The family of a 12-year-old student of New Era College in Benin City, Edo State, Glory Ekeleyede, who died about two months ago at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, following an illness, has cried out for help to recover her body for burial.
Glory died July 15, 2022, and the management of the UBTH has seized the corpse over the inability of the parents to settle an outstanding bill of almost N400,000.
The family is therefore appealing to the Edo State government, non-governmental organizations, and public spirited individuals to come to their aid.
Narrating his predicament to journalists, father of the deceased, Samson Ekeleyede, 66, from Uromi in Esan North East local government area of the state, lamented that his daughter’s sickness had completely wrecked the family, so much so that they are still indebted to a lot of persons in their desperation to save her life.
“I learnt tailoring but that is not what I am doing. I am doing small jobs outside to feed my children. My wife sells tomatoes and pepper in the market and that is how we have been managing.
“The name of my child is Glory Ekeleyede. She was 12 years old.
“She was born 2009. She was in JSS 1 at New Era College. She would have been in JSS2 now that schools have resumed. She hardly fell sick. The only time she took ill was the one that led to her death.
“What actually happened was that we thought it was fever, or any other thing. We took her to some place. “They treated fever. After two, three days, we saw one of the eyes swollen. We were alarmed.
“We went to the nurse who treated her. Then after two to three days, the swollen eye started to come down. But one side of the head got swollen too, such that if you put your finger, it will almost swallow it; very soft like a new born baby.
“We were afraid and we took her to the hospital where she was born – Supreme. They said they could not handle the case and they referred us to Specialist at Ring Road. Specialist now referred us to UBTH. That is how we got to UBTH. That was June 29, 2022.
“She was admitted, and anytime I got there, they would only write drugs; do tests, x-ray. That was what they did throughout the two weeks she stayed in the hospital. I spent a lot of money on drugs; very expensive drugs. As I would be bringing one, they would be writing another. You need to see the receipts; it’s a heap. Even many of the drugs are still there that she did not use.
“When she died now, I wanted to carry her body to go and bury.
“They asked me to go and bring N393,910 which I did not have. All that I had before, I have spent it on her and I am even owing many people. What I spent for her treatment alone is even more than the bill they have given me. I don’t have money again. To eat now is even problem for us. No help again because I cannot go again to the people who I borrowed money from before”.
Speaking on the effort he had made since the death of the child, the visibly distraught Ekeleyede said: “The child died on the 15th of July and since then she has been in the mortuary. I went to plead with them; they said it’s not their making. They said I have to pay.
“They said they used oxygen and that is why the money is high. You used oxygen; the oxygen did not work. If the child is alive now, it’s another thing. But they said till I pay, they will not release her body to us to bury. I have been going there but they refused.
“I told one of my fathers in the church. He was very touched and he wrote a letter to the government. He said I should take it to the office of the deputy governor. That time the governor was on leave; he was the one acting. The day I took it there was when Governor Obaseki even returned from his leave. I gave it to the PRO. That is the person my father in the church said I should give it to. I think he also mentioned it to the wife of the deputy governor. But since then, we have been waiting but nothing has happened”.
When contacted on the matter, the public relations officer of UBTH, Uwaila Joshua, said he was not aware of the case but stated that the deceased’s father may not have gone through the right channel to seek the assistance of the hospital.
“We have a department; medical social services. That is where cases of indigent patients and social issues are handled and those are the ones that escalate it to management. Of course they also have to do their own investigations to actually ascertain if you are truly indigent. So, if you are going to waive bills or you are going to give some persons reductions, you need to do your investigations to find out if it’s somebody that is deserving. So, you can tell him to come to my office to find out if he has exhausted those avenues”.
The visit however ended up a wild goose chase. Narrating his encounter with Joshua, Ekeleyede said: “I was asked to come between 12 and 1pm. I got there and waited for several hours before he came in. I told him my condition but he asked me whether I have reached the social services but they said no; I don’t know the place. Then he asked me for the bill and I said N393, 910.
“The he said how much can you pay. I was looking. Then I said I don’t have money; that I am even owing people. He asked me to pay N350,000. Then he started to tell me how the hospital has to provide money to run the place. At the end of the day, he couldn’t do anything for me”.
Expressing his frustration, Ekeleyede said: “When he said I should come, I was happy; I thought help would come, but I came back very sad. I didn’t even have money for transport. My father in the church gave us money to go because we were hoping the problem will be over. I am appealing to government and Edo people to help me. I want the girl to be buried so that she can rest n peace. Me and her mother, we find it difficult to sleep or do anything knowing that her body is still in the mortuary and we have no hope of getting the money to bring her for burial. For how long is she going to remain in the mortuary?”
Confirming Ekeleyede’s account, Joshua said: “This has to do with federal government’s revenue, and one cannot just by fiat say don’t pay. I asked them how much do you even have and the man said nothing. And I said who have you been seeing? He must have been seeing the revenue people. The revenue people, there is nothing they can do. Their own is to calculate and tell you your bill. The best that they can do is to write to the CMD and request that this is what happened, and this is how much I have. This is what we want management to do. If anything can be done, it’s CMD that will say if something can be done or not.
“If every patient in the hospital comes and they tell you they don’t have money to pay, and if we continue to waive, how will the hospital be sustained? I explained to them; government doesn’t send money to run the hospital.
“Government sends money for salaries; they send money for capital project, but how you sustain services is up to you. So, anything that has to do with government revenue, everyone is careful. It’s a pathetic situation but someone has to pay the money (good Samaritan, charity, NGO) someone should pick the bill.”