OYETUNDE Abdul-Wahab breathed his last on Monday, January 13. He was, until then, a final-year student of Education Science at the University of Ilorin and one-time welfare director of his department. But the unusual circumstances surrounding his death have given fresh life to deep-seated grievances the students hold against the tertiary institution’s clinic.
Adekusibe Adebayo, the deceased student’s friend who accompanied him to the University Health Services Department that day, blames his death on the health workers’ negligence and the clinic’s lack of oxygen. According to him, instead of them to attend promptly to the medical emergency, they wasted time scolding one of the students who had on a pair of ripped jeans.
Abdul-Wahab had to be referred later to the university teaching hospital, but he died during the trip that would have lasted nearly 25 minutes.
“Now he is dead,” Adebayo lamented. “All because when you were supposed to attend to him you were busy going after discipline because the guy who brought him was putting on crazy jeans… Unilorin killed him.“
The federal institution is reputed for being conservative about how students dress on campus. “The university is determined to continue to impact positively on its students not only intellectually but also morally in pursuit of its avowed commitment to the development of [a] total man,” it states in its dress code.
The code prohibits the wearing of ripped jeans, tight clothing, bathroom slippers, heavy make-up, rumpled or revealing clothing, knickers, coloured hair (extensions), and so on. It also states boldly that, while on campus, every student has to hang their identity card on their neck.
Meanwhile, though Adebayo said his friend was still “gasping for air” while at the clinic, the school management has rather maintained he was brought in dead. It also said though a student’s inappropriate dressing was truly challenged by a nurse, it did not affect the attention given to Abdul-Wahab.
But it is not the first time the clinic would be accused of unnecessarily putting the lives of students at risk by asking for identity cards or clinic cards—or both, before nurses attend to sick students.
Your ID card, please
The Hippocratic Oath, a set of ethical principles to which physicians swear to adhere, emphasises the need for warmth, sympathy, and prioritising a patient’s health above all other considerations. But, in practice, many health practitioners at Unilorin’s clinic regularly flout those principles.
Abdul-Wahab’s tragic death last week presented an opportunity for others who have been victims of the clinic’s high-handedness to speak out. Fakunle Olawale, an alumnus of Unilorin’s Law Faculty, narrated an incident that took place in 2016 at which time he was still in the third year.
He arrived at the clinic some minutes past 6 am and met a female student there who was experiencing severe pain, in tears, and in “complete distress”. Her friend kept her company and tried to console her. He guessed she must have had menstrual cramps.
After the doctor showed up, they entered his office but came out almost immediately, with the young lady still crying.
“I could hear the man shouting, marching her out of the office because she did not come with the clinic card,” he recalled while speaking to The ICIR.
“The man said ‘next patient’ and I went in. He asked what the problem was and I told him I’ve been having some pains around my groin area and I was wondering if he could prescribe some medication. He asked for my clinic card and I said it was not with me. He said I should get out of his office. I left still feeling the discomfort I felt when I went there.”
When Olawale exited, he saw the female student in front of the doctor’s, again shedding tears.
For Ayinde Barakat, another graduate of the institution, her troubles started and ended at the clinic gate as she did not even get to see a doctor. She had received a kick to the head during Taekwondo practice that led to bleeding and swelling. The sportsmen applied first aid and got the wound cleaned up before she proceeded to the health facility for proper treatment.
She had forgotten her ID card at the hostel because she left in a hurry. But the security guard refused to let her in even after presenting her clinic card which she always took to her training sessions in case of emergencies and which she could not have got without proper clearance.
“I had to leave eventually because I tried everything to enter and the only thing I could do but did not do was to abuse the man or beat him up,” she said.
She tried taking care of herself but that did not go too well. Till today, she feels intense pain each time she makes her hair.
Yusuf Patrick Agba, also an alumnus of the school, likewise narrated to The ICIR how he once saw as several students were consecutively denied treatment because they did not hold their identity and clinic cards. He had to call his mother to send money so he could buy anti-malaria drugs from a pharmacy, though he had not been properly diagnosed.
During a different visit, he had already requested for a new clinic card and was asked to return at a later time to get it. The nurses asked if he wanted to see a doctor and he replied yes. Nevertheless, the doctor on seat refused to see him.
Other students have, on Twitter, accused the health workers of prioritising religious rites over students’ health needs, incompetence, loafing, lack of professionalism, insistence on payment before granting use of an ambulance, etc.
They were replying to a thread written by Akinyemi Muhammed, a graduate of the school, where he recalled how a severely injured female student (nicknamed DY) was rejected at the clinic.
“When I was at 300 level, my hostel got robbed. The assailants hacked a girl with a cutlass on her cheekbone, very close to her eye. She was cooking when the attack happened and had a short skirt and tank top on. It was her distress call that brought me out,” he narrated.
He took her to the clinic but the guards wasted time by insisting on seeing identity cards.
“I had my purse and my card was in it. But the girl was bleeding out, barely holding in place. I had to beg for them to let us in. It was a mess. We got to the clinic and instead of them giving DY first aid, they started asking us why she wasn’t with her ID Card. Why she was not properly dressed. DY was bleeding out,” Muhammed added.
“We begged for her to be treated. It wasn’t even the time for protests. We begged for her to be saved.”
It was close to the end of the academic year and the victim’s laptop, smartphone, purse, and some cash she had just withdrawn for her thesis had just been stolen.
“We had to explain everything, promise them DY wasn’t a bad girl for wearing tanktop and skirt in her kitchen before they finally agreed to treat her,” he said.
The university’s Sub-Dean on Student Affairs, Alex Akanmu, ended multiple calls placed to his phone on Wednesday by The ICIR and has yet to respond to a text enquiring about the management’s position on the students’ grievances.
There’s a better way
A lot of processes have not been digitised in various public institutions in Nigeria, including schools, even though the manual system takes time and is inefficient. In improving health services at tertiary institutions, Dabere Nwandikom, a medical doctor and human-centred design fellow at Co-Creation Hub, recommends the use of Patient Management Softwares (PMS) or Electronic Medical Records (EMR).
The PMS will be run by the clinic and synced with data on the school’s register. This way, during emergencies or in other peculiar situations, a student’s identity can be easily verified using just their name or matriculation number.
Nwandikom explained that the software will reveal the student’s medical history and significantly reduce waiting time.
“It will cut down the cost of running hospitals because they won’t have all these big folders,” he added. “And also the software can be accessed on phones by nurses, doctors, and the patient themself.”
This way when a student travels home, a different doctor can go through their records from campus and seamlessly continue the necessary treatment. It is a win for everyone.
Ibrahim Oredola, the founder of MedCart, a startup that connects patients to pharmacists by leveraging mobile technology, also stressed that unnecessary stress and loss of lives can be averted using technology.
While speaking to The ICIR, he said he does not see the wisdom in insisting on seeing identity cards before treatment is given as students may not be fully conscious or too hurt to bother carrying the object.
“By leveraging on thumbprint or retina scan technology, where you capture their details at the point of registration and any time they have to visit the clinic, you just need to scan their thumb or retina to have all the necessary details at once,” he explained.
*Additional reporting by Akinyemi Muhammed Adedeji, Editorial Assistant at African Liberty.