Mother of twins loses access to baby over hospital bills
Akpesiri Ojiko, a 36-year-old mother of three whose twin baby was detained for over one month by a private clinic in Warri, Delta State, over an outstanding bill of N383,500, shares her story.
You recently reunited with your twin baby five weeks after she was detained by the management of a private clinic in the state. Can you recall the events that led to her detention at the health facility?
My name is Akpesiri Ojiko. I am from Warri in Delta State. I am 36 years old. I have three children – a daughter and a set of twins.
I am not legally married to the father of my children. I am a petty trader. I had my twins at the General Hospital, Warri, on November 17 (2022). I had them through the natural way (not by Caesarean section).
After the delivery, the babies were taken to the topmost floor where children were cared for. I was in the labor room and did not know what was happening.
When my sister came to the hospital, the management told her at about 1 am to move one of the twins to a private hospital.
They said they could not admit two children on one bed, that they were short of beds and that the one available was for emergencies.
My sister told them that we did not know any private hospital where the baby could be taken to, so we told them to help us take care of the baby.
They listed about four private hospitals and provided the contact numbers but my sister said the services of the hospitals would be too expensive for us.
However, they referred us to a clinic, Unique Healthcare, and contacted operators before we got there.
They also assured us that the services of the private clinic were not expensive.
What happened at the private clinic?
When we got there, the doctor told us that he had been informed about us. When they admitted the baby, they told us to pay N6,500 for a card.
After paying that, they told us to make a deposit of N100,000. When we pleaded with them that we did not have the money, they told us to look for it.
After a week, my sister withdrew the N50,000 she had been saving and made a payment to the clinic. When I was discharged with the other twin from the General Hospital, we went to the clinic to see the second twin.
When we got there, the doctor who attended to us was rude to us. He gave us a bill of about N500,000 and when I went inside to talk to him concerning the bill, he rudely told me to leave his office.
When he deducted the deposit of N50,000 that my sister made, we had N383,500 left to pay. I explained to him that I did not have the money and that if I did, I would not have had the twins at the General Hospital. I had to cry for help. I was really depressed and confused.
Were you allowed to breastfeed the baby?
I was not allowed to touch the baby until some people intervened.
The owner of the clinic was reported to have said that you abandoned your child. Is that true?
We took food and wipes to the clinic every week. I don’t know how we abandoned the baby. Each time we went there, they collected the items. The doctor told us to pay the outstanding bill.
When I pleaded with him, he told me to get out of his office because he had other people to attend to. When I asked him about the condition of the baby, he did not even talk about it, he was only interested in the money.
Were you physically assaulted by workers at the clinic?
How did you cope with as a nursing mother separated from her infant?
I was not happy about it. At one point, the doctor said he would take my baby to an orphanage if I didn’t pay the money.
Is it true that your husband fled when you had the twins?
He fled because of the bill. He was aware that I had twins. He and my sister took the baby to the clinic that night.
When did you realize that he had run away?
It has been over a month since I saw him. He did not come home or ask about our welfare. He was happy when I had the twins but when he was informed about the bill, he was confused. The people he met for assistance only gave him N1,000 or N2,000.
Were you living together before you had the twins?
Yes. We packed out of the apartment we were living in when we had a problem with the house rent.
Did you try to reach him on the phone?
He left his SIM card for me on a table. He did not tell me that he was leaving. It was when he left that I saw the SIM card on the table.
I inserted the card into a phone hoping that someone would call but nobody did. Unfortunately, my baby threw the phone into a container of water and that was why I could not be reached.
What did he tell you when you last had a conversation?
He said he did not have the kind of money the hospital demanded and he could not steal. He is a tricycle rider and the owner of the tricycle was disturbing him.
Has he ever left you?
No. I have not experienced such in my life. I felt abandoned when he left. When I complained to his siblings, his younger brother said he had not seen him too.
When and how was your baby released to you?
My sister told me that someone volunteered to pay the bill on Tuesday (January 3, 2023). She said the person told me to come to the clinic but I was afraid because I did not know who the person was or whether I would be harassed at the clinic for crying out.
When I got to the clinic, I found that it was real. I met the person and he said he was there to clear the bill so I could go home with my child. I learned that the person was sent by the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Sheriff Oborevwori.
When I received my child, I felt relieved from depression. It felt like I gave birth to the baby that day. I was happy.
Did the doctor apologize to you for the inconvenience the detention of your baby cost you?
I did not really understand what the owner of the clinic wanted – whether he wanted to return the baby to me or keep her. He did not apologize to me; he was not around when I got there.
Has your husband returned or called you since the bill was paid?
I have not seen him. He has not called me, so I don’t know whether he is aware or not. His younger brother has been assisting me. He gave me some money to buy diapers for the babies. He also bought a mobile phone for me.
Do you wish to have your husband back home?
That is his decision to make. When he left, I lost hope that this marriage would work. I can’t cope with such a person. Even if he doesn’t have the money, his presence would have mattered a lot.
Who has been helping you to take care of the twins and your eldest child?
My younger sister and my mother have been assisting me with the little they have. I sell edible starch. Although it is not a good business, it is better than begging.
I am appealing to the Delta State Government to assist me. As of now, I don’t have accommodation. I spent the money I would have used to pay my house rent at the hospital. I also need a job to take care of my children. I am not a graduate but I learned catering.
Thank you (PUNCH Newspaper) so much. You are doing a good job. God used you to help my baby. I did not expect it.
My experience at the hospital felt like hell but since I got my child I have been sleeping well. It gives me joy when I hear my babies crying and disturbing me.