On September 20, Sunday [they] stormed the mortuary. This time, he alleged, the attendants had presented a corpse whose eyes were plugged with cotton buds.
Mr Ede Sunday and his wife, as well as their relatives, are still trying to come to terms with the horror visited on the family by an unknown hospital worker who plucked out the eyes from the corpse of their child while the body was deposited at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) mortuary.
The deceased, an 18-month-old twin named Chuma had died of anaemia in the hospital’s children’s ward on August 3, 2018. Two weeks later, on September 17, when the father of the dead child, had gone back to pay the mortuary bill, he discovered to his horror that the corpse they brought out for him had been mutilated, its eyes removed. What was worse, mortuary attendants could not account for how, when or why the body parts got missing.
A family in agony
During a visit to the family at their residence in Chuba area of Emohua Local Government, Rivers State, the bereaved mother, Oke Sunday, gave Saturday Sun a synopsis: “I delivered my twin girls at the General Hospital Ughelli on January 6, 2017, by Caesarean Section. It was after the delivery, I came back to Port Harcourt. On August 3, 2018, one of the twins, Chuma, took ill and was diagnosed with a shortage of blood as soon as we arrived at the children ward of UPTH, Port Harcourt. The nurses took her blood sample for the test. After then, they showed no urgency in treating the child until she died the next day.”
READ ALSO: UPTH scientists decry shortage of manpower
Her husband, Ede Sunday, continued the narrative: “Even while the baby was still breathing, one of the nurses had approached me and asked me to pay N30,000 to have the baby buried somewhere. That got me annoyed. From that moment, they became nonchalant, claiming they were waiting for the blood test until the child died.”
The couple subsequently deposited the child’s corpse at the mortuary and travelled to Ughelli where their families had encouraged them to bring the body home for burial.
“I went to the mortuary on September 17 to pay the bill and retrieve the corpse,” continued the distraught dad. “I had N20, 000 with me. But after taking the money, the attendant informed me my total bill was N56, 000. I requested to see the corpse of my baby. But to my surprise, when he brought out the baby’s corpse, the two eyes had been removed.”
He alleged that they prevented him from taking pictures of the corpse.
“I had called my wife on phone and relayed the news to her. I broke down and wept. I was so angry I wanted to fight the mortuary attendants. Eventually, I abandoned the corpse to them.”
Turning to the law
Continuing, Sunday narrated: “That very day, I reported the case to the Rivers State Police Command; the next day, I got in touch with my lawyer and we wrote a petition to the Commissioner of Police on September 18.”
On September 20, Sunday, his wife and relatives stormed the mortuary. This time, he alleged, the attendants had presented a corpse whose eyes were plugged with cotton buds.
After a mild drama with mortuary attendants and the hospital management, the family decided to abandon the corpse to them.
“Till today, the question I am asking the mortuary attendants is, what happened to the two eyes of my baby?” Sunday stated.
The family has since resorted to the law by following up their petition to the state’s Commissioner of Police.
Walls of silence at the hospital
Saturday Sun visited UPTH to get the other side of the story. At the children’s ward, neither doctors nor nurses were willing to talk to the reporter. Likewise, the information section of the hospital did not respond to the reporter’s enquiries.
READ ALSO: MNCH week: 1.3m children, 300, 000 pregnant women receive free health, nutritional interventions in Bauchi
At the mortuary, some attendants were on duty, but no one offered any response to the reporter’s questions.
Saturday Sun spoke with Commissioner of Police Ahmed Zaki who confirmed that “the family of the deceased, Mr Eze Sunday wrote a petition to me on September 18, and we immediately started the investigation.”
Zaki affirmed that the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of SCID personally took charge of the case.
“We sent an invitation letter to the board of UPTH,” he said. Saturday Sun gathered that UPTH snubbed the meeting scheduled for September 22, keeping the aggrieved family, as well as the commissioner of police and his deputy waiting for over three hours. At the end of the day, no representative of the hospital showed up.
The police, however, subsequently scheduled another meeting while they continue their investigation.
It was however learnt yesterday that four mortuary attendants in the hospital have been arrested by the police for interrogation.