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Dearth of critical medical equipment at UniAbuja Teaching Hospital: Patients’ anguishes, agonies – a Persecondnews exclusive

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Mariam Musa, 31, a native of Niger State, leaned her jaw on her hand while seated beneath a large mango tree that provides shelter for a number of individuals who visit the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada, to observe the progress of their loved ones undergoing admission.

She appeared anxious, devastated, and evidently preoccupied with her husband’s health. For a computed tomography (CT) scan, the UATH had just referred her spouse to another hospital in the city centre.

“I am without any cash on me. I just paid for an ambulance to transport us to the hospital in preparation for the scan. I am not even certain of the final price.

“Before we depart, I’m awaiting the arrival of money brought by my brother-in-law,” she disclosed to Persecondnews.

Since 2006, the UATH Gwagwalada FCT has transformed from a specialised medical facility to a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Abuja.

Its primary objectives are to provide medical care to the inhabitants of the FCT and its surrounding areas, to serve as a tertiary institution for the education of medical students from the University of Abuja and other students, and to act as a referral centre for other hospitals in the vicinity.

It is reasonable to expect a teaching and referral hospital with 520 beds, such as the UTAH, to boast about its advanced medical apparatus. Nonetheless, this is diametrically opposed to the actual situation. It appears that the hospital is losing its referral status as a result of inadequate supplies of critical medical equipment.

Despite its unfavourable public perception, the hospital has maintained a significant influx of patients from across the country.

Patients referred to the UATH with severe illnesses are experiencing dire circumstances as a result of the severe shortage of essential medical apparatus required to treat their conditions. Patients are subjected to the arduous journey from Gwagwalada to town, a considerable distance, in an ambulance, private automobile, or taxi, in order to undergo scans or testing that the hospital should normally provide.

The suffering of patients
In an exclusive interview with Persecondnews, a father of two who declined to be identified described the anxiety he experienced while attempting to perform an EEG test on his three-year-old son, who was experiencing seizures, due to the malfunctioning UTAH EEG machine.

“My son had a seizure last April, and we brought him to the UATH. The hospital was supposed to run an Electroencephalogram (EEG) scan on him but couldn’t because their EEG machine was bad. They asked us to go and run the test in another hospital and bring the result to them.

“My son had a similar attack early this month, in February, and we rushed him here. UATH wasn’t my first point of referral; my first point of referral was Asokoro General Hospital, but they didn’t have enough bed space, so we went to FMC Jabi, they didn’t have space either. That was how I ended up bringing him to Gwagwalada.

“They were supposed to run the same EEG test on him, but to my greatest dismay, that same machine is still not working. Up till this moment they haven’t fixed it. So, we were made to come to the city centre, imagine the distance from Gwagwalada to town, to run the test.

“My mother died in this same hospital. When I took my mother there when she was ill, they were supposed to run an MRI scan on her, but they didn’t have the machine. I had to carry my mum in that condition to town to run the test. We were asked to go for an Echo scan. In fact, I made that trip twice. Imagine coming that far, all the way from Gwagwalada to Garki.

“In fact the EEG we were asked to do, we had to do it at FMC, Jabi. At FMC jabi, it cost N20,000. The UATH asked us to go to a particular lab and in that Lab it cost N45,000. Meanwhile, when the UATH machine was working, they charged just N7,000. They don’t know that fixing the machine will even help them generate revenue for themselves.

“If you have a patient, you have to pay for their ambulance to bring the patient to town to run investigations that ordinarily a teaching hospital should have. Sometimes you even do this at night, especially if it’s an issue between life and death.

“When I went to the National hospital to do the scan, their EEG machine was working but their story is different. According to them, their consultant who is supposed to be on ground to read and review the result has a backlog of results as far back as November last year, that he hasn’t reviewed. The consultant hasn’t even been to the hospital for about a month. They told us if we do the scan that day, the earliest possible time we will get the result will be in eight weeks time.

“My concern is that the teaching hospital is supposed to be the mother of all, where you are supposed to get the best of the best, because they have professors and consultants. But if the equipment these professors or consultants are supposed to work with are not available, how will they work? How will they even teach the student doctors?

“Even their payment system is made in such a way that patients suffer. You can’t just queue once and pay. You have to queue to generate an invoice first, before you go and join another queue to pay. If you are not lucky, you may join a queue to pay only for it to get to your turn and they tell you the queue is for cash and not card, or Vice versa, so you have to go and join the other queue all over again. It can be very frustrating.

“These are my own personal experiences, several people have had their own share of this same experience. That is what they also go through,” he explained.

During a visit to the hospital, Persecondnews also noticed a middle-aged woman in excruciating pain who was also waiting for the hospital ambulance to go and do some tests in town.

A staff of the hospital who pleaded for anonymity for security reasons also corroborated the patient’s claims.

He disclosed that the hospital has a non-functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, CT scan machine, Endoscopy machine, and EEG.

“We don’t have an MRI machine and we are supposed to have two, because they give between 20 to 30 or even more patients the investigation daily. From the orthopedic to general surgery, neurosurgery and others, refer patients outside the hospital for the scan.

“The doctors will tell the patients the specific hospital to go for the scan, if you bring the result from another hospital other than the one they referred you to, they won’t honor it.

“Another worrisome one is CT scan. When they ask a patient to go and do a CT scan, they will tell the patient to first of all go and deposit N20,000 into the hospital account for them to use the hospital ambulance to take you there and bring you back. Why can’t they fix the one we have? We have two CT machines and they have been bad for over two years.

“We attend to the most patients in the FCT, if not the whole Nigeria. I can give you the total number of in and out patients we have daily, monthly or annually. Every month we get about 500 patients. So imagine if these machines were working, how much we will be generating from them.

“Some of our patients even go outside Abuja for this test because of the cost. Some even go as far as Yobe State not minding the inconvenience. MRI scan in Abuja is from N100,000 and above, while in Yobe it is N30,000. Dialysis here is N35,000, while in Yobe it is free. CT scan in Yobe is N15,000 while here in Abuja it is N70,000. If not for the transport situation now, some patients would still be traveling for those scans.

“Even our Endoscopy machine, for ulcer and gastroenteritis, is not working. We are supposed to have four, but we have only one which is not even functional. The EEG machine has not been working for close to two years now.

“Our X-ray machine used to be bad. It was recently fixed after two years of not working,” the staff disclosed to Persecondnews in confidence.

Hospital “denies” claims
In the cause of this investigation, Persecondnews tried to reach out to the Deputy Director Information (UATH) Mr. Sani Suleiman, to seek answers to the claims, but he was unavailable in the office when the reporter visited and did not respond to phone calls put across to him.

However, a staff member in the information department of the hospital who also did not want to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the press, denied some of the unearthed problems of equipment in the facility.

“Most of the machines or equipment that were not functioning have been repaired since December l2023 and are now being put to use.’’

 

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