If you're still wondering why the Police issued a statement on Wednesday to again address the seemingly over-flogged matter of whether or not hospitals should treat gunshot victims who do not have a police report, then you missed an all-important news item. Not such a big deal, because we're here to re-serve it to you.

As reported by Punch, Adebayo Akinwunmi, a senior engineer with Information and Communications Technology company Ericsson, was attacked by armed robbers around 1am on Sunday at his house on Madam Felicia Street, Orimerunmu, Ofada-Mokoloki, in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State.

The four-man gang scaled the fence into the engineer’s house. A witness who recalled the raid said the robbers did not wear any mask.

“The man’s wife was sleeping when they shouted through the window that the family should open the door. They showed their guns and threatened to shoot,” he said.

“The man asked the wife to stay in the bedroom and assured the robbers that he would open the door. He was about to open the door when the men, who had become impatient, broke the door with their legs.

“As they were querying the man for being sluggish, the wife came out and started begging them. They asked the wife what they had and she gave them their ATM cards, phones and laptops.”

But as they made to leave, one of them shot the engineer in the rib region. Not in support of the action, the three others reprimanded the shooter, led the wife out and asked her to open the gate to get someone to take her husband to a hospital. They asked her not to shout.

The wife contacted her sister-in-law, who got a vehicle with which the victim was taken to a private medical facility in the area. But he was rejected because the doctors demanded a police report for the gunshot injuries, which he didn’t have.

The wife then asked that he should be taken to Reddington Hospital, Ikeja, the hospital that his company used. However, he was again rejected at the hospital, so they moved again.

A relative who discussed the matter said: “We were finally referred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, where we were told that there was no surgeon to attend to him due to the ongoing strike action of medical doctors in the country. Because there was nobody to attend to us, he gave up at LASUTH.”

Had he managed to survive, Akinwunmi would have been 41 on May 29.

 Confusing matter

Although it has been addressed many times, the propriety of treating gunshot victims without police report still appears to be a confusing matter to medical practitioners.

In 2016, Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, directed all hospitals in the state to start treating persons with gunshot wounds and accident victims before demanding police report.

Disclosing this in a statement, Samuel Aruwan, the Governor’s spokesman, said the directive was part of the agreement reached during the 15th session of the state security council meeting.

He said saving lives was more critical than waiting for a formal police report, and warned that any hospital that failed to abide by the decision would be held for criminal neglect.

“Lives must be saved first, before the formalities of demanding police reports from victims,” the statement read.

“After saving lives, hospitals and other agencies can start making inquiries regarding how the gunshot wounds and other injuries were sustained.

“We consider it a gross abdication of responsibility if any hospital leaves injured patients unattended to because of the absence of police report.

“What is important is saving lives. There is no reason for an innocent citizen who has survived armed robbery and needs treatment for gunshot wound to be denied the medical attention he requires.

“The hospitals can comply with reporting requirements to the police after providing the care the patient needs. This is the unanimous resolution of the Kaduna state security council.

“As governor, I have communicated this decision to the Kaduna State Ministry of Health and Human Services and other concerned agencies operating in the state. All our healthcare agencies have been advised that it will amount to criminal neglect to deny or delay critical care to such patients.”

 IGP’s clarification

Ibrahim Idris, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), waded into the matter in March 2017, ordering hospitals to treat gunshot wounds with or without police report.

Passing on the message to the public, Fatai Owoseni, then Lagos State Commissioner of Police, said the IGP only previously advised hospitals to ensure that they make proper report at the nearest police station.

“Any medical practitioner who insists on the production of a police report is doing that on his own,” he said.

“All the hospital needs to do is to report at the nearest police station for accountability and record purpose.

“This is important for the protection of the hospital because when the police is aware, they can protect the hospital from further invasion by the victim’s gangs to rescue him. Our personnel have been warned not to hoodwink any medical practitioner.”

Owoseni said the command was aware of the public observations on acts of indiscipline by some policemen, saying that the area commanders and divisional police officers (DPOs) had been cautioned.

“We have passed on your observations and we hope they pass it on to their subordinates, too,” he said.

 One final reminder

After learning of Akinwunmi’s death, the Police on Wednesday warned any hospital, either private or public, that fails to treat a patient with gunshot injury on the premise of no police report, that it would be “arrested and diligently prosecuted”.

A statement by Chike Oti, Public Relations Officer of the Police in Lagos, described the action of Reddington and LASUTH as “as cruel; perhaps, an indication that the hospital management may be ignorant of the "Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims Of Gunshot Act, 2017”.

“In the light of this development, the Command wishes to inform all medical practitioners in Lagos state, that the Act demands that every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance any person with gunshot wounds,” it said.

“The Act, however, requires the hospital treating such a patient to report the fact to the nearest police station within two (2) hours of commencement of treatment.”

It conveyed the directive of Imohime Edgal, Commissioner of Police, that all area commanders and divisional police officers in Lagos should henceforth arrest and diligently prosecute any medical practitioner who rejects a gunshot victim on the ground of no police report.

Perhaps the Police may want to begin these “arrest and diligent prosecution” with Reddington, LASUTH and the unnamed private facility in Obafemi Owode LGA.

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