Distraught patients at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) have lamented that drugs purchased for their treatment are being stolen and resold by medical personnel.
They are, therefore, calling on the management of the hospital to come to their rescue.
Investigation indicated that nurses are the perpetrators of the crime as some of them have turned to drug vendors, selling the stolen drugs at a cheaper rate to other patients. It was learnt that because the patients’ names are not written against the drugs, it makes it easier for the nurses to steal them.
When LEADERSHIP visited the hospital, it found out that patients’ drugs, especially diabetics, are usually exposed in a transparent rubber but there are no names written on the drugs to indicate that a particular drug belongs to patient A or B.
It was gathered that the normal practice is that patients’ drugs are kept in a locker close to their beds, but in this circumstance, these expensive drugs are kept in transparent rubber and placed on a roller at the leg end of the patients bed, making it easy for the nurses to pilfer and then resell to the patients at a cheaper price when compared to the amount they go for at the pharmacy of the hospital.
Some of the relatives of patients at the hospital who spoke with LEADERSHIP confirmed that this act of stealing of drugs by nurses had been going on for a long time.
One of the relatives, who asked for anonymity, said when her mother was admitted for diabetes at the hospital, the doctor prescribed three- day drugs for her, which she bought.
She, however, added that when she went the next day to visit her mother, the nurse attending to her for that day told her that she had to buy more drugs as the ones she bought was exhausted.
“I became agitated because the prescription was for three days and I ensured I procured the drugs.
“I later got to know how these nurses steal the drugs because one faithful day, after new prescription was given to me, I went to the hospital pharmacy to buy the drugs. While waiting on the queue, a nurse approached me and asked me to give her the prescription list given to me by the doctor. She then pulled me aside and told me she had the drugs, and that she was ready to sell to me at a cheaper rate and also save me the time of standing at the long queue.
“So I told the nurse to bring the drugs. To my greatest surprise, the drugs were the same sold at the pharmacy store; the same brand, and this nurse was willing to sell them to me at a cheaper rate. So I asked some of the relatives of patients at the hospital if they were experiencing the same thing, and they all attested to the fact that nurses had been selling these drugs to them for a long time at a cheaper rate and saving them the time of queuing.
“How these nurses get hold of these drugs was a question that kept me wondering. But I knew for a fact that my mum’s drugs didn’t just disappear; they were stolen by the nurses and then resold to other people at a cheaper rate. This is indeed not fair,” the relative said.
Other relatives of sick patients, who spoke to LEADERSHIP, also confirmed that this fraudulent practice had been going on for a long time and called on the management to check it, so that they do not have to buy the same drugs twice every day.
LEADERSHIP also spoke with some of the nurses but they all denied the allegation, claiming that before they even open the see-through can to administer drugs to the patients, they ensured that the patients were aware.
As to why patients drugs are missing, the nurses claimed that it cannot be them committing such an act.
But this denial was challenged by other respondents who look after their sick ones in the hospital.
One of them said, “How can you believe that? We are here to take care of our sick relations, but we are not allowed to sleep with them. My mother has diabetes with sores and scheduled for surgery; this is an old woman who can hardly do anything by herself. Most of the time, she is put to sleep because of the pain, so how can such person monitor her drugs.
“We have had these experiences, and because we are handicapped, when we have opportunity to buy from them, we do.
“Do you know that sometimes if at the pharmacy they write a prescription and the patient is reacting to the drugs and needs urgent treatment, if at the pharmacy the drug is not available and the nurses discover you have a challenge, they will call you aside and sell the drug to you; so where are they getting them from?”
In his reaction, the chief medical director, LASUTH, Professor Adewale Oke, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, said, “Anywhere you work, you will have good and bad people, but we must be given the opportunity to fish out the bad ones. As far as I am concerned, this opportunity hasn’t been given to us. But now that you have raised it, we will investigate it.
“My office is always open for patients to walk in and lay their complaints. As a matter of fact, my phone numbers are posted everywhere in the hospital’s premises for patients to call.
“We do get complaints from patients nearly every day, and we have a process of investigation that leads to justice. We have set up a panel that look into issues like this. It is the panel that would then declare the penalty meted out to the perpetuators. It could be suspension for two months, demotion, half salary or even sack. So this issue raised will be investigated and the nurses, if found guilty, would be prosecuted.”