Being the first 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 Massacred Patients By Cutting Central Oxygen Supply
By CrossRiverWatch Admin Follow @crossriverwatch
The management of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), one of several federal university teaching hospitals spread across the country disconnected the central oxygen supply system to the tertiary medical facility for years leading to the death of an umpteen number of patients; a CrossRiverWatch investigation has revealed.
Shock and disbelief may not be enough to describe the level of mis-management and decay at the hospital.
9 out of every 10 patients who seek for care at UCTH have tonnes of heart breaking experiences to share, ranging from the death of loved ones due to negligence of medics, extortion and general lack of basic medical supplies in the facility.
Even staff and doctors in the facility agree that UCTH has become a befitting valley of the shadow of death, waiting to snatch life from patients.
If your life depended on professional medical treatment, your rushing to UCTH, rather than improve your chances of survival, will increase the odds that you will live.
Granted that the standard of public hospitals in Nigeria is generally deplorable, the quality of health care offered at UCTH fails to meet even the Nigerian standard as UCTH is the platinum range of disguised managerial complicity in corruption, man’s wickedness to man and sharp practices.
“Once your person is admitted here, you must pray very well if not he or she may die here because of poor management and lack of essential facilities and drugs,” lamented a lady who works in one of the administrative departments.
In this first part of the series on this report, emphasis will be placed on the oxygen supply system of the institution and how management staff disconnected it for personal gains.
CrossRiverWatch findings reveal that the central oxygen supply was deliberately shut down for years with a standing order from management to begin retail of oxygen in cylinders.
The standing order luckily turned into fortune for a major supplier of oxygen gas cylinders to the hospital, one Dr. Andy Kalu, the husband of the former Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) of UCTH, Dr. Queeneth Kalu, who still works in the hospital.
The CMAC is in charge of clinical services in the structure of the teaching hospital and is said to be second only to the Chief Medical Director (CMD) in terms of powers wielded.
Hospital sources told our reporter that, Mrs. Kalu and the CMD, Dr. Thomas Agan, choose to take off oxygen from the piping system and retail it in bottles with Kalu’s husband who deals in Oxygen gas, profiting from this act as his oxygen stands across the hospital multiplied quickly which according to staff, was counterproductive to the oath sworn by these medical professionals to save lives.
But, the former CMAC, Queeneth Kalu denied this allegation, saying that: “First of all my husband doesn’t deal on Oxygen and secondly I don’t know what time you are talking about because I finished my tenure as CMAC since October 2015 and most of the time when I was in office, the pipe Oxygen was working.”
However, other sources in the hospital said Dr. Kalu was lying as the cylinders were always used and the management insisted on payment before use.
And, findings reveal that the non-supply of oxygen through the piping system began in her tenure in 2013 and went on for so many years with the management deciding to bottle it for retail with very minimal resistance until a consultant in the Pediatrics department of the hospital, Dr. Elihu Osim decided to write a petition and threatened to publish it in the last quarter of 2017, when the current CMAC, Dr.Ogbu Ngim invited him to his office alongside the head of the oxygen plant where he was told that there was a standing order to retail the essential gas in cylinders, a situation which he said did not make sense.
“Before then (2017), I never knew that there was actually a standing order, even when they were supplying the oxygen or cylinders, that these emergency places, keep oxygen there in cylinders, ok; so that people can use without paying, just let them be using. Management made me believe in that meeting that that is a standing order, but I have never seen that. But the question is, that was even criminal.
“Why would you give a standing order to keep the oxygen in the cylinders when the oxygen should be flowing in the pipes? Is like somebody says, connect water board, and you say cut the water, put water in jerry cans for people.
“No matter how you want to look at it, is wicked. Is it not better it flows in all the taps in the bathroom so that you can flush? If you want to flush, you now have to go to that jerry can and fetch and go and flush.
“The cylinders are meant to be backup to the ones flowing in the pipe, so that if we have fifteen per say, we can now create or generate more oxygenation points,” Osim said.
But, the former CMAC, Dr. Kalu insisted that there was need for the bottling system as the piping system was prone to breakdowns.
“Once in a while when it didn’t work; of course naturally even when you have pipelines, the pipelines can break. So, even when the pipelines were working we made arrangements for single cylinder oxygen as backup to ensure that if the pipelines fail the cylinders will be backup.
“The management of the Hospital has a service agreement with a company, and the company was responsible for servicing the oxygen pipeline in the hospital. So, like I said, we made arrangements for single cylinders
“The piping is such that, while you pipe the cylinders into the wall … side of the precinct and all the service areas including theatre and ICU, you can still bottle the Oxygen.
