By Victor Ejike
MY BABY DIED. It is still chilling; yes I repeat my BABY DIED. My baby died in my wife’s womb after 41 weeks. Our hopes and expectations were dashed and I was totally crushed. 41 WEEKS of waiting, tender care just went like that. My wife passed through the agony and pains of pushing a stillbirth. I was told cause of death was a cord round the neck. Why didn’t the all-knowing doctors detect this on time to prevent his death?
My name is Victor Ejike. I am a recent victim of the unfair and wanton negligent practices in our healthcare system. I have decided to speak out and not let this lie low. I worked as a medical sales representative for a pharmaceutical company for more than five years. My job involves interacting with the medical team and detailing them about pharmaceutical products. There has been a lot of talk about high maternal and infant death rate, mortality rates and medical tourism to other countries by Nigerians, if the government and the Minister of Health is sincere about putting a stop to all that, then they should read this and take action.
The first negligent experience I had from a health care professional was when my wife went to TEJU HOSPITAL in Ibadan for a pregnancy confirmation check-up. To my surprise and dismay, when the tests came out positive for pregnancy, the doctor also prescribed Arthemether Lumenfantrine 480mg (double strength) for her to treat malaria. As at the time of the incidence, Arthemether Lumenfantrine is not a drug you give to pregnant women not in the first or second trimester. The product innovators Norvatis made it clear on the product pack insert that it should not be given and a simple Google search of approved malaria drugs of choice in pregnancy also clearly confirms this. Moreover, my wife was not at any serious risk of malaria, this I confirmed from the test result. So I called the attention of the doctor to this but he insisted, in fact my wife chided me for embarrassing the doctor in the course of his work but I stood my ground and asked her to do a Google search for confirmation. I also took her to a pharmacy shop asked for a pack of coartem (innovator brand of artememter lumenfantrine) and made her read the pack insert. I was totally shocked about the doctor’s lack of basic prescription knowledge and more ridiculous was the over confidence he exuded about knowing his job. I wondered how many women have gone through the pains of their foetus being aborted by the negligent action of this doctor and Teju Hospital.
Unfortunately a friend of mine confirmed this. His wife was given an antimalarial by a doctor in Teju hospital and there was a miscarriage, sadly he still took her there for the surgical evacuation of the foetus and the doctor did a terrible job. There were remains of the foetus inside her after the surgery and after weeks of severe unbearable pains, he had to take her to another hospital where the foetus remains and sepsis were uncovered and properly taken care of. How many families were this lucky? How many have gone through this agony believing it is was a spiritual attack from a mother in law or just someone, anyone who does not want them to have a baby. Unknown to them it was the person they trusted most with their body that have done them the harm and hurt. Case notes for these two mentioned case are available as evidence.
The second and agonizing negligent experience I had came from the most unexpected place and that is the reason why I am speaking out and hope this gets the attention of every one. The University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan is prided as the healthcare facility of excellence in Nigeria and for training the brightest and the best or is it really? As at today I strongly don’t believe so and have proof for everyone to see.
From Teju hospital I took my wife to UCH believing in their publicized competence. She was put in the care of an Obstetrics and Gynaecologist consultant. She also registered with a private hospital Foremost Base owned and run by a UCH consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecologist, Dr Roberts O.A. I did this to enable us get a second opinion should there be a need and also to have a place where she could be delivered if at the hour of labor, she is unable to get to UCH because of distance and convenience.
My wife did not miss any ante natal appointment and was religious about the does and don’t of pregnancy. It was our first baby and her first pregnancy. I provided everything, material demands, moral and psychological support and was highly excited at becoming a father. She also saw Dr Roberts at his Foremost Base hospital some evenings.
I became apprehensive when my younger sister who lost her first baby due to post-datism almost lost the second one because her Gynaecologist who was so confident about his job did not want to induce her to deliver the baby on her due date. Of course she made good her threat to go to another hospital which agreed to induce her and when she went back to her original hospital to get her stuff, the doctor for fear of losing revenue induced her and to every one’s surprise the baby’s skin was already dried and peeling. If she had waited and heeded her over confident doctor’s original statement, she would have lost the second baby too. Then another round of agony and spiritual search for who was responsible, hospitalization, psychiatric and psychological break down like she experienced during the first loss.
