Scared stiff of the Ebola virus especially in some Lagos hospitals, the military has secretly ordered its health care workers to stop attending to civilians at its hospitals across the country.
In most military hospitals in Nigeria, civilians account for less than 80 per cent of the patients that are attended to on a daily basis, meaning that the order will be depriving a sizeable number of Nigerians from accessing medical care from the military hospitals.
A source close to the military told THISDAY that the instruction was handed down in a memo to all Nigerian Air Force hospitals in the country last Friday in memo titled, “Order to Unit Order”.
According to the source, “Such a memo can only be from above and it clearly stated that henceforth all NAF hospitals are to stop attending to civilians seeking medical care at our hospitals”.
THISDAY gathered that the NAF hospital along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway has begun the implementation of the order by turning back civilians at its gate.
An outpatient at the hospital said: “I got there on Monday and to my surprise, I was not allowed beyond the gate. I learnt that there was an Ebola scare in the hospital and the military does not want such a development in their environment.”
The source added: “I saw people picking cards when I got there, but they were all turned back. It’s sad that the military authorities are doing this to us.”
THISDAY made phone calls to the military high command for a confirmation of the story, but calls to the mobile number of the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, went to voicemail.
A text message sent to the mobile number was not responded to either.
In a related development, most Lagos hospitals are still turning down requests from patients to be treated of ailments unrelated to Ebola, because of the fear that their health workers may contract the disease.
Yesterday, a patient was left to die at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) without attention because the nurses thought she had the Ebola virus.
The patient, a pastor in one of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) parishes identified as Solomon Olayanju, was taken to LUTH on Monday after he was referred there from a private hospital.
According to a relative of the deceased, he developed high temperature overnight and was taken to a nearby private hospital last Friday where they tried to stabilise him before referring him to LUTH.
“He had a high temperature last Friday and we took him to a private hospital from where they referred us to LUTH. At LUTH, the pastor was abandoned to die without care. The doctors didn’t show up to attend to him. The doctor simply prescribed drugs for him through a phone call to the nurse,” said Bonny Oriarehu, a close associate of the deceased.
THISDAY’s frantic effort to get LUTH to respond equally proved abortive. The hospital’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Hope Nwalolo, didn’t pick her calls, nor did she respond to a text message.
Also THISDAY gathered that more patients are dying in many hospitals due to their inability to access medical care based on the fear that they might have contracted Ebola.
A nurse with the Lagos State Government hospital in Alimosho Local Government Area told THISDAY that patients are usually assessed from the gate and asked to turn back, if they are discovered to have a fever.
“The truth is that no one wants to take the risk anymore, even if you are not stopped at the gate, no one will attend to you in here. We had a dramatic case of man who came from Togo last week with a serious fever and he beat our security watch to get inside, we simply asked him to leave,” she said.
In the same vein, medical workers and patients at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA), an Ebonyi State hospital, yesterday took to their heels when the alarm was raised over a suspected Ebola case.
THISDAY gathered that when the rumour filtered into the hospital that a patient admitted was suspected to be infected with the virus, patients, nurses and even some doctors scampered out of the hospital premises.
A source, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, said the panic arose when a doctor at the hospital raised a false alarm while diagnosing a patient who was manifesting some symptoms similar to the Ebola disease.
A medical doctor, who spoke to THISDAY, said he left the hospital immediately he got the news, not minding whether it was a real or false alarm, to avoid being infected.
He said the patient was abandoned at the hospital without being attended to, adding that he was vomiting profusely at the time he left the hospital.
The source disclosed that the patient came from Rivers State yesterday to the hospital for treatment.
“As we speak, I have left the hospital and there is serious tension and panic there. Though we are yet to confirm, I believe it is not Ebola,” the source said.
In preparedness for the possible outbreak of the virus in Ebonyi, the state government has inaugurated two committees – Rapid Response Team and Ebola Treatment Team.
Reacting to the incident, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sunday Nwangele, said the patient had peptic ulcer and urged the public to disregard the alarm, as “there is no Ebola virus in Ebonyi State”.