5th December, 2013
A hospital where nursing mothers and their babies were illegally detained in dehumanising conditions for several months over non-payment of hospital bills has been uncovered in Lagos.
The hospital was uncovered by officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, WAPA, in collaboration with the Office of the Public Defender, after a tip off.
The three-storey medical centre, Afolabi Hospital, is located at 78, Oworo Road, Oworonsoki in Bariga Local Council Development Area of Lagos, western Nigeria.
Seven nursing mothers and their babies were rescued from the hospital when it was raided by the officials on Monday.
Its owner, Dr. Olajide Afolabi was arrested by the Task Force and later released on bail after writing a statement.
P.M.NEWS gathered that the victims were detained until their families were able to pay their debts.
The nursing mothers and their babies, it was learnt, were detained for as long as seven months or more in a dehumanising condition at the hospital.
It was also gathered that pregnant women were usually delivered at the hospital through caesarian operation for a minimum of N150, 000 or more depending on their cases.
The mothers were kept in a dingy room and made to sleep on bare floor while their babies were laid on spring beds without mattresses.
Among the victims is a woman (names withheld) who gave birth to one of her twins in the bus while on the way to the hospital. The second baby was delivered at the hospital.
It was gathered that the one delivered at the hospital died immediately while the one delivered inside the bus survived and yet she was detained for not paying her delivery charges.
Investigations revealed further that families of those detained were allowed to bring food to them from time to time.
According to Mrs. Alaba Fadairo, Director, Child’s Development, WAPA, “we got an information that a hospital was keeping new born babies and their parents for failing to meet up with the bills they incurred after delivery.
“When we got wind of the ugly development, we swung into action and in the course of our investigation, we found out that it was true that they were incarcerated for not paying their bills.
“After giving birth, both parents and their children were not allowed to see what life outside the hospital looks like. This is barbaric. The area that is of utmost concern to us is the new babies being put on spring beds without mattresses.
“Before we embarked on our fact find mission, we got a video which showed the babies on spring beds without mattresses but mere wrappers. This is against the fundamental human rights of the children. We realised that some of the people have even paid part of their debts, yet they were being held for as long as six, seven months.
“Infact, when we got to the hospital, the doctor was very violent. He made calls and we were besieged by hoodlums who surrounded us. We escaped after a reinforcement came from the task force,” she said.
According to Mrs. Rotimi Omotola, Director, Office of the Public Defender, ”we learnt there are still more children in the hospital. Their mothers were incarcerated within a particular area in the hospital without adequate medical attention.
“We have rescued them and they are in protective custody. You can’t dehumanise people to such an extent just because they are owing you. It is a violation of their fundamental human rights.
“This is happening because people don’t know their rights or where to go when such happened. Again, people don’t want to be their brothers keeper anymore, else this kind of development ought to have been reported earlier.
“Criminal charges will be filed against the owner of the hospital if he is found guilty in the course of our investigation. All his certificates too will be verified if truly he’s a qualified medical doctor,” she said.
Speaking with P.M NEWS at the premises of the task force, Dr. Afolabi said most of the patients were not his original patients but rushed to his hospital from other clinics, adding that the longest period of time his debtor patients spent in his hospital is four months.
He said they were being held in the hospital because they refused to pay their respective charges in due time as agreed, saying he is not running a charity organisation.
“I’m a qualified medical doctor and I have my certificates. None of the babies were made to sleep on bare spring beds. There were mattresses on them. If you see the babies and their mothers, they were very healthy. I even treated them when they were sick.
“They were many owing different amounts of money, ranging from N70,000 upward. There was a particular one that was rushed to my hospital from another clinic. When they came, I told them she will be operated and they agreed. I billed them N150,000 and the husband signed.
“Three weeks after, they couldn’t pay and I offered them one of the vacant rooms in the hospital pending when they will pay my money. I even asked them to come and make an agreement on how they will pay their debt, even if it will be N5,000 per month.
“When the church members came to my hospital, offering to pay the money, I even offered them discount on the debt. But I was surprised when officials of WAPA invaded my hospital claiming that I am running a detention camp,” he said.