The management of Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu and family of its deceased staff are at war over the deceased’s final entitlement. CHUKS NWEZE writes on the intrigue and unfolding developments.
When Dr Lazarus Obinna Ozor from Ezeagu local government area of Enugu state was employed as a medical doctor at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu on December 2, 2013, his ambition was to attain the zenith of his profession, however, that was not to be as he died shortly after.
Report had it that a few months after joining the hospital, Ozor took ill to the point that he couldn’t function in any capacity in the hospital, including attending his academic programmes, which were necessary to pass his residency training in Psychiatry. He was said to have developed a terminal liver disease.
Then, one Dr Macdonald Chikaodi Inechi, who was the president of Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) in the hospital alongside Dr Kingsley Ugwuonye of the same hospital and other member of ARD visited Dr Ozor to ascertain his health condition and reportedly found him to be terminally ill.
Abandoned by family
According to Dr Inechi, “I visited him (Dr Ozor) alongside Dr Ugwuonye and discovered that he was practically left without any form of assistance, severely dehydrated with high grade fever and completely abandoned,” he had said.
Blueprint gathered that the late doctor’s uncle, Mr Stephen Ozor, rebuffed suggestions by Inechi and Ugwuonye to take him to hospital for medical attention on the ground of financial difficulty.
How colleagues rallied round him
However, it was learnt that Dr Ugwuonye later contacted Royal Hospital, his former employer, to admit the ailing Ozor for immediate resuscitation while arrangements were made to fly him to India for proper medical attention.
While all these were going on, the body of resident doctors at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu alongside other medical doctors graciously resolved to contribute money to fly their colleague to India.
Blueprint gathered that a First Bank account number 303754174 was opened to deposit all the money contributed by the doctors for this purpose in his name. Other signatories are MacDonald Chikaodi Inechi and Kingsley Ugwuonye.
However, while Inechi and Ugwuonye were made signatories to the account, only the ailing Dr Ozor was made the sole recipient of bank SMS alerts/ notifications of the transactions on this account.
It was gathered that the doctors contributed about N1,034,711.00 into the account from where Inechi and Ugwuonye drew money to attend to the health problem of their departed colleague, as well as pay for his burial expenses.
Meanwhile, the family of the ailing doctor allegedly contributed nothing to this account and did not even render any other assistance to alleviate the plight of their own.
It was gathered that the ailing doctor was later flown to Lagos accompanied by Dr Diogu Chinedu of the same hospital to begin the first leg of his trip to India. The duo was later joined by one Miss Chinenye who came to Lagos by road.
Unfortunately, Dr Ozor could not make the trip to India as he died in Lagos on June 15, 2014 while waiting for VISA to travel to India. His untimely death ended his ambition of a blossoming career.
How the intrigues started
It was gathered that the ex-CMD of the hospital approved the sum of N750.000.00 as the hospital’s contribution to the burial of the deceased in line with the extant public service rules.
According to information from the hospital’s management, N500, 000.00 was meant to be spent on print media advert while N200, 000.00 was to be expended on purchase of casket. The remaining N50, 000.00 was meant for ferrying the hospital’s staff to the deceased community on the day of the burial. But for inexplicable reasons, this amount was not released until the day of burial.
Dr Inechi said, “Before the release of the deceased’s benefit, I and Dr Ugwuonye had withdrawn money from the First Bank account which was used to purchase the casket and pay for other burial arrangement expenses including the burial brochure.
He further said that before the fatal trip to Lagos, the late doctor had asked him and Dr Ugwuonye to withdraw money from the dedicated account to enable him settle some other personal and family issues.
Dr Inechi also said management of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital released the sum of N700,000.00 to him to give to the family of the deceased on the day of his burial, adding that the money was collected by the deceased’s uncle on behalf of the family.
He also said after the burial, being the only family member of Late Ozor, they withdrew the remaining N330,000.00 donated by the doctors and gave it to Mr Stephen Ozor, his townsman in Ezima in the presence of one Hyginus.