“Anywhere in the world where the Oxygen is piped, you must have backup so that if the pipelines fail; just look at even the oil pipelines that we have, occasionally people can even vandalize okay? So it can have a fault. So, you must have single cylinders as backup. So that when that happens, you know in the service areas, the bottles are available to use,” Dr. Kalu said.
But, Dr. Osim told CrossRiverWatch that the challenge with the use of cylinders was so terrible that it left thousands of Cross Riverians and other patients massacred and gave a typical scenario to that effect as it happened in the pediatrics department.
“Now, this is the challenge with that system; I have come to the hospital with my child, a two months old child who needs oxygen that day, his health condition gives him three minutes to live, I have the money, it is 10:30 in the night, I run to the pay point to pay, do you understand? because there is no oxygen, if I don’t buy, they won’t get the bottles and bring, I went to the pay point to pay, it takes me five minutes to get to the pay point, I pay, I come back to the ward, it takes me another five minutes, that’s ten minutes.
“And, I am not even aware that my child is almost dying. Then they now direct me to where the oxygen plant is, it takes me ten minutes to get there, and the guy in the oxygen plant is actually smoking somewhere in another department, they have to now start calling on phone and doing other things and finally the oxygen comes in thirty minutes after I have paid, my child is dead; and that’s even not the sad part of the story, these persons cannot even retrieve back their money that they paid that was not used, most of them.
“And this is how UCTH invariably apart from being responsible for the death of people, defraud people, because they pay for the oxygen, the people are dead, and you can’t’ even get back the money for your oxygen,” Dr. Osim said.
He said that opened a new avenue for corruption as: “That process of selling it in cylinders activated a new kind of economic sabotage and corruption, because, imagine my child is dead, right? You give him the oxygen, when the child is dead, they come and carry the oxygen back and resell it to another person. It opened a new Pandora’s box for a new kind corruption, people were feasting on it.
”But if this thing was flowing through the pipess, these things are government property. Oxygen is from the air, the machine is just concentrating it, and you are so bothered about the money, and not bothered about people’s lives.”
He posited that only about 23 percent of the air breathed by humans consists of oxygen and there are certain complications such as hyper catabolic states which sees the body demanding more oxygen than the lungs provide.
“Most times when people come in critical states of health, like when somebody is very ill, there is what is called the hyper catabolic state, and in such state, the body is consuming more oxygen than the weak lungs and body system can even draw in, so such person has to be, their breathing has to be re-enforced.
“The air we breathe is about 23% oxygen; we have to be given close to 100% oxygen so that whatever small quantity of air they can take in should be adequate to send oxygen around the body. That is why oxygen is one of the most important thing in an emergency unit, and when government built the hospital, they piped the oxygen from the plant, so that oxygen flows through the pipe twenty-four-seven; and before you even ask the person his name, if you see that the person needs oxygen, you put the person to oxygen,” he said.
And, despite complains after several review meetings, the administration turned deaf ears until Dr. Osim threatened to petition them and publish.
He said that “deep questions” are asked in those moments, but staff were “frustrated” as despite the Paediatrics department finding out “certain lapses leading to the death of children, and we write to management, nothing is ever done about it, quote me, nothing is almost ever done about it. Or if something is done, it is done many; many, many years after some persons would have died. It is as if management takes pride in seeing people die.
But, all these changed about four months ago after a review session when three children were reported dead and his conversation with the new CMAC, Dr. Ogbu and the head of the oxygen plant opened his eyes on how deep management was in this.
“I was in mortality review, and we had three beds for children emergency, and it was clear by the discussions to me as a Doctor, that if at least oxygen was available, we would have been able to push this, we would have been able to push their lives further or obviate the causes, or solve their problems and send them home.
“You know, you cannot treat somebody who is dead, but if you can keep somebody alive, and oxygen is fundamental to staying alive: No matter what we do, no matter what IV fluid we give this person, if he cannot take in oxygen to oxygenate the cells and the brain, once the brain is dead, you are dead.
“That morning, I left the mortality review bitter, and in my usual activist state, I wrote a petition and notified, I did not serve them the petition, but I notified the CMAC, copied Prof. Asinde, a consultant that I see who is also always concerned. He writes to them and they never answer, because he is not an activist like me.
“So, he damned all consequences and threatened to publish his petition on us.gov. He said he sent the current CMAC a text message telling him that; “I have a petition ready, and I will publish it, I made it clear to him; if the oxygen is not restored. At that point I was not bothered about the consequences of my actions and or inactions. I also informed a couple of other Professors by that same SMS, and shared it to them and told them this is what I am going to do.
“Interestingly, unlike many other CMAC’s when I write to them, they turn it down, within ten minutes; he called me on phone and summoned me to his office, and summoned the head of oxygen plant. I don’t know who the person is; you have to find out, I have no idea, Am sick and tired of all those people.
