Endless Hospital Waits Over for Pregnant Nigerian Women

Sep 62011

The headline of the Weekly Trust cover story on Saturday, July 30th was scathing: “Abuja mothers-to-be cry out… ‘We go through hell in hospitals.’” Produced under the guiding eye of Knight International Journalism Fellow Sunday Dare, the story highlighted a critical shortage of hospital staff that prompted many expectant mothers to show up in the middle of the night hoping to be near the front of the line when workers came on duty. The reaction was immediate.

Rapid Response: Already 700 medical workers have been hired to handle the acute shortage.

The headline of the Daily Trust cover story on Saturday, July 30th was scathing: “Abuja mothers-to-be cry out… ‘We go through hell in hospitals.’”

Produced under the guiding eye of Knight International Journalism Fellow Sunday Dare, the story highlighted a critical shortage of hospital staff that prompted many expectant mothers who needed care to show up in the middle of the night hoping to be near the front of the line when workers came on duty. Some of the patients were forced to sleep on floors and wait up to 18 hours for limited treatment.

The reaction was immediate. Senator Bala Mohammed summoned the General Manager of the Hospitals Management Board to his office to complain about the conditions detailed in the story. Within two weeks, the general manager – Dr. Aminu Mai – had implemented a new, computerized appointment system to significantly cut wait times. Since the story ran, 700 additional medical personnel have been hired, with a target of more than 1,100 by the end of the year.

“Right now these health professionals are being deployed to the hospitals and the numbers are going to increase,” Mai told the reporters. “We hope that service delivery will improve.”

The story was a first for Dare’s new health reporting team, and stemmed from a tip to one of its members. Dare then assigned three reporters to work on different angles of the story, and helped them get multiple sources, check facts with hospital officials and interview patients.

The reporters interviewed more than a dozen women. One expectant mother said she arrived at 5 am and waited all day, but was turned away because only one nurse was on duty. Of the 173 women who turned up that day, only 60 were lucky enough to be seen. The article also questioned how Nigeria could hope to meet its Millenium Development Goals when hospitals are unable to meet the demands for basic care.

“It was extremely gratifying for the health team to see such quick response to a health story,” said Dare. “The reporters and managers now have a better understanding of their own ability to affect results by seeking out the facts and details that will lead to change in policy and improvement in conditions.”