By WALE MOGAJI -SURULERE, Lagos.
The Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) is always in the news for the wrong reason. We all remember the Baby Eniola saga, when an infant was given HIV-infected blood. The then Chief Medical Director (CMD), Prof. Tolu Odukoya did not take decent administrative step of resigning, he was forced out by the Federal Government. We thought we had seen the end of inept and incompetent management, but the current CMD, Prof. Akin Oshibogun has surpassed every inglorious index of mismanagement and corruption.
As I write, the multi-million Naira water project awarded by his administration has never supplied water to the hospital. It is a shame that while the newer plants do not work, the old water plant still functions, though the output is inadequate for the hospital. The hospital has consequently been taken over by “mai ruwa” of Idi-Araba and Mushin. It is common sight to see them pushing their jerry cans of water into the hospital complex. No one knows the source of the water being sold to patients and staff alike. The essential nature of water to healthy living and treatment of patients has not moved the CMD to take actions to ensure adequate water supply to the hospital. What manner of professor would have to be told that water is life?
The power situation in the hospital is a sad commentary on the gross incompetence of the CMD. It is common for the whole hospital complex to be in total darkness with the exception of the Accident & Emergency (A&E) Centre. Patients are treated in the wards in this dark situation! Little wonder, avoidable deaths have resulted from this situation. Night duty nurses are seen with torchlights fastened to their heads with scarves to provide semblance of light! The CMD definitely uses alternative power supply in his house. Only him can explain why he is not bothered or moved by this situation considering that some patients are in critical condition and need to be monitored periodically.
Nothing brings out the gross incompetence and indifference of the CMD than the situation where the hospital does not have necessary equipment (forceps, thermometer sphygmomanometer etc) for effective patients’ care. While lower level hospitals are using digital thermometer, LUTH still uses manual thermometer. A manual thermometer costs seventy naira, yet LUTH that charges for anything and everything does not have sufficient number for her use. It is so bad that some nurses now come to hospital with personal thermometer. Treatment of patients requires that a patient should have thermometer by its bedside. The thermometer is used only for that patient to prevent cross infection. But, in the present situation the same thermometer is used for several patients after cleaning with disinfectant!
Similar to the above scenario is the absence of bed pans. Ideally, each patient should have a bed pan. In the current situation, the same bed pan is used for several patents with the attendant risk of hospital acquired infection. Patients who recognize this risk and could afford the cost have opted to buy their own bed pan from Mushin and keep same under their bed.
The hospital currently runs a policy of “admit patient into any ward there is space”. With this policy, a medical case patient can be admitted into surgical ward when the medical ward is full. This policy is actually not to prevent patients from being turned back because the ideal ward to admit them is full. It is actually to maximize revenue, because where a patient cannot afford the initial deposit for admission, the same patient is turned back. The complication arising from this thoughtless policy is that doctors are never aware that they have patients in other wards outside the normal wards such patients should be admitted. Nurses are often times calling doctors to come and “see” such patients. Treatments for such patients are consequently not timely and effective.
As a practice, patients with HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis are put in the last bay of each ward to screen them from other patients. But the practice has since been abandoned as a result of the above patient admission policy.
The CMD recently had a running battle with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, the body statutorily charged with regulating the teaching and practice of Nursing and Midwifery. This was because the CMD contracted the conduct of the entrance examination into the School of Nursing to a contractor which is against the rule of the Council. Why would a teaching hospital with world-class experts and expertise contract such examination out, if not to siphon money? The Council demanded the CMD apologize for the infraction and threatened not to index the new students.
As a result of the delay in complying with the demand, the School of Nursing currently does not have any Year One students! What manner of Professor would not know the power and roles of professional regulating bodies?
The printing press of the hospital no longer works. As a result, there are no investigation forms, treatment sheets, continuation sheets and other essential stationeries. Case files are consequently filed with all manners of papers rather than hospital branded papers.
The laundry service of the hospital is privatized and yet the service is so terrible that there are no bedsheets for patients. It is common to see patients sleeping on bare mackintosh! A visit to the hospital wards will reveal this pathetic and unhygienic situation.
Just like the laundry service, the kitchen is privatized and is run by Tetrazinne. Patients are charged 750 naira per day for meal. The quality of the food is not ideal for patients. It appears no one supervises Tetrazinne to ensure the food meets the need of patients. Meanwhile the hospital has a policy that does not allow patients to bring food to the hospital. Nurses are torn between enforcing this policy and ensuring patients do not eat food that would adversely affect their treatment or recovery.
Just as hospital services have degenerated, staff welfare has fared badly under the CMD. The CMD has never paid salary earlier than 7th of the following month. This is the same LUTH where Prof. Debo Adeyemi as the CMD was paying salaries before the end of the month. It is on record that Prof. Debo Adeyemi gave essential commodities of rice and groundnut oil to staff during his tenure. Virtually all the good legacies left by Prof. Adeyemi have either being destroyed or bastardised.
The current CMD actually scored an inglorious goal when he paid February 2012 salary on 20th of March 2012! He did not pay until the staff called a strike that day. Pray, where had the money been? It is on record that the CMD always travels when staff salaries are due. No one knows when he would pay the March 2012 salary.
Religious festivities do not even move him to pay. He had not paid October 2011 salary as at 6th November 2011, the day of Eid-il-Kabir to enable Muslims celebrate sallah. He definitely would not pay March 2012 salary on time for Easter celebration. Does this man know God at all? And this man works for a government that stated early this year that salaries would be paid by 20th of every month. How come he has not been reprimanded?
It appears all bad policies are first implemented in LUTH. For instance, all staff promoted since last year October are yet to receive salaries due their new status! As if this was not bad enough, a letter was recently given to staff downgrading them by one level! The explanation given was that it was directed by the Federal Ministry of Health. When staff called a strike to protest the bad policy, the management succumbed and reversed the action. Is the Federal Government or the Minister of Health aware of this?
Tax is another area that LUTH management has been less transparent. For six months last year, staff were surcharged for what was claimed to be “under payment” for tax. Yet, when some staff went to collect tax certificate, it was discovered that LUTH management has not been up to date in remittance. In February 2012 salary, junior staff paid as much as ten thousand naira (N10,000) as tax and senior staff paid twenty-five thousand naira and above (N25,000). Governor Fashola needs to ask the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service to go after LUTH to establish the tax liability and remittances.
The CMD has gone beyond mismanaging internally generated revenue to tampering with staff salaries with frivolous deductions under the guise of circular from God knows where. Are staff not entitled to see such circulars (if such actually exist), and in the case of tax, use the guideline in such circulars to compute their taxes to confirm accuracy and correctness? The CMD needs to be answering questions from EFCC and ICPC as to what he does with the internally generated revenue.
If truth must be told, LUTH is currently worse in service than a cottage hospital. The Federal Government needs to investigate how rotten the hospital has become, that has made it impossible to meet its obligation to patients and staff alike.
Wale Mogaji Surulere, Lagos.