“To cut the matter short, the CMAC swung into action, the new CMAC, am not talking about the people who were involved in cutting the oxygen and retailing in it pipes, whether they want to create more revenue or whatever reasons they had; The truth about it is the new CMAC swung into action; I actually gave him two weeks in my petition. I said in two weeks, I will publish. He asked me to hold on, to stay action; that he would do everything in his power to restore it.
“He did not tell me that because having been left unused for a long time, it might need flushing, there might be leakages, it has been abandoned for a very long time, it might need a lot of things for it to be reactivated.
“Right before me, he discussed with the oxygen people, and they came up with a cost, and he told me he would restore it,” Osim told CrossRiverWatch.
He said someone called him and asked him to stay action for thirty days which he agreed and less than two weeks later Dr. Ngim called him while in church on a Sunday morning informing him that oxygen was flowing through the pipes again.
“I had never been happier with management than I was on that day. Because those people in management are my teachers, and they taught me to value life, and I want to believe they also value life,” Osim said, adding that: “Now, before that oxygen was restored, Sir, thousands of people have died directly or indirectly because of the actions and inactions of the management by cutting off that oxygen and retailing it in bottles; when the federal government spent so much money buying us a plant, putting it there for Nigerians to enjoy. There were now more concerned, I don’t even know what they were concerned about, because they were not even making as much money.
“If you put the oxygen to flow in the pipes, you normally can charge everybody who comes to children emergency an emergency fee, right? After that If they are well and are going home, you can put One Thousand Naira as an emergency fee, you sure will make more money than that oxygen racketeering that you are doing.”
“The most important thing in that hospital is the patient first, right? The patient. The public is key. But Cross Riverians were massacred, I repeat were massacred by that action, and people should be brought to book, so that case should be visited. It is when they are visited that people would sit up next time,” he said.
Investigations by our reporter also reveal that Dr. Andy Kalu, has major interest in several oxygen gas companies operating from IBB and Etta Agbor streets, around the prescint of the hospital
Now, the current CMAC, Dr. Ngim, was reached on phone but insisted that unless given express clearance from the CMD, he was not going to say a word.
His office is also not willing to release details of the company that has been retailing oxygen in cylinders for the school.
But CrossRiverWatch is applying for those documents under the Freedom of Information (FoI) law.
The CMD also declined comments.
And the question is, did the CMD really care about patients’ lives when he alleged that the attitude of health care staff killed patients than diseases?
Dr. Agan had in an interview with the SUN’s Judex Okoro in September 2017, which was also published by CrossRiverWatch said that the attitude of healthcare givers contributed 90 percent of patients deaths.
When asked the question: “How can you rate medical practices in this country in terms of rendering services to patients?”
He replied Mr. Okoro that: “You have touched my heart. You see, all through the years, the major problem we have in this country as far as rendering services to the patients is our attitude.
“The attitude of the health care givers to the patients and the attitude of the patients to their health leave so much to be desired.
“Over 90 percent of deaths in our hospitals are due to our attitude. Until the healthcare givers in our hospitals begin to realize that the health of the patient he/she is handling could be his own, his wife or siblings and all that things, will not go well.
“Until we realize that we would be held accountable to every challenge we create, things will not go down well.
“I have always told people that if you don’t know what to do leave out or do no harm. That means it is better you do nothing than to do something that creates harm.
“Generally speaking, we are well trained. What is deficient is our attitude to patient care. I see no reason why a doctor for instance, whether he is on call or not, when he gets home, he switches off his/her phone.
“You have no business switching off your phone because the call you may receive keeps someone alive or keeps you alive.
“It is rather unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation. Yet, majority of us are either Christians or Muslims. In fact, so many of us are pastors, deacons, knights all kinds of religious titles.
“But how do we respond to the challenges of others. Put yourself in the shoes of the patients and ask yourself if I were in the shoes of these patients or if she were my wife, or my child or my relation, how would I manage this patient.
“The answer you give to that question, use it in managing others. The book of James 2:26 says; ‘just as the body without the soul is dead so is faith without works dead.”
In that interview, Mr. Agan also said that he looked forward to a time when all the facilities were working at 100 percent and according to CrossRiverWatch findings; the oxygen was down as at that time, while supposed care givers were making profit from the tears and agony of care seekers.
These forms part of the challenges as the pharmacy of the teaching hospital ran aground with internal politicking over the superiority in the Department and non availability of drugs leading to several care seekers losing their lives and or, spending more than necessary to get drugs.
In fact, some patients were made to pay for gloves and several other consumables which are supposed to be provided by the hospital but for non funding of the pharmaceutical department.
Expect these and more in PART 2 of this investigation.
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