Consumer Protection Commission concludes public inquiry on patient’s death, reserves verdict

By Editor.

The atmosphere in the hall filled to capacity was charged, emotions rose and expectations were high for favourable outcomes to the parties present who had been summoned or were there on their own: Observers and other stakeholders from the human rights community, women advocacy groups medical practitioners, lawyers and journalists. They were all there to hear the panel of inquiry which was trying to unravel the cause of death of one Miss Moradeun Balogun, a young lady who was returning from work on December 2, 2019 with her laptop before she was ambushed at the notorious Charley Boy Bus Stop, Gbagada, Lagos, stabbed fatally at the neck region and made away with her laptop, leaving her to bleed to death.

It was a mixed audience of the parents and other relations of the diseased, sympathizers of the diseased family, the management and staff of R-Jolad Hospital, the hospital of first contact, their lawyers, represented by Wahab Shittu, and other concerned citizens of note who came to witness the proceedings at the public outing of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) which called for a two-day public inquiry to ascertain the truth of the roles and responsibilities offered to the patient by the health facilities she was taken to before she left the flesh.

The venue was the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos which took place on March 16 and 17, 2020 at 10 o’clock in the morning each day. The first day proceedings started at 12.20 pm when the panel members filed into the hall to the podium to commence sitting.

They included the director general and chief executive officer (CEO) OF FCCPC, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, a lawyer, who served as the chairman of the panel; Dr. Abiola Idowu, Dr. Sydney Ibeanusi, DSP Yetunde Cardoso and Mrs. Adebukola Agbaminoja. Others were: A senior advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), Mr. Kenneth Ahia, Dr. Saliu Oseni and Mr. Kuttuh Aondoaver.

FCCPC is an agency of the Federal Government with the mandate to protect the Nigerian people and it was in Lagos to enforce the patient’s bill of rights under the FCCPC Act 2018, the National Health Act, Police and other law enforcement Protocols, Regulations, Directives or Guidelines.

Mr. Irukera set the tone of the public hearing when he told the audience the type of procedure the panel adopted which was non-adversarial whereby all the witnesses would answer questions only from the panel members without being cross-examined either by parties or their counsel.

He also said the purpose  of the public hearing was not to witch-hunt any body, group or hospital, but only for facts findings. The director general therefore urged the audience to conduct itself respectfully and peacefully so that the panel can achieve its objectives.

Also in her own remarks, the Solicitor General of Lagos State and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry  of Justice, Mrs. Titilayo Shitta-Bay who represented the Attorney  General of the state, Mr. Moyo Onigbanjo, (SAN), highlighted the importance of the public hearing which according to her falls in line with the Lagos State policy of finding ways of preventing avoidable deaths and harmful injuries caused to citizens by individuals and institutions.

At the main sessions 14 witnesses gave evidences on what they know about the incident, including experts in the field  of medicine and of course, the founder and chief executive  officer (CEO) of R-Jolad Hospital, Dr. Funsho Oladipo whose hospital unfortunately appeared to be on trial as the health facility of first contact with the index case. 

R-Jolad Hospital was established 38 years ago, according to Dr. Oladipo and to its credit has delivered over 35,000 babies on record and has treated several thousands of patients without much problems. While answering questions from the panel he said he has been in medical practice for 43 years after graduation from the medical school and that his hospital values life more than money or anything else as it was even attested to by the Times of London in a publication sometime ago in which it captured the evidence of out-patients who described the reputation of the hospital as quick in saving lives.

The hospital, he further told the panel, has at the moment 35 medical officers and 25 consultants to handle the large number of clients that visit the hospital daily, adding that Moradeun’s case was a fatal vascular injury which could not be handled by his doctors on call, hence they immediately did a referral to Gbagada General Hospital where her case could be properly handled and also get enough blood transfusion having bled so much both internally and externally.

On the question why the patient was attended to by the doctors on the floor at the entrance of the hospital where the good Sameritans that brought her kept her because she was bleeding too much inside their car , Dr. Oladipo said that it is not the protocol of the hospital to examine patients on the floor, adding that usually it is the car that brings a patient that he/she is attended to first to determine whether the patient can be taken in or not, and indeed in the index case matter, a stretcher was sent for to move the patient to the consulting room, but because it was a case the hospital could not handle at that point in time, a vehicle was quickly arranged by one of his doctors to move her to Gbagada General Hospital because time was running out to save the life of the lady since that was the sane thing to do at that moment.

Dr. Oyegbemi Adetoyese, the first medical officer that examined the index case in his evidence described the state the patient was at the time she was brought to the hospital and said after examining her pulse he discovered that she was breathing fast and bleeding inside her chest (internal bleeding) and decided there and then to refer her to a higher medical facility that would handle her case, which is the Gbagada General Hospital.