“After delivering the money, we all went home. Since that December 2014 till September 2019, there was no quarrel, no confrontation or asking us for anything. I was summoned by the CMD when they came to ask for the late doctor’s entitlement. We learnt that the CMD sought for the file and saw that the man wrote an acknowledgement letter for that N700,000 we gave him during the burial. Mr Stephen however denied receiving any money.”
The uncle however alleged that Dr Inechi saw him on the road and gave him a paper to sign and he signed without knowing what was there and he gave him mutilated N25,000. According to him, that day was the first time he heard that the man wrote an acknowledgement letter.
Dr Uchenna Onu, then secretary of ARD confirmed to Blueprint that Mr Stephen Ozor actually collected the sum of N700,000.00 in the presence of some ARD members.
“Many ARD members were present when the N700,000.00 was delivered to Mr Stephen Ozor as the nearest family member of our deceased colleague.
“When we told him that there was something from the hospital management, he took us to an inner room and we agreed to give him the money inside the room because we thought that giving somebody that huge amount of money in the open could be dangerous,” said Dr Onu.
Also, Dr Chinedu Diogu, collaborated with the other doctors, regretting that the late Ozor’s family should appreciate the doctors instead of vilifying them for helping them in their responsibility which they couldn’t.
Family appreciates hospital
On July 17 2014, Mr Stephen Ozor wrote a letter to the CMD Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, expressing the family’s appreciation for the befitting burial accorded their brother.
“On behalf of the Ozor’s family, I wish to express my appreciation and acknowledge the receipt of the sum of Seven hundred thousand Naira only (N700.000.00) from the hospital management through Dr Inechi M C who represents the Association of Resident Doctors of your hospital.
“I also use this medium to thank the hospital community for the highly commendable role they played in ensuring a befitting burial of my brother, late Dr Lazarus Ozor.
The hospital community was, however, taken aback when on August 19, 2019, five years after, the same Stephen Ozor wrote a letter to the current medical director of the hospital – requesting for payment of entitlements that accrues to the late doctor.
He complained that he had earlier written to the previous medical director on the same matter and was assured that urgent steps would be taken to address the issue.
It was gathered that the hospital’s CMD, instructed the head of clinical services, Dr Vincent Ubochi, to look into Mr Stephen Ozor’s request following which Dr Ubochi invited him to the hospital for a chat.
On arrival, Mr. Stephen Ozor was given a blank paper to sign his signature which he did twice. The essence, it was learnt, was to ascertain whether he was the same person who signed the July 17, 2014 letter of appreciation to the hospital management.
Apparently satisfied with the regularity of the signature, the hospital allegedly dismissed his request with a wave of the hand, having collected N700.000.00 from Dr Inechi on behalf of the family in 2014.
He however insisted that he never collected any money from Dr Inechi; therefore wants the duo of Inechi and Ugwuonye to account for the money contributed by medical doctors to fly his deceased brother to India for treatment.
Dr Onu however countered him saying, “The money in the First Bank account was contributed by resident doctors and we are the rightful people to ask the signatories to the account to account for the money or accuse them of embezzling the money and not the beneficiary in this case.”
Mr Stephen Ozor is however alleging that the money was misappropriated and is urging the police to arrest and prosecute the duo of Inechi and Ugwuoye
He also vehemently denied receiving any money from the management of the hospital through Dr Inechi.
In response, the head, clinical services of the hospital, Dr Ubochi said, the hospital has satisfied all responsibilities to the late Dr. Ozor as a former staff member.
He described as disheartening the actions of Mr Ozor to drag the name of the hospital and the doctors who showed kindness to the Ozor family in the mud. He confirmed that when Mr Ozor was invited after his letter for entitlement, he was asked to sign his signature twice in a plain sheet, which he did and it tallied with the one in a letter that acknowledged the receipt of N700, 000 from the hospital.