabriel Olawale

I was crushed by BRT, abandoned by family — Tawa

Oluwole Abisogun

My mother has stroke, I have no helper — Oluwole
We do not detain patients — LUTH, LASUTH

FOUR months after Dapo Sheba and Oluwole Abisogun were officially discharged from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, they are yet to go home. Tawa Yusuf who was also discharged three months ago from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi Araba, is yet to be reunited with her family.

The three patients have alleged that they are being detained in the two tertiary hospitals as a result of indebtedness.

At the Male Medical Ward B of LASUTH, where Dapo with hospital file number 404263 and Oluwole (file number 394151) alleged they are being confined, Features Health & Living gathered that both of them had been officially discharged since August, 2017 but could not breathe the air of freedom because of their inability to settle their bills.

Recounting her ordeal at the Female Medical Ward B1 of LUTH, Tawa, victim of hit-and-run Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), was in tears.

“Around May this year, my leg was crushed by a BRT bus in Ketu area of Lagos State as I was on my way home around 7:45 pm after selling my goods. The driver did not stop and no one got the registration number of the bus. A Good Samaritan rushed me to a hospital around toll gate area.

“From there, I was referred to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, where I was on admission for some days and later referred to LUTH. At LUTH, I was told that the accident affected my leg and private part and I could not be treated there.

“While I was at Igbobi, my husband and elder sister ran around to raise money to pay my bill. It was the remaining N25,000 they had left that was deposited when I was first admitted at LUTH.”

Part of Tawa’s pain is not seeing her husband since the day after she was admitted. “My husband promised to come back but I have not seen him since. Even my sister that came around for a few weeks, later stopped coming. I miss my children.

Tawa said the hospital did a colostomy to assist her pass faeces normally but the procedure is yet to be completed.

“I have not settled my medical bill estimated at N351,000. I was discharged on the 12th of September, 2017, and the doctors urged me to return when I have money for the corrective surgery. But they refused to let me go without settling my bill.”

Tawa said a Good Samaritan gave her N50,000 while another person gave her N15,000.

Dapo, Oluwole lament

Dapo Sheba

Sharing his own experience, Dapo Sheba recalled that he was admitted at LASUTH following a case of food poisoning.

“I was taken to Premass Hospital, Igando, and later  referred to LASUTH on the 11th of July 2017. They drained something from my stomach and told me that it was my leg wound that caused the infection. I spent about N150,000 on tests and other expenses up till  the 30th of August when I was discharged.”

According to Dapo, his overall expenses for treatment was about N400,000, but he had an outstanding of N118,000.

“As a result of my inability to pay, the bill accumulated to about N180,000. My younger brother brought N40,000 and pleaded with the hospital management to strike an agreement to pay the balance as soon as he collected his salary. We have written the letter over eight weeks ago, but the hospital has not responded.

“Now the bill is about N268,000 and I am no longer receiving treatment, they are just charging me N2,400 on daily basis. They don’t even allow me to move around, if I want to go and urinate, they will monitor me.

“Tailoring is my trade, but I have no shop or tools. I want people to assist me with my bill, so that I can start selling pure water to sustain myself,” Dapo pleaded.

Also recounting his experience, Oluwole Abisogun, 51, who had his left leg previously amputated as a result of diabetes complications, said he approached LASUTH to save his other leg.

“I was admitted on the 8th of April, 2017 and discharged on the 27th of August, 2017 but prevented from going home due to my failure to pay up the balance of of my bill of about N318,900.”

Oluwole, who hails from Edo State and resides in Abeokuta, said his greatest wish is to spend the yuletide in his house.

“My father is late and my mother is down with stroke and is being looked after by the only sibling I have.

“After spending about N800,000 for treatment while on admission, when I was discharged in August, I was given a bill of N318,000 and told I could not go home until the bill was settled.

“But the following day, they started charging me for the bed (N1,200 per night) and food (1,200 per day).

Oluwole said it got to a stage he requested the hospital to stop giving him food so that the bill would stop accumulating.

“As at last week, the bill had  accumulated to about N393,600 even without receiving any treatment, some people came to assist me with N150,000 but they still refused to let me go.

“I am a driver, since my left leg was amputated, I have not been able to work. I can drive an automatic transmission vehicle to survive  or if  I can get a shop, I can still start a petty trade. I have  two very young children. I want people to assist me to get out of here.”

LUTH, LASUTH react

But reacting to the allegation, the Chief Medical Director, LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode described it as untrue.

“LUTH does not detain anybody. We have no detention facility nor do we restrain the movement of anybody except in the Psychiatry Ward. What happens is that patients who are unable to pay stay on their own, asking to be given time while they look for money from relations to offset their bills.

“As we embark on this renewed quest for good healthcare, we must accept that this is not free and tertiary care is  costly if it must be qualitative, affordable and accessible.

“Somebody must foot the bill as the cost of providing these services should be recovered in order to maintain and render same or better care to others. Treatment is highly subsidised by over 70 per cent but not free in LUTH. This patient who readily resorts to making inaccurate and misleading statements about the hospital received extensive care.”

According to Bode, over 60 patients are owing the hospital more than N12 million.

“We are taking steps to recover as much of this sum as possible so we can buy syringes, drugs, oxygen, diesel, other consumables, pay our electricity bills etc., so we can continue to fulfill our mandate to serve Nigerians.

“There is a robust protocol in place for anybody who says they cannot pay, to give the hospital a payment plan and a guarantor and it would have been better if this patient had approached the Hospital Management with her plight and given a pledge on staged payment plan. She is advised to do so.

Also reacting, the Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Professor Adewale Oke denied the allegation of detention.

“We don’t detain patients. What we usually do is to investigate  what the issues are. If things are so bad that the patient cannot pay, that patient will enter into agreement with Medical Social Welfare Service Unit about how the bill will be settled, but oftentimes, they don’t come back to pay.

“I cannot as a person say that the patient should go home but we don’t detain any patient in the hospital. I was on vacation for some time and have just resumed. Their matter will be looked  into and sorted out,” he assured.

Also reacting, a Medical Lawyer, Laolu Osanyin, said under no circumstances should a hospital detain or prevent patients from leaving the hospital after treatment.

Osanyin who is the first African member of the Board of Governors of the World Association for Medical Law, said  such act is illegal and can simply be regarded as an infringement on the  patient’s fundamental human rights.

“There is what we call Patient Chartered which is a legal document that the patient ought to sign before being treated if it’s not an emergency case.

“This document will state clearly that if a patient defaults in payment, the hospital has right to take legal action against such patient but such action does not include detaining the patient in the hospital.”

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