Since the emergence of the first COVID 19 case in Kwara state some four/five days ago, social media advocates and pseudo investigative journalists have taken over the narrative; drummed it into our ears how the sad case had been mismanaged, and even added their imperial judgment on whose head(s) must be sacrificed for the professional misdemeanor, which has endangered our collective health. Now emotions are high and our anger is unknowingly being manipulated to achieve some ends that might at variance with promoting justice on the sad case. Two personalities are labeled in the unfortunate scenario, namely Professor Salami, a friend and supposed personal physician to the diseased case; and Professor Yusuf, the chief medical director of the teaching hospital where the diseased case was admitted and died some 45 minutes after being admitted. Without minding the period of the first contact between the CMD and its aftermath, the social media commentators adjudged him an accomplice and pronounced his sack. And this they called journalism!
They even accused the state government of being an accomplice, only they couldn’t rule that the governor be impeached. Sad commentary, bad journalism!
Here is the narrative that is being twisted by the social media crusaders. On April 1, 2020, the diseased case, Alhaji Muideen Obanimomo, was brought to the Accident and Emergency Unit of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) by Professor Salami (Kazeem Alakija Salami) who claimed to be a relative of the deceased. He told the doctors on duty that his patient had complications from food poisoning. He never told the doctors about the patient’s travel history or the truth about his ailment. Since the doctors were not magicians, they treated the patient based on the information provided. Unfortunately, the patient died in the early hours of April 2, 2020. Quite pathetic! A truthful disclosure and appropriate diagnosis might have been able to save the patient’s life. What was Prof. Salami thinking? Did he have some information he didn’t want the public to know; even his medical colleagues?
The corpse of the diseased case was released to Prof. Salami, possibly at his prompting to save his face, and prevent the impending backlash. Only he could explain why he decided to conceal the information about diseased status, and hurriedly secured the release of the corpse for burial, even when everyone knew that corpses of COVID 19 cases were buried by government and not by the family. It was only after the release of the corpse that information filtered in anonymous callers that the patient might be a COVID suspect case, having recently returned from UK with his wife. The management of the hospital, furious at the embarrassment, had described the behavior of the senior doctor as “reckless, unprofessional, and highly unethical.”
Immediately it was discovered that the diseased patient might be a suspected COVID 19 case, the hospital took the following measures: (a) The case was labeled a suspected case (b) Immediately notified the Kwara state COVID-19 Committee Response Team (c) fumigation of the hospital Accident and Emergency department was undertaken (d) advised self-isolation of close contacts of the patient while in the hospital and their follow up by UITH’s covid-19 committee team (e) Collaboration with Kwara state COVID-19 Response team on contact tracing in the community (f) Collection of laboratory samples from the deceased’s wife, the professor and all others identified as “very high risks contacts,” using National COVID-19 guideline; and (g) Institution of other measures at every point of clinical services to protect health care staff in the frontlines and others, in case of deceptions or nondisclosure from patients with probable symptoms of COVID-19 subsequently.
From the information provided by the hospital management, until April 3, 2020, the case was a suspected case, but the management had taken the stated proactive measures even while waiting for the result of the persons that had been in contact with the deceased. The test results of the samples taken eventually showed that only the deceased wife tested positive, including another returnee from the UK.
In all these, the CMD only acted to save a patient whose case was fabricated by his handler, a staff of UITH, Prof. Salami. Should he (Prof. Salami) present accurate or truthful information, the UITH had a functional isolation centre that could handle such matter as a tertiary heath care institution. Could the CMD have acted so unprofessional knowing that the UITH had available facilities to tackle a suspected COVID 19 case? Those blaming the CMD or the management, without looking at the context of their involvement, are only being emotional. They have failed to realize that the scenario involving the hospital before the demise of the COVID 19 case lasted some 45 minutes before his death. In any case, the management had promptly suspended Prof Salami indefinitely; instituted a medical investigative committee chaired by Prof. E.O Afolayan to recommend appropriate penalty to those found culpable. That the management is firm in suspending indefinitely the staff in the eye of the storm (Prof. Salami) should convince anyone that the CMD had nothing to hide. The medical investigative committee should be able to unearth the truth about the level of involvement of any UITH staff in this misdemeanor and put those fabricating falsehood to shame.
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Value judgment is not one of the cardinal principles of journalism and even investigative journalism. Unfortunately, crusaders of different causes have seized the social media tools and have turned such to an instrument of emotional coercion and manipulation of the public psyche. As good as social media have been in enabling instantaneous communication, it might also cause social dislocation through negative use. Thus, postings by all manners of individuals on this matter should be taken with a grain of salt. Those who are qualified to make pronouncements are already conducting their investigation. Government should also not be goaded into taking hasty actions. The governor has asked for immediate suspension of those charged with complicity in the matter. Isn’t that what the management of UITH had done? Suspending Prof. Salami is the first step, and when the committee finds any other person culpable, it would recommend appropriate punishment. Rushing into asking the minister to pronounce suspension and to institute his own panel is like passing a vote of no confidence on the CMD, the governor’s own immediate neigbour, who heads the main tertiary health facility in the state, and point of resort when things go out of hand. This action is hasty, and the governor should have tarried to see the action the hospital would take or has taken to tackle the embarrassment. The governor went too far blaming the UITH for cover up, even with all that has been done by the hospital. Perhaps the governor is also being hoodwinked by social media postings. He ought t know better.
*Kamaldeen is social activist from Oke Oyi.