Dr. Olumide Bamiwola, who was on duty that fateful day with his colleague, Dr. Oyegbemi in his narration also told the panel how Dr. Oyegbemi called him to go and examine the patient for a second opinion in which after doing so suggested a referral as the appropriate option to take at that point in time, perhaps not knowing that Dr. Oyegbemi had made the same decision.

On the question of time it took them at the hospital to handle the patient, Dr. Olumide said the patient was brought to the hospital around 7.19 pm and that his examination and decision to refer the patient to a higher facility took him less than three minutes because he knew that time was of essence to save the life of the young lady.

Another witness, a medical expert in turasic and cardiovascular surgery and a consultant with Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idiaraba, Lagos,  Dr. Ogunleye Olayiwola, who trained both in Nigeria and Australia with 15 years as a consultant and 26 medical articles to his credit,  published in both local and international magazines, agreed that the injury sustained by the index case could only be handled by a tertiary medical facility and not a hospital like R-Jolad because injuries in zone ‘A’ region are always dual in nature and very fatal because the victim will bleed internally and externally which will put the patient in a difficult situation. 

Dr. Tolulope Odewale, from Lagos State University  Teaching  Hospital, who was attached to Gbagada General Hospital, and who was the doctor that handled the patient at the Hospital, in his evidence painted the picture on how he battled to save the patient’s life but failed because the lady had lost so much blood before the case got to his hospital. He told the panel when he was asked the time the incident happened and he answered that the lady died by 7.55pm after he tried to set up a periferial line. He reiterated that the actual cause of death was the loss of too much blood by the patient. 
Another expert medical consultant with LUTH,  Lagos, who was also a witness at the public  hearing, Professor Suleiman Giwa told the panel that it would be a conjecture of the actual  cause  of death of the lady unless  an autopsy is conducted to give the result. He also said  that if the formula A, B, C, D, E which in medical parlance, means to stabilize the patient before administering any treatment, the victim would have survived. 

On whether the wound of the victim was gunshot wound and not a stab wound, or whether the hospital of first contact asked for a police report before seeing  the patient as was earlier reported by some sections of the media, an eye witness, Pastor Olulola Oladele, who was at the hospital when the lady was brought in, debunked the reports saying that there was nothing like that that happened. He added that the first doctor after examining the patient in no time  openly declared that the case could not be handled by the hospital and went to look for a vehicle that eventually conveyed  the patient to Gbagada General Hospital. 

The next witness, Ajibola Saheed Salami, who once was a victim of gunshot attack, told the panel how he was rushed to R-Jolad Hospital after he was shot  by hoodlums to collect his telephone handset at Gbagada area, and how quickly he received medical attention without even the doctors asking him for any money as deposit or police report before saving  his life. As he put it: “This is the tradition I have come to know of R-Jolad Hospital since  I was once taken there”, he declared. 

Earlier, the first eye witness, Gbemishola Khalid Toriola, a barber,  who first saw the index  case, narrated how he met her on his way home from work with  a deep cut on her neck and chest in a pool of her own blood and offered  to help her by flagging down any vehicle that could assist him convey the wounded to a nearby hospital.

He told the panel that he found  one man driving pass them and stopped and begged him to help take the patient to the nearest hospital which happened to be R_Jolad for treatment. He said at the hospital the lady gave him her fiance’s GSM number to call and tell him about her attack which he did and the fiance gave him her father’s number to call him and tell him, which he did also. He also stated that the doctor he met at the hospital told him that the case could not be handled by them but the Gbagada General Hospital.

He further narrated that he followed the vehicle the doctor procured to take the lady to the general hospital to see that the patient  was treated, but unfortunately the lady died after a few minutes she was being managed at the higher  health facility. 

The owner of the car that conveyed the lady to R-Jolad, Cyril Duo, an applicant, corroborated Khalid Toriola, but added that they brought out the patient from his car and dropped her on the floor at the entrance of the hospital for the doctor to examine her because both the seat and floor of the car were soaked with lost blood of the lady. 

Mr. Balogun,  the father of the diseased who also terrified before the panel spoke about how he got in touch on phone with the daughter and heard at the other end of the telephone conversation his daughter  shouting: “Daddy I am dying”. He said he comforted her and assured her that she would not die, only for him to get to the General Hospital, Gbagada and a doctor called him into a room to tell  him that they had lost her due to excessive loss of blood. 

At the end of his own testimony, the CEO of R-Jolad Hospital, Dr. Oladipo in an uncommon display of courage and statesmanship openly apologised to the parents, the relations and the general public for the loss of the patient at the general hospital and prayed for the repose of the soul of the diseased and for God to grant the parents and other relations the fortitude to bear the loss, adding that at the hospital as a family, they equally feel the pain of the loss like the immediate family of the lady.

The panel members led by the chairman, Mr. Irukera, who expressed their surprise at such display of love and compassion to the family of the diseased by Dr. Oladipo, also thanked him for summoning the courage to speak out in such a soothing and comforting manner which they described as commendable in the spirit of reconciliation which the commission pursues.