I was scared by my sister’s experience and this I shared with her consultant and he assured me that it has no genetic connection. I was still apprehensive and closely monitored my wife as her pregnancy progressed to 40 weeks. I called her consultant and expressed my worries but he was not ready to listen to me teach him how to do his job. He was always quick to hang up the phone whenever I called and went further to tell my wife that he does not like it when husbands worry more than the wife carrying the baby. At that point it was as if I was putting fears into my wife. Her pregnancy progressed to 41 weeks.
On the day of her last antenatal appointment my mum called and appealed that she be induced or a caesarean section be done to bring out the baby, she in her wisdom also said that cord could also be holding the baby from coming and while the baby will be kicking his legs due to strangling effect of the cord, the in-experienced mother and doctor will think they are normal kicks. My mother had seven children which includes twins. She had also gone through the agony of losing a grandchild and almost lost the second one. So you can understand the fears and worry. My wife’s consultant would not have any of this nonsense or anybody teach him his job, I also called the matrons in charge of ante natal clinic to help me check her out and discuss with the consultant but he would not have any of it. My wife was sent for another scan at St Gregory’s Clinic and Diagnostic Centre in Yemetu, Ibadan. She was checked and told she and the baby is doing fine. Three days later, my wife felt pains and called her consultant, who asked her to come in. She went to UCH immediately but unfortunately it was too late as they could not find the baby’s pulse.
MY BABY DIED. It is still chilling, yes I repeat My BABY DIED. My baby died in my wife womb after 41 weeks. Our hopes and expectations were dashed and I was totally crushed. 41 WEEKS of waiting, tender care just went like that. My wife passed through the agony and pains of pushing a stillbirth. I was told cause of death was a cord round the neck. Why didn’t the all-knowing doctors detect this on time to prevent his death? If it were the consultant’s wife, relative or private patient, would he have waited for 41 weeks and not take action? Why weren’t my fears and worries considered? My baby’s death was avoidable. Why didn’t the ultra sound scan detect the cord round his neck? if truly it was the cause of his death? Why did my baby join the statistics of infant mortality when we did everything right?
My wife was discharged the next day to go home and continue in her agony. After two days of being unable to sleep, she started complaining of severe unbearable pains and her agonising wails and cries was, why would she go through this because of a baby that died. It was heart wrecking watching her cry and wail. I was heartbroken because of what she was going through. Her UCH consultant was called again and he said it was the uterus contracting and that the pains were normal. He added that if the pains persist, she should come in on Sunday. My wife’s pain persisted and on one day she locked up herself in the room and was crying uncontrollable refusing to open the door. The analgesic she was given in UCH was not giving her relief.
To my utter dismay, after hours of crying, she lay down and started convulsing and shaking by the time we succeeded in breaking down the door. She woke up and started acting funny. She insisted she wanted to go and bring her baby and could not be persuaded otherwise. She made several attempts to run away from the house in the night. I was helpless even though I suspected she was having a psychiatric or psychological breakdown, I could not let her out of my sight to get help. I finally succeeded in reaching a psychiatric who prescribed Lexotan and I had someone bring it. Only after then did she calm down and sleep. Till date she does not have a single recollection of what happened that night.
SCARY? Well our agony did not end there, the next day while her mum was bathing her and pressing her stomach with hot water, she expelled a chunk of placenta remains. I called her consultant again and he said she should be brought in on Monday for an ultrasound scan but I was not going to listen to his bullshit again and I told him so. My wife was in so much pains and I drove straight to UCH. We got to UCH around 12 midnight and met a long queue of patients waiting to be attended to at the accident and emergency section. The security men on ground told us that patients were being called in one by one and from what I gathered some people have waited for more than four hours this included a pregnant woman with labour pains on a bike. I forced my way in and met six doctors on call. Some except the Obstetrics and Gynaecology doctors were idling and mulling around. The nurses were nonchalant and when the pregnant woman on the bike came in, she put to bed immediately all by herself. She gave birth to twins and the nurses on the hearing the cry of the babies started running around confused like cockroaches. They could not identify which twin came first.
