Being the second of a three part series of an investigation into the massive corruption in UCTH which has led to the loss of umpteen number of lives in four years.
How UCTH Ran Out Of Gloves And Syringes Over Debt, Stalled Drug Therapy
By CrossRiverWatch Admin Follow @crossriverwatch
If you were looking for a certified place to buy original drugs and felt the pharmacy of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) was the right place to go, then there is an 80 percent chance that you won’t find the drug you are looking for.
This is because the pharmaceutical department of the UCTH is an example of the exact opposite of what a pharmacy should look or operate and this caused the deaths of several dozens of patients a CrossRiverWatch investigation revealed.
On a visit to the hospital’s pharmacy, one is greeted with near empty drug counters while some staff engage themselves in discussions.
The department responsible for providing the supplies for drug therapy which is supposed to be a core part of the institution as it is vital to patient’s recuperation was left to rot with basic consumables such as gloves and syringes out of stock.
This has been a recurring phenomenon for the past four years CrossRiverWatch gathered with staff on duty who spoke on condition of anonymity decrying the situation and blaming it on the management of the institution which refused to pay sales representatives with debts mounting to millions and leading to shortage in consumables such as syringes!
Our reporter who visited the pharmacy undercover, secretly recorded a conversation with the pharmacy staff who put the blame squarely on management.
“Most at times, they owe reps, and they may not come to supply the drugs because the hospital owes them. That is to tell you what the federal government is all about because this is a federal hospital.
“And maybe the company does not want to supply again till we pay them. They are business minded. Reps have to do what they call Autonomy. They have to be reporting their financial status. This thing has been like this.
“Since six months we have been here, there was a time we don’t have gloves, we don’t have syringes for close to one month so does it mean that all those things are not available?
“How much are they costing?
“So is the problem of management and how proactive there are. It has been a routine occurrence.It’s something that has been occurring,” said the pharmacists who also accused the management of misappropriating funds.
“Even their budget, they send it to us, even though the federal government may send the money to them, but how is the management using the money? You can never tell. So the odd is, if you owe me, I may not be able to supply all the drugs whenever you need it so the fault is the management of the hospital. It is not pharmacy problem at all,” he said.
Findings by CrossRiverWatch also revealed that when the Pharmaceutical department writes to the management declaring the quantity and types of drugs required, there was very little being done to ensure that the Pharmacy is stocked.
“Even if they give you the money to procure them, you procure the quantity for the amount you have. So you will be making inquisition for those and add to those ones you have while those you don’t have, you request for them,” said another pharmacist who also blamed it on the internal politicking.
“The solution is not one man’s business, that’s the problem. Even if there’s a HOD (Head of Department), you want to carry am for head? Now if you request for this thing, what if the management do not fund it the way you want it? It is a big issue.
“Generally is the same with almost all the federal hospitals like that. You go to some hospital, some important drugs, urgent drugs are not available.”
Patients have since 2014 been forced to buy drugs from outside the hospital with a patient telling CrossRiverWatch in an earlier interview that the Chief Medical Director, Dr. Thomas Agan had made life unbearable for them and it only improved after he was remanded in prison following a charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The patient who had lamented that beds were in short supply with some in the second bay being “old beds that are not even good,” added that: “The pharmacy is just there. Sometimes at night when there is a serious case, the doctors prescribe, you go to UCTH pharmacy and they tell you go to BEZ pharmacy, but they are collecting money from patients anyhow.
“Before now, patients pay NGN200 at Outpatient side before seeing a doctor. Dr. Agan increased it to 1,000. Folders are no more free, you pay NGN500. Before now, if a patient is going for surgery. The patient doesn’t pay for theatre gown. But Dr. Agan came and patients started paying NGN5,000 not even NGN1,000 for theater gown.”
Another staff, Mrs. Anderson (not real name) who works at the emergency ward of the hospital said: “For example this is an emergency ward, we are supposed to have some drugs here at least those drugs that can help stabilize patients when they are brought in before major attention is given them but that is not the case now, so it is really pathetic.”
Though, CrossRiverWatch could not get any management staff to comment as at press time; management sources however gathered that the hospital had its hands tied due to bureaucracy and little funding available to it with the cost on treatment not rising directly proportional to the cost of doing business as the price of every basic consumable and administrative tool has increased.
But, investigations revealed that a greater number of pharmacies around Etta Agbo, IBB and Satellite town axis where the hospital is located are owned by consultants, doctors and some senior staff of the hospital.
The pharmacies are strategically located around the axis leading to the hospital for easy accessibility by desperate relations of patients.
The referrals to external pharmacies, experts told CrossRiverWatch was not supposed to be as the pharmacy was the core for drug therapy and in its absence or non-functionality; lots of lives were lost while some situations degenerated sharply.
Several doctors also confirmed to CrossRiverWatch that every referral they sign to purchase drugs outside the hospital attracts a 20 percent kickback from the pharmacy to the doctor and test results from any pharmacy not involved in the racket are usually rejected.
And staff in the Pharmacy of the hospital corroborated this.
Our reporter pretended that his mother was sick and had difficulty breathing to get a laboratory staff who did not know he was being recorded to talk on the role of the pharmacy in drug therapy and provision of drugs in emergency situations, they lamented that the hospital had failed.
“In an emergency, there is what we call emergency drugs, like now your mother is having difficulty in breathing that means the heart, the lungs is been congested. I don’t know whether they have done diagnosis to find out if the problem is cardiac muscles or cardiac arteries or pulmonary sac. Now in that case there’s what we call emergency drug.
“For her to have such difficulty in breathing, she needs something to enable her to breath, now apart from oxygen which is going to be … to stop the difficulty and shortness of breath, she will still need something like Steroid which will help to stabilize her breath, helps to reduce inflammation because in that case, the arterioles and the lungs will inflame so she needs something to reduce the inflammation to enable the heart to fluid; in that case, that goes a long way.
“All those drugs are supposed to be available. But, there are not. It is not in demand so the supply is poor. The the higher demand, the supply became lesser. That means we will be running out of stock every time.
“These are what I call important drugs. As in all of them are important, but these are emergency drugs. So get those drugs, it will not even cost you much but the problem now is how do we resolve it, how do you make it that this thing doesn’t go out of stock? All of those drugs are not supposed to go out of stock.
“Now when somebody is under emergency, you are not supposed to come into the pharmacy to come and buy. All those are supposed to be available. Not when somebody will say we need this or that and you will be running around to get it from the pharmacy. No. It is supposed to be in the emergency ward already not even in the pharmacy,”
The staff queried and wondered how the Nurses and Doctors were managing the patients.
“How do those people; Nurses, Doctors, how are they managing them? How do they even react to the situation? Now they are the closest to the patients compared to the pharmacist. Pharmacists do not even know the condition of the patients. It is you as the Nurse or Doctor. They should report to the management these are the drugs we need. How do the management handle this report is another thing.
“It is poor management, that is the general problem,” the staff concluded.
CrossRiverWatch has reached the hospital management again for comments with a correspondent asked to visit another time.
The interview, if granted will be published at a later date while the tales of robberies and a laboratory as well as a non functional radiology department will form the Part three of this series.