February 21, 2024

Comply with Gunshot Act, FG directs medical facilities



•Tasks police to enforce provisions of compulsory treatment & care for victims

By Sola Ogundipe

The spate of gun violence in Nigeria is a grim reality, and seeking medical attention for gunshot wounds has become a life-or-death gamble for victims. Being turned away for lack of a police report is the harsh reality for countless gunshot victims.

It is not uncommon for medical facilities to refuse treatment to gunshot patients without a police report, leaving many to bleed to death or succumb to their injuries while waiting for the required clearance.

Despite provisions of the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act of 2017, hospitals and other health facilities continue to deny gunshot victims life-saving treatment and care except they produce a suitable police report is provided.

The Act mandates hospitals to treat gunshot victims regardless of police reports and represents a significant step towards addressing the nagging problem.

However the challenge of implementation and compliance remain obstacles. Lack of public awareness of the Act’s provisions, and limited availability of specialised equipment, and trained personnel to manage complex gunshot wounds, further deter their involvement.

As a result, lives that could have been saved continue to lost unnecessarily because gunshot victims do not receive timely and lifesaving medical care because  medical facilities refuse  to comply with provisions of the Act

Worried by the spate of non-compliance, the Federal Ministry of Health recently issued a statement decrying the development.

In the statement, entitled: Non-Compliance of Medical Facilities on the Gunshot Act 2017, the Director (Information) of the Ministry, Patricia Deworitshe,  called for immediate compliance by concerned parties.

It reads: “In recent times, the society has witnessed a rise in the loss of lives as a result of the refusal of some health facilities to attend to gunshot and victims of one-chance who do not present police reports.

“Gunshot victims come under medical emergencies that require urgent attention to save the life of the patient or victim. It has come to the Knowledge of the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, of the slow or noncompliance by most medical facilities going contrary with the Gunshot Act 2017 which mandates all medical facilities to provide for compulsory treatment and care for victims of gunshots and related matters.

“The Act goes further to stipulate that: Every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance.”

According to Deworitshe: “Every person including security agents shall render every possible assistance to any person with gunshot wounds and ensure that the person is taken to the nearest hospital for immediate treatment.

“In line with this mandate, the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is concerned about the spate of gunshot incidences and the refusal of some of the health facilities to administer treatment and care for the victim or patient without a police report.

“The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, therefore calls on all medical practitioners to comply with this national law by providing prompt treatment and care for these victims to prevent death while, strategies are being put in place by the Ministry to ensure compliance to the Act by Nigerian healthcare facilities.

“The police is also urged to comply with and enforce the provisions of the compulsory treatment and care for victims of gunshot ACT 2017 with promptness as well as reassure the health facilities that treatment of gunshot victims is not illegal,” the statement noted.

Dreading repercussions, hospitals continue to prioritise protocol over human life causing treatment delays that are often fatal for victims with critical gunshot wounds.