HOSPITAL BRUTALITY AND PUBLIC SECTOR BRANDING IN LAGOS


HOSPITAL BRUTALITY AND PUBLIC SECTOR BRANDING IN LAGOS

There was chaos at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) where families of victims of the Dana Air crash were busy collecting remains of dead relatives as there was a brutal and savage attack on Leadership newspaper photojournalist, Mr Benedict Uwalaka, on Thursday, August 9, 2012 by officials of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) believed to be mortuary attendants.

However, without dwelling on the legality or illegality of the above actions this paper will attempt to examine the Intellectual property ramifications of the said action

The laws enumerated below make up the legal regime for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights in Nigeria.

 

Nigerian Copy Right Act, Cap. C 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

Patents and Designs Act, Cap P2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004; and

Trade Marks Act, Cap. T13 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

 

Public sector brands In Nigeria

In Lagos State many Public Sector organisations are beginning to brand effectively. Some have used bright colours, catchy slogans, or informative and navigable website, in all public sector bodies in Lagos State are looking like they mean business. They no longer come across as being aloof and unnecessarily bureaucratic. They now appear to be open, approachable, and yes desire to build working relationships with us, the citizens.

The other day I had to carry out a transaction at the Registrar of Limited Liability Partnerships at Ministry of Justice Alausa Lagos, their response was swift and the staff were courteous at all times.

Lagos State University Teaching Hospital as a Public Sector brand

According to information available on its website, the General Hospital Ikeja was commissioned for treatment of patients from Ikeja and its environs on June 29th 1955. It was originally a cottage hospital but later transformed to a full fledge General hospital.

It is pertinent to note that the General Hospital has now been transformed into a Teaching Hospital of repute from 9th February, 1999.

Thus it can be easily deduced that this hospital is a creation of statute and that it exists in the public sector as a public sector brand.

Distinctive Names

The first ingredient in any great public sector brand is a good name. It should be registered as a trademark. A trademark is usually a word, your name; but it can also be a logo, an email address (folawusu@yahoo.com, a tag line “Eko oni baje” “Ebe Ano”. Whether registered or not, a name is a valuable asset that can be protected under the tort of passing off.

A strong trademark is virtually mandatory for all public sector brands. As a matter of fact Section 30 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act contains some restrictions on the use of certain words as a Company name.

Further protection for a Statutory Brand can also be found in Section 62 of the Trademarks Act which grants protection to the “Coat of Arms” of both State Governments and Federal Governments by placing clear restrictions on the registration of any brand bearing these Arms.

A Public sector brand can be defined as a name, term, sign, symbol, design or a combination of colours intended to identify the Services of one Public Sector Institution, and differentiate it from that of another Public sector Institution.

 

Public sector brands are some of the most powerful and engaging brands in existence in Lagos.

LASTMA, KAI, VIO, NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH, LIRS, LTV and LAWMA amongst others, to a large extent elicit tremendous loyalty/disdain from employees and a large numbers of people/Lagosians who feel a strong emotional attachment towards them.

It is however important to realise that effective public sector brands are about engaging people and changing behaviours not just by words but by timely actions and not just about logos and banners (although of course the visual expression is an important branding tool in every branding campaign ).

The number of public sector brands in Lagos has grown in recent times. Quite a number of reasons are behind this, including the growth of government and its extension into all aspects of society.

One can however argue that there is only one brand that counts in the Lagos public sector sphere– and that is the Lagos Government. That would be assuming that all the other public sector brands are sub-brands deriving their value from the major brand Lagos State, so damage done to a public sector institution is damage done to the brand of Lagos State that seems to have consolidated on the catch line the centre of excellence with breath-taking innovation obvious to all and sundry..

From the Horse’s mouth…

Mr Uwalaka was quoted as saying the following:

“I came to LASUTH in the morning to cover the release of the corpses of victims of the DANA Air crash. Some vehicles were deliberately used to block the entrance to the mortuary to prevent access. From a distance, I took the pictures of the vehicles. Suddenly I heard a voice behind me, saying ‘shows me your camera, show me your camera. What pictures are you taking?’