• A Lagos healthcare edifice challenged by refuse, foul odour, infectious dumpsite emissions and menace of scanvengers
• Patients, workers, residents call for help
Alimosho General Hospital, Igando can’t be missed by commuters and motorists passing through Iyana-Ipaja-LASU-Iyana-Iba Expressway, a densely populated suburb of Lagos. The gigantic modern edifice occupies a large expanse of land in a serene environment. It is an architectural master-piece which attracts attention and commendation from patients, visitors and business operators around the vicinity.
However, contrary to expectations that patients and workers ensconced within the hospital would be counting themselves lucky to be in such beautiful environment, reverse is the case. Saturday Sun investigations revealed that health workers and other conventional staff in the hospital including patients are now tired of the place they used to be proud of.
It was learnt that workers posted there from the Ministry of Health only spend few days or weeks before seeking transfer. Even patients are not left out. It was learnt that on several occasions, many patients that were on admission had requested that their relations take them to another hospital. The question that many will want to ask is this, why would health workers and patients want to abandon a good hospital? The answer is not far fetched.
Investigations revealed that rather being a source of joy for workers and patients, the hospital has become a source of concern, and anxiety to many as a result of the closeness of a big refuse dumpsite to the hospital.
Located few metres to the General Hospital, Igando refuse dumpsite reputed to be one of the biggest in Nigeria has become a big burden to the General Hospital. Emission of smoke, foul odour and regular ‘invasion’ of the hospital by hordes of big flies from the Igando dumpsite has become a daily occurrence posing a big dilemma for the hospital workers and patients.
Not only that, another source of big headache to the hospital and patients is that the sprawling space in front of the hospital has been turned into a parking bay by refuse truck operators. These trucks loaded with refuse have become a permanent feature of the hospital. They can be seen there on daily basis with even some of the scavengers following the trucks sleeping on the lawns in the front of the hospital.
It was gathered that on several occasions, the hospital management has had cause to join issues with the refuse truck operators for even blocking the entrance to the hospital with their trucks thus causing delays in cases of emergency when ambulances carrying patients in danger wanted to enter or exit the hospital.
A medical doctor in the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity told Saturday Sun that several times, they’ve warned the refuse truck operators about the implication of what they do by blocking the hospital’s frontage with their trucks.
“Instead of heeding our advice, these operators often become violent and even threaten to deal with us despite the fact that they were even the ones engaged in illegality. We will be happy if Lagos State government can evict these people. They have become a big nuisance to the environment,” he declared.
Patients seek alternative health facilities
The doctor further revealed that the menace of the refuse truck operators and the dumpsite has led to the under-utilisation of the hospital. “It is only strong people that can stay in this environment. The foul odour, smoke emission and hordes of flies that swarm the hospital daily had forced many patients to stop coming to the hospital. Even many workers don’t stay long here before they seek reposting. You can describe this beautiful hospital as paradise in hell. Lagos State government should just do something about the refuse dump,” he said.
A visit to paradise in hell
Midweek when Saturday Sun visited the hospital, to gain access into the facility was not easy. The refuse trucks were there in their large numbers. To make matters worse, their trucks filled with refuse were not covered at all. Whenever there was breeze or wind, parts of the refuse were blown across the highway and also into the hospital.
The truck operators and the scavengers working for them were also seen engaging in haggling and bargaining, turning the frontage of the hospital into a market place. Inside the hospital, it was another interesting story. At the Accident and Emergency ward, and Outpatient ward, both doctors, nurses and patients were observed lamenting the challenge the refuse dump and trucks daily poses to their work.
Bitter tales by patients
An outpatient, Tajudeen Gbadamosi who went to the health facility to treat malaria cursed the day he stepped his feet into the General Hospital.
“I only had malaria and would have gone to the chemist or pharmacy store had I known that my coming here would result into other things. Somebody advised me to come to the General Hospital, and I heeded his advice, but today I’m regretting. I just discovered that I started coughing and also started having respiratory problem after I had treated malaria. It was later I was told I had been infected in the hospital as a result of my exposure to the smoke, foul odour and emission from the refuse dump. I remember that on one of those occasions they gave me some drugs to take, I decided to eat at a restaurant very close to the hospital, but while eating rice, about 10 flies perched on my food, and I had to stop eating. Although doctors have assured me that I will be okay very soon but I’m worried about my persistent coughing and inability to breathe very well,” Gbadamosi lamented.
He also recalled one of the days he had come for treatment when an asthma patient that was brought for admission almost choked to death as a result of smoke emission and foul odour from the dumpsite. “It was God that brought the middle-aged man back alive. He was already choking and gasping as a result of inhaling of smoke and emission from the site. They have to quickly rush the man outside the hospital in an ambulance to another medical centre,” he said.
Another outpatient, Suara Kikelomo recalled how she almost turned back from the hospital’s gate on her first day in the hospital. Asked why, she said: “Although, whenever I see the hospital’s fine building from inside vehicle while passing through the place I was always impressed, but this day when a neighbor asked me to come and register for ante-natal care there I was excited, but on getting to the hospital’s gate, what I saw almost made me to turn back. The place was almost turned into a market with scavengers and refuse truck operators haggling, not only that, bags and sacks filled with refuse and faeces were all over the place with flies perching on anything and everyone. That put me off immediately. I believe government should do something about this.”
However, it is not only patients and health workers that the refuse dumpsite and the refuse trucks have become a burden to. Others are also complaining. And one of these is the Association of Lagos State Taxi and Cab Operators, General Hospital, Igando branch.
According to its chairman, Mr Gbenga Olamade, the refuse dumpsite and the truck operators have become a big nuisance to members of his association and their business. “This refuse dumpsite should be immediately relocated. Last year, officials of Lagos State government promised to relocate the dumpsite by May last year, but it is a year after now, nothing has been done. The refuse dumpsite and the truck operators are doing a lot of harm to the image of the General Hospital, Igando. Their presence here is also having negative impact on our own business. We are passionately appealing to Governor Akinwumi Ambode to remove them from this place. Health is very vital to human existence and should not be compromised.”
A worker at the General Hospital. Kareem Ajani while appealing to Governor Ambode for urgent action said: “Igando General Hospital is a big community. We have a bank inside the hospital (Stanbic-IBTC), the School of Nursing and Midwivery is also there and so also School of Public Health, all with a large population of people. We should not wait until epidemic breaks out before we do the needful. Governor Ambode should come to our aid. A stitch in time as the saying goes saves nine.”
Also speaking on the issue, the lawmaker representing Alimosho Constituency 2 in Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Tayo Oduntan-Oyeledun said the issue is being looked into by the House and the State government.
“Efforts are being made to resolve the issue. Based on complaint from some members of the constituency and Igando residents, I took up the matter with the relevant authorities and I have been assured that the Lagos State government is doing something about it. My appeal is to the residents to remain calm and law-abiding while the issue is being resolved. Definitely the dumpsite will be relocated, and those refuse truck operators will be ejected from the frontage of the hospital. We are working round the clock to achieve the desired results,” she declared.
In his own reaction, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris said the state government had not forgotten about its pledge to relocate the refuse dumpsite. “It is true that the dumpsite is supposed to have been shut down, but we are still working on that. The state government had not abandoned the residents or the health workers and the patients at Igando General Hospital. Succour will come their way soon, but the state government has to do things meticulously.”
“Turning the General Hospital’s frontage to a parking lot or bay is not in anyway acceptable. It obstructs the hospital’s operation, and in anyway those people, I mean the truck operators are not supposed to be there. We are going to eject them. I will also take up the matter with my colleague in the Ministry of Environment so that we can work together to eject them”, he added.