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National Hospital detains IDP over nearly one million naira unpaid bill

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THE National Hospital, Abuja, has detained an internally displaced person (IDP) – a tuberculosis patient – for at least one month over his inability to pay his medical bills.

The 31-year-old patient, Kabiru Ali, owes the hospital nearly one-million-naira, the hospital said.

His relations claimed the hospital had detained him since February. The Public Relations Officer of the hospital Tayo Hastrupp told our reporter that the hospital had kept him for only one month.

Despite being treated and scheduled for discharge, Ali is still on oxygen at the hospital.

He is among other male patients at the ward where the hospital keeps him. 

An IDP, who claimed to be the coordinator of the health of other IDPs in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Idris Halilu said: “The IDPs coming here to visit him are tired because of the cost of transportation.

Halilu

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“I wonder in the 21st century, an agency of government detains a human being, and they don’t care. They know that this human being is an IDP who has been ejected from his comfort zone by insurgents. They expect him to feed, have breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“If I don’t bring food for him, except patients help him, he will not eat. I’m talking of something that is now 77 days.”

The Nigerian government recommends that tuberculosis, otherwise called TB, be diagnosed and treated free in all public health facilities.

Director and National Coordinator of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Programme at the Federal Ministry of Health Chukwuma Anyaike confirmed the government position while speaking to The ICIR

But a TB expert told our reporter that though treatment is free for the disease, patients could receive treatment for other conditions that arise from or are related to TB.

“Somebody may have TB and have other co-morbidities or other co-infections that they may not be aware of. Sometimes, the patient may tell you something, but he may not give you the details. I can tell you, most of the time; many TB patients always have one or two other co-infections or co-morbidities.

“TB treatment does not require oxygen. Oxygen is costly. Even in public hospitals, you have to buy your oxygen. You can see the twist. It is COVID-19 treatment that requires the use of oxygen, not TB treatment.”

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The expert, who pleaded anonymity, said placing Ali on oxygen would make him pay for it because “oxygen is very costly, especially when a patient is on it for many days.

Hastrupp, however, countered him on the use of oxygen for patients. He said health facilities could place patients suffering from any disease and in critical condition on oxygen. 

Ali fled from Boko Haram in Borno, lived as an IDP in Abuja

Ali fled his home town of Gworza in Borno State, in 2014, following increased bombardments by the Boko Haram insurgents that have devastated many parts of the North-East. 

A section of the IDP Camp at Durumi, Abuja Credit: Marcus Fatunmole/The ICIR

Single and jobless, the patient had since been living on the goodwill of people and organisations at the Durumi Camp at Area One, Abuja, where he lives with thousands of other IDPs.

His parents and siblings are in Borno State, the epicentre of insurgency in Nigeria.

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Halilu said the IDP was at the National Hospital for treatment last year December. The hospital treated and discharged him when he had not completed his treatment, he claimed.

He said his health was failing because of the stress he faced to secure Ali’s release. 

For the first time in his lifetime, he said he was suffering from high blood pressure over Ali’s travails. 

Halilu explained that the patient would eat once or twice daily since the hospital detained him, and he must bring the food to the patient or send another IDP to the facility before the patient could eat.

Our reporter saw the patient on the hospital bed on July 13. He was on oxygen and could not speak.

Halilu said Ali had been fine earlier but relapsed because he was brooding over his detention. “He’s been thinking for many days. If we don’t bring food for him, he will not eat. Though he was doing nothing at the IDP camp, he lived as a free man. But here, he’s under arrest. He cannot go out to see anyone. He lives under strict protection. The hospital management thinks he can run away if the staff allow him to move around freely.”

He said he believed the hospital was supposed to treat the patient free for TB.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster and Social Management, Sadiya-Farouk

Halilu claimed he had written to the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally-Displaced Persons about the patient’s condition, without any response.

Halilu and the National Hospital said the commission was supposed to pay the medical bills of IDPs.

