Sunday, 25 January 2015

45-Year-Old Widow In ‘Solitary Confinement’ For Two Months At UBTH Over Bill After Cancer Operation

I saw this story on Vanguard and it was such a sad story I had to share it. I don't want to go too far not to Western nations. In Benin republic the public hospital has a welfare department that investigates the truthfulness of the patient's claim and then take up their bills. As the widow of a pensioner she continues to receives a certain percentage of her late husband's pension till she passes on herself. Why is it that with our huge resources people continue to suffer like this?

Mrs Enoghayin Ukponayusi Helen, a 45-year-old widow, was diagnosed with cancer and taken to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) for treatment. Although she hails from a poor background, she didn’t know her quest for cure was going to be tortuous. Prior to her ailment, the mother of four sold roasted plantain to take care of her four children following the death of her husband, a pensioner, in 2009.

Upon getting to the hospital, her second son, 20-old -Esosa, who works in a club house, took over the running of the family including the drugs required for her mother to survive. Esosa abandoned education in order to save his mother and family and that he has been doing since the mother was diagnosed with cancer early 2014.

Sometime in September, 2014, Madam Enoghayin was operated upon at the hospital. This required that one of her breasts be cut off to stem the spread of the cancer. The surgery was successful and she was discharged in October, 2014. But her discharge was not enough to take her home as the family needed to pay the hospital bill. Unfortunately they were unable to pay the money and it eventually accumulated to N430,000.

Following this, the management of UBTH confined her to the female surgical ward for two months. The crisis between the family and the hospital intensified on December 24, 2014, when the woman disappeared from the ward. The porters and other staff saddled with the responsibility of ensuring she did not escape were threatened by the management.

When Efosa visited the hospital that morning, the incident created further tension in UBTH as he demanded to know the whereabouts of his mother. But the security guards at the hospital thought he was playing pranks even after Efosa lost his temper which resulted to a fight between him and the security guards. The son was arrested by the police on the orders of the hospital management and he spent the Christmas at the Ugbowo police station cell.

However, the UBTH management claimed that Efosa was not arrested due to the disappearance of his mother but because he fought the security guards at the hospital. But Efosa countered their claim, saying “ the instruction given to the police where I was detained was that they could only release me if they found my mother”. However, after serious search, the family found the mother and she returned to the hospital after Christmas. When Sunday Vanguard visited Mrs Enoghayin at the hospital, it was a pitiable sight as she wept profusely saying she was in solitary confinement, just as she denied that she did not escaped but that she only went out to seek for help.

She lamented: “I have been here like this for two months now, just alone. No patients, no body to talk to. At night, it is only me. The place is so fearful, please help me so that I can get out of here. We don’t have money. I am a widow and I sell roasted plantain to survive with my children”. Asked why she escaped from the hospital, she asserted, “I did not escape, honestly; because I was tired of staying here, I went out to look for help. I did not escape, honestly”.

Narrating the family’s ordeal to Sunday Vanguard, Efosa said, “ She had cancer. The incident started on the first week of January 2014. I have been the only one suffering to ensure that she stays alive. Sometime in July, 2014, I rushed her to UBTH with 11 per cent of blood in her body. When I got there, they directed me to where I will pay for test and blood. I spent all we had in the house to make sure that she remained alive. She had a successful surgery at the hospital but the bill they gave us was too much for us to pay and nobody could help us out. They don’t expect us to go and steal to pay and that is why she is still at the hospital where she is detained. She was discharged two months ago”.

Narrating the disappearance of his mother, he said: “ On December 24, I went there to give her food and buy her drugs. When I got to the ward, I saw two men and a lady standing inside the ward, but I could not find my mother. I went into the bathroom, I did not see her. As I was going out to see if she went outside, the porter locked the gate and insisted that I will not leave because my mother ran away from the hospital. But I told them that it was not possible because my mum could not walk well, besides, they had security men everywhere. That was how they took me to the security post where they said I should make a report.

Incidentally, one of my aunties sent AIT people to come and record my mum so that we could get help from people. The Chief Security Officer said we should go and call the PRO of the hospital but I told him that the PRO could know the AIT people were coming, that they had informed the PRO. The CSO insisted the AIT crew should go and call the PRO. I observed that my mum that was missing meant nothing to them going by the way they were acting. So I shouted at them that they should get the PRO so that we start doing something about my mum.

But to my surprise, all of them started fighting me and my cousin that was with me. They called the police to arrest me, we spent four days in the police cell before my friends were able to locate my mother. It was when they found her that they now decided to release me from the police cell. Even with our problem they forced me to pay money before I was granted bail.

“It is not true that I fought them. I only expressed my frustration that my mum was missing and they were not doing anything about that. Besides, since the period they detained her in the hospital, we were being charged N4,000 per night without the bed fee, that was how the money rose to N430,000. We lost my dad on April 4, 2009. He was a pensioner before his death. My mum sells roasted plantain. I wrote my WAEC two years ago but since then I have not been able to further my education because there is no money. I have been struggling to take care of my other siblings and buying my mother’s drugs.

I have been working in a club as a waiter, that is how we have been surviving. Sometimes we will trek from Sapele Road to Ugbowo to give her food. So you can understand my frustration. I am appealing to well-meaning Nigerians, including Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is the governor of the people, to come to our aid because even though she has been discharged, she will still be going for her medication”. Human rights lawyer, Jeffrey Uwoghiren, described her detention as ungodly, accusing the management of the hospital of violating her rights to freedom. “Even though she is owing does not warrant her detention”, he said.

Meanwhile, the authorities of the hospital have freed Madam Enoghayin. The joyous woman and her son called Sunday Vanguard to confirm her release. Efosa told Sunday Vanguard: “We went to the hospital this afternoon and some people came and asked after my mother. She met them, they now told me to go and pay any amount of money that I had but I told them I didn’t have a dime. So they said we should go”.

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