Need to reform Nigeria’s emergency care system

It is common knowledge to we Nigerians that when a person is being shot and rushed to the hospital for treatment, the medical personnel will refuse to administer treatment to this victim until they have gone to the police station to get a police report approving treatment. This is by all means very wrong and this act has caused many Nigerians their lives untimely when it could have been avoided.

It is estimated that over half of all deaths in low- and middle-income countries can be averted by effective emergency care delivery. In Nigeria that would translate to approximately 1,000, 000 lives saved every year, or 3,000 lives every day. Like in most low-income countries, Nigerian emergency departments are run by providers with little to no dedicated specialty training in emergency care. It is estimated that, of the 1.6 million deaths recorded annually in Nigeria, 10%–15% occur in emergency departments.

As stated in the Treatment and Care victims of Gunshot Act, 2017 Section 2 (1) every person including medical 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. This act so far has been carried out with all due diligence by the citizens of the country, but then it is very unfortunate that when this victims arrives at the hospital, their cases are not taken seriously without the provision of the required money or document this is therefore in contrary to The Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act, 2017 Section 2 (2) that says; A person with gunshot wound shall be received for immediate and adequate treatment in Nigeria with or without initial money deposit.

Also, in accordance with Section 20 (1) of the National Health Act, it has been stated that “(1) A health care provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency medical treatment for any reason. This act has so far not been followed and people have lost their lives carelessly, when this death could have been avoided. A person comes into the hospital very sick, or an accident victim and you hear medical workers say that they cannot administer treatment till a deposit is made for sick victims and in most cases accidents victims are asked to get a police report first before they attend to them. This is by far in-human. Why not administer the treatment first at least to save the victims life then in the process other documentations can be done? What is the use of having medical personnels when they do not have the capability of attending to patients as it ought to be?

It is no news how medical personnel treat their patients. We understand that some of Nigerians medical personnels are underpaid and also overworked but is this enough reason to take it out on their patients who they are meant to administer health care to?

It is also stated in section (2) act that “A person who contravenes this section (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100, 000.00 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both.” This also is not followed duly. In Nigeria our health is not being taken seriously because the medical staff are not even being monitored. How can you have a patient be sick and they are being taken care of poorly?

The medical sector is responsible for the health of people and we are all advised against self-medications and taught the dangers associated with self-medication. For people not to get discouraged from going to the hospital, all medical sectors need to be checked and made sure that they are following all the due processes relating to the saving of human lives. The National Health Act, section (1) and (2) should also be carried out effectively, instructing medical personnel to start the treatment of a patient first and keep them stabilized before requesting for the necessary documents needed for documentation. Also, the punishments which were also stated in the act should be followed up closely, as this will enable the medical personnel to take their duties more seriously.

Nigeria’s ability to successfully implement the promises of the NHA could catapult the nation to be on track with international standards for healthcare access and quality.

Nwachukwu writes from the Centre for Social Justices (CSJ), Abuja, Nigeria.