When it was my wife’s turn, the doctor who managed her delivery six day ago feigned ignorance of her case. Her case note could not be found and I was asked to pay for a temporary case note. I objected to this and made it clear to them that this was an emergency of which I expected expedite treatment. After all her presence in the hospital at that time was due to their negligence. I showed them the expelled placenta and they could see she was in pains but they would not move a muscle unless I coughed out money at 1.00 am in an emergency. I was maddened and furious. My wife needed an ultrasound scan and analgesics but the doctors would not help and did not show any empathy. A female doctor from the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology who seemed to understand my plight called the service manager, who called a DCMAC but all I could get was a deferred payment on the ultrasound scan but every other thing my wife needed was to be paid for before they would commence treatment, this includes medical consumables (gloves, cotton wool, needle and syringe, infusion giving set, canula, methylated spirit and plaster), analgesics and antibiotics. I was so hurt, I could not believe it. Not until a friend brought me money did they start attending to her. When we got to the Ultrasound suite the Lady radiographer on call was rude, obviously pained that I woke her up from sleep. She had locked herself in and I had to bang on the door severally before she woke up to attend to us. There was no sense of urgency at all. I confronted her about this and she stormed out on us, I had to call a senior colleague of hers who was also sleeping to come and do the scan. The porter that was to wheel my wife to the ward demanded gloves from us before he would help wheel her. I had to buy him gloves because he insisted. I was outraged!
I am afraid my wife has become frigid and uninterested in bearing another child all because of the trauma she passed through in the hands of UCH. The avoidable death of my baby which my wife carried for 41 weeks must not be in vain. I could have lost my wife too due to the negligence and inhumane healthcare system in UCH. How many families are in agony and mourning silently today? Many families can be saved.
When we got to the ward, the doctors were nowhere to be found all efforts to find them were unsuccessful. The nurse on night call in the ward would not be bothered; my appeals to her to call them on their CUG phones were unheeded. Throughout this period my wife’s consultant did not take any calls put to his phone. My wife waited on the ward almost dying from her pains for another 2 hours before the doctors appeared obviously from their sleep and to hand over to the morning team. While searching for the doctors I make frantic calls to St Gregory Clinic and Diagnostic Centre, the person with the phone not wanting to be bothered switched off the phone. I called Dr Roberts of Foremost Base to seek his assistance so that I could take my wife to his clinic for medical assistance that was so badly needed at that time. The time was about 5.00 am when I called Dr Roberts and introduced myself as his patient’s husband. He asked me where she was delivered and I told him UCH, he then said: “Please do not disturb I and my wife with your problem we are sleeping, call UCH’’ and he hung up the phone on me, till this day the chill of that response still hurts me. The call log and text message I sent in response are available as evidence.
While we were on the ward the nurse asked for a deposit and asked me to go and buy Infusion giving set, canula, methylated spirit, gloves,plaster, cotton wool and plaster. Unfortunately the acclaimed best government owned medical facility in Nigeria did not have infusion giving set and green canula in stock. I begged and pleaded that they should look for but to no avail both the casualty medical store and the store on second floor did not have. I called a friend who is a resident in Ear, Nose and Throat department, he was not on call but asked me to go to their ward and collect one from the resident on call, whom he called. Another patient on the ward gave us a canula from her stock yet the doctors were nowhere to be found.
When the doctors finally appeared, they gave me a prescription for IV fluids, antibiotics and analgesics. I was afraid for my wife’s health and also infuriated at the attitude of the medical personnel on ground. I made calls to Prof Temitope Alonge’s (The Chief Medical Director of UCH) phone. The calls rang out and about 6.00 am someone picked and said he would not attend to me because he was on his way to church. I pleaded that he should allow me access to him but he would not. I knew Prof Alonge’s church and drove there but all the calls to his numbers rang out. At that instant I remembered Jesus parable to the Pharisees about looking for a lost sheep on a Sabbath day.