But the commission showed no interest in footing Ali’s bill.

Our reporter met the Director-General, Resettlement and Duration Solution of the commission Musa Kangiwa who claimed he was unaware of the issue because the commission had just deployed him to his new office.

He took the details of the matter and promised to get back to The ICIR.

Seven days after his promise, he said the commission’s management had not decided over the matter.

 “I forwarded the issue at the meeting, but unfortunately, we were to reconvene on Friday. The meeting could not hold because of Sallah (which Muslims would celebrate the following Tuesday). I am now out of town for Sallah. I have already travelled out. When we come back, we will reconvene and make a decision.”

 Haliru presents fake bills he allegedly paid to National Hospital

Halilu boasted he had made payments to National Hospital on behalf of the patient. He also vowed to submit the receipts of the payments, but he failed to do so.

He only presented some documents that appeared like bills from the hospital, including some statements he wrote with a pen.

One of the papers that Haliru presented as bill to The ICIR

He had said of the hospital bill: “The bill indicates how much he was to pay. Not less than N270,000 was paid by us. Another one, about N160,000 was paid. There is an outstanding bill of about N365,000.”

He said it was difficult for the IDPs to cough out the remaining bill to secure the detainee’s release. 

According to him, 80 per cent of IDPs at the camp were not working.

Speaking with our reporter, Public Relations Officer of the hospital Tayo Hastrupp said the hospital was holding Ali because his relations and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons refused to pay his bill.

Hastrupp said Halilu lied that he paid a dime to the hospital on behalf of the patient.

“Halilu should appreciate what we have done for him. He didn’t pay a dime. His (patient’s) bill is close to one million Naira. I just wrote today that what could the hospital do since he could not pay? The Refugee Commission refused to pay for IDP. We said we would release him. Let him go. We will release him today or tomorrow since he cannot pay and the Refugee Commission could not pay, we will waive that bill of about one million, and we will pay the liability. What can we do?

Ali’s bill allegedly by National Hospital

“Anyone that says we detain him is a liar and not telling the truth,” Hastrupp said. 

He said Halilu could not face him to make his claims.

He accused Halilu of bringing patients “from everywhere, even on the road.”

Hastrupp explained further that the receipts that Halilu showed the reporter were fake. 

Our reporter sought to know if the patient was fine to go home since he was on oxygen. He responded: “He’s not too fine now. He’s stable. He can go home.”

He also admitted that Ali’s family and other patients at the hospital were feeding him.

TB at Durumi IDP Camp

Ali was the third person diagnosed with TB at the Durumi Camp, Halilu told our reporter.

One of the patients returned to the North while the other got healed miraculously, he alleged. 

According to him, there have been medical outreaches at the camp by governmental and non-governmental organizations. 

He said IDPs were falling sick often because of the condition in which they lived.

Our reporter went to the camp and observed that it was too dirty for humans to live in. 

There were heaps of garbage in every corner of the camp, and dirt littered most of its make-shift structures.

Apart from the heaps, many make-shift homes at the camp have pit toilets covered with cellophane, causing some parts of the camp to stink.

In its fact sheet on TB, the World Health Organization notes that TB infects people fast in environments with poor ventilation.

The ICIR recently reported the Federal Ministry of Health raising the alarm that Nigeria could face TB crisis.

National Hospital holds patient seven days after it promised his release

National Hospital, Abuja

Despite promising to release Ali, the patient was still at the National Hospital Monday evening.

Halilu told The ICIR on Sunday that the patient was still with the hospital, adding that he might not celebrate the annual Muslims feast, Eid-el-Kabir (Sallah), with other IDPs at the camp.

Hastrupp, who had pledged that the hospital would release the patient, told our reporter he could not confirm if the facility had released him.

He promised to check and call back within an hour. He never did.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says there are over 2.9 million IDPs in the North-East.

Support for this report was provided by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism with funding support from Free Press Unlimited.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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