A panel of public enquiry set up by the Federal Competition and Protection Commission (FCCPC) to investigate the death of Peju Ugboma, a Lagos-based chef who died after a surgery at Premier Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos, sat for the first time on Tuesday.
The hearing, which started around 10am, had in attendance Moyosore Onigbanjo, the Lagos State Attorney General; Babatunde Irukere, CEO of FCCPC and chairman of the panel; and Ijoma Ugboma, the deceased’s husband, among others.
PEJU’S HUSBAND’S TESTIMONY
Witnesses from Premier Hospital, however, refused to show up. Their absence became known when Osinowo Omololu, a medical doctor in the hospital, was called upon and the hospital’s counsel said he was out of the country.
Earlier, Ijoma, the deceased’s husband, had blamed her death partly on the lack of adequate care by doctors in the aftermath of the surgery. According to him, the gynecologist who carried out the surgery became unavailable shortly after he left the theatre.
“I saw him before the surgery, or around the time of the surgery. And the next time I saw him was when he signed ‘outstanding’ over her medical certificate of death,” he said.
Ijoma added that he was not informed that the surgery could have serious side effects.
“I wasn’t told any such thing,” he said. “If we had been told prior to surgery that there was the possibility of a kidney failure, we would have opted out.
“The fibroid for her was not a life and death matter. If she hadn’t’ done a surgery, she wouldn’t have died today or…’’
Peju died of internal bleeding on April 25. She had been admitted into the hospital on Thursday, April 22, in preparation for a fibroid surgery billed to take place the following morning.
After the surgery, she had complained of abdominal pain and despite hints from a UK-based gynecologist that she might be bleeding internally, doctors at Premier Hospital reportedly refused to take any actions to that effect and did little as her condition deteriorated.
ONE MILLION NAIRA DEMAND AT THE POINT OF DEATH
Peju’s husband had deposited over a million naira to Premier before the surgery, but another N1m was demanded when the deceased was in a very critical condition.
“I made a further payment to Premier on the Saturday before she was moved to the ICU. I found that a bit insensitive because I had just made a payment a day before and for the fact that she was in their care already,” Ijoma told the panel.
“The ICU wasn’t part of the plan and my thought process was if I didn’t have the money to pay, would they have just left her where she was or would they not have treated her and we would talk about money later?”
A key Premier Hospital witness was said to have resigned, and was represented by another worker who couldn’t give answers to many of the questions asked.
Irukera expressed dissatisfaction with the absene of Premier Hospital’s witnesses without adequate notification, despite all efforts by the FCCPC to ensure there was no communication deficit.
He stated that although the hospital received a notice on the hearing as early as June 7, the commission did not receive any information on Osinowo’s availability until at exactly 6:44pm on Saturday, June 12.
“The record also shows that on that same Saturday, the commission, which is a government entity, by the way, responded, asking for information to clarify his travel itinerary,” Irukera said.
“Then we didn’t receive a response, and then yesterday, a public holiday, at 7am again, the commission sent a reminder both to Dr. Osinowo and all the relevant parties. Apparently, both the commission’s responses on Saturday and Monday 14, have received no response.”
The counsel to Premier, however, said the hospital wrote the commission to ask if Osinowo could testify virtually, and that she wasn’t aware of a response to that effect. She further stated that the hospital did not receive a request for Osinowo’s travel itinerary.
The counsel also revealed that some of the invited witnesses from Premier were initially present at the sitting, but left after the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) informed them they would lose their licences if they stayed.
PREMIER OUT, EVERCARE IN
Despite the said caution from MDCN and NMA, two doctors of Evercare Hospital where Peju spent her last hour showed up at the hearing.
Shortly before Peju’s death, Premier had decided to move her to another hospital where she could have a CT scan and dialysis. While in Evercare Hospital, it was detected at some point that she no longer had a pulse. The hospital commenced an emergency CPR, which eventually failed, and she was pronounced dead at about 2pm.
WHY IS PREMIER CLINGING ON TO PEJU’S MEDICAL RECORD
Following Peju’s death, Evercare returned part of the money deposited for her treatment. However, Premier neither returned a dime nor honoured a request for the deceased’s medical record.
“We specifically unambiguously requested for a full medical record, the same way we did for other hospitals where she had been in the last 12 years. And everybody else has released them to us, except Premier,” Ijoma had said.
“And I will state it again that even the case summary that was sent to us was neither signed nor has anybody’s name at the end of it, or date on it.”
The chairman of the panel, however, said it was inappropriate to hear Evecare’s testimony before Premier’s. Thus, he adjourned the sitting.
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