After waiting and calling for more than two hours I sent a text to him telling him that if anything happens to my wife, I will set myself ablaze in one of the wards in a terrorist manner. Sincerely at that point in time I was past caring, terribly hurt and seething with anger. I waited for his call yet nothing happened. And surprisingly nothing was done to protect the wards, patients or doctors, obviously I was not taken serious but I had already purchased the fuel and I was carrying it at all time I visited the wards. I was just waiting to see if any further harm will come to my wife and boom the media will be awash with the news of a terrorist act in UCH Ibadan.
I continued to watch over my wife, bought all her medications and medical consumables. With each passing day I heard chilling stories from concerned UCH doctors, Nurses and patients about how patients were badly treated, the rudeness and cumbersome system put in place which make patients and their care giver relatives experience in UCH terrible. I experienced the rudeness first hand from a nurse, the radiographer, a resident doctor and a consultant. My wife’s IV line clotted and was leaking, the nurses on the ward made efforts to contact the team responsible for her care. After a long wait, I stepped out and met one of them on the corridor, I politely told him what my problem was and he retorted and asked while I would disturb him on the corridor. He further told me he left all he was doing, including his consultant to attend to my wife that I should please wait till he gets to the ward meanwhile I met him mopping at the notice board. I calmly asked him to think over what he has said to me and my calm approach to him but to my bewilderment, he called an intern on the phone and said, ‘”where are you, someone is here disturbing my life over an IV line’’. I went to the consultants’ office to report him and met a Dr Bello. Who just asked the patient’s name and when I told her, she just said sorry she is not my patient and I am not responsible for every patient in UCH. UCH is truly a big complex but I believe patients should not be made to suffer these harrowing experiences to get care. Any in-patient or care giver relative who has been admitted to UCH will bear witness to this. Investigations will also reveal this.
Many patients especially in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department do not get to meet and know consultants assigned to them. If a consultant doesn’t know the history of a patient how will they provide care? An investigation on the Obstetrics and Gynaecology ward, antenatal clinic will also confirm this.
During my wife’s stay one of the interns who took to her and was around during her stillbirth delivery came to confess to her that someone actually noticed that some placenta was missing after her delivery but the midwife said it was okay and they all just forgot about it. The female doctor we met at the Accident and Emergency section also came to her, apologised and confessed that obviously there was a negligence but as it is in the Medical Fraternity, nobody will come out to tell her so.
My wife was finally discharged and till date nobody from UCH has called me to ask about my grievances or complaints, offer their sympathy at our loss or reassure her to move on.
My questions are:
- If this is the standard of healthcare service given in University College Hospital, Ibadan, where else can hapless Nigerians get medical care?
- If medical care in UCH is so monetised and without a human face even in emergency situations, what is the funding which government provides used for? Or isn’t there any provided?
- UCH owes a lot of pharmaceutical companies debts for drug supplied during Prof Ilesanmi’s tenure as CMD. These drugs were purchased through cash by patients yet the revenue received cannot be accounted for and pharma companies are being owed millions by UCH without payment plans insight. My former company is a victim of this reckless fraud. Hence reputable companies do not supply UCH drugs and the pharmacy is always out of stock of essential drugs. Investigations will confirm this.
- The ward (C14th) my wife stayed in had no bathroom and all patients were made to scrub their bodies on their bed with towels yet Prof Alonge has gone on a building spree all in the aim to make money for himself while projects that need maintaining and taken care of are ignored. Why?
- Does the Nigerian Medical Council curriculum teach doctors not to be humane and sympathetic to patients and listen to their fears and worries?
- I am afraid my wife has become frigid and uninterested in bearing another child all because of the trauma she passed through in the hands of UCH.
The avoidable death of my baby which my wife carried for 41 weeks must not be in vain. I could have lost my wife too due to the negligence and inhumane healthcare system in UCH. How many families are in agony and mourning silently today? Many families can be saved. The Boko Haram and kidnapping menace we are experiencing have shown that no country is immune from these deviant behaviours. Thank God I did not have to turn to terrorism to get justice but I cannot say this for the next victim of our healthcare system. Time will only tell.