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Abuja High Court restrains FCT Minister from ejecting patients at Garki Hospital

An Abuja High Court has restrained the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Bello and the FCTA Administration from ejecting patients at the Garki Hospital and taking over the facility.

Justice Charles Agbaza who gave the interim order on March 30, 2022, restrained the defendants from taking custody of Garki Hospital as contained in a letter of termination issued on March 1, 2022, by the Minister to Nisa Premier Hospital, the concessionaire to Garki Hospital, Abuja.

The court order was given after hearing a motion filed on behalf of Nisa Premier Hospital by Bola Olotu, and considering a 35-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Adamu Onu.

Specifically, the court “retrained the defendants and their agents, privies representatives, servants or anyone whosoever acting on their behalf or instruction(s), from taking custody of Garki hospital Abuja and or from implementing, effecting or actualizing or giving any effect, implementation or actualization however to their March i, 2022 letter or taking any action or steps(s) whatsoever as contained or expressed in their March 1, 2022 letter to the claimant/Applicant on the concession agreement and the taking custody of Garki Hospital Abuja, pending the determination of the motion on notice.”

The court also restraining “the Defendants/Respondents, their agents, privies representatives, servants or anyone whosoever acting on their behalf or instruction from interfering with, disturbing, hindering or obstructing in any way or in any manner or by any means or method or device whatsoever or howsoever the activities, business, management, practice and or services of the claimant/Applicant at the Garki Hospital Abuja, pending the determination of the motion on Notice.”

In a “letter of termination” to the management of NISA Premier dated March 1, 2022, titled Re: Concession agreement for Garki Hospital, Abuja, the Minister said: “The FCTA intends to terminate the concession agreement on the expiry date of March 31, 2022 and also to take custody of Garki Hospital with effect from April 1, 2022.

“The decision to terminate the concession will no doubt afford the FCTA the opportunity of providing affordable medical care to the residents of Garki District.”

The FCTA letter also advised concessionaires to take “steps towards vacating the hospital premises and hand over the assets and equipment pursuant to clauses 7.8 and 19.9 of the concession agreement latest by April 1, 2022.”

But Nisa Premier Hospital had replied, saying: “The honourable minister may wish to recall our earlier letters dated July 10, 2017; May 25, 2019 and February 1, 2020 on the concession agreement. The response to these letters either positively or negatively would have given NISA Premier Ltd adequate notice for either renewal or termination.

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“We believe the one-month notice given to vacate the hospital premises is inadequate…we consider that a transition period of 12 months will be adequate to address” ethical issues, staff matters including post-graduate residency training, house officers, pharmacy, nursing, assets and medical and ICT equipment.

“From an ethical standpoint, we owe a duty of care to our many patients. We will need to make suitable arrangements for the ongoing care of our patients some of who are in long term care. For example, our over 3,000 patients, receiving antiretroviral medication will require suitable arrangements to ensure they continue to receive lifesaving medication without interruption. We also have patients on chronic lifesaving dialysis and preterm infants in care. These alternative arrangements cannot be made in one month.

“We have several staff undergoing postgraduate residency training. Time is needed for them to complete their training or for us to make suitable arrangements for their training without interruption.”

Meanwhile, the FCT Minister, Bello has said that the FCT Administration has no plans whatsoever to shut down the Garki District Hospital, explaining that the 15-year concession agreement signed between the FCTA and the Nisa Medical Group on the management of the hospital expires on the March 31, 2022 after which the hospital reverts back to the FCTA to enable the Administration to provide for more public hospital bed spaces.

Bello stressed that the FCTA has no plans to disrupt the operations of the hospital even for a single day following the expiration of the 15-year concession agreement.

The Minister who gave the assurance when he received the Executive members of the FCT branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), led by its Chairman, Enema Job Amodu, on a courtesy visit to the FCTA, said the concession agreement had an expiration date as assented to by both parties.

Chief Press Secretary to the minister, Anthony Ogunleye quotes Bello: “The FCT Administration is not terminating the Garki District Hospital Concession. Even our distinguished Chairman here said terminate, but it’s not so. The situation is that an agreement was entered 15 years ago and mutually accepted by the FCT Administration and the Nisa Medical Group. It was an agreement that has a commencement date and an expiration date.

 “So, by virtue of the agreement, it is supposed to expire on Thursday, March 31, 2022, a natural termination. So, it’s not the FCT terminating the agreement. That’s what we need to understand.

“The whole idea of PPP arrangement is very good. It was the first that was done and as a matter of fact, after that, we have done a couple of PPPs in infrastructure. Even within our existing hospitals, we are now working on a model where certain specialised departments would be run on PPP arrangement. The whole idea is to expand the hospital space, to expand the speciality space. So, we are not terminating anything. It’s an agreement that is going to lapse.

 “So, how could we just shut our hospital, while we have been given a mandate to provide healthcare. So many people tell me that Garki Hospital will be shut down, so many people will lose their jobs. I just find it difficult to comprehend, quite frankly. How can a government just shut a hospital?”

The Minister assured that FCTA officials and the Nisa Group would work on modalities moving forward adding that whatever arrangement was reached thereafter will be in the best interest of residents of the Territory and other patrons of the hospital outside the FCT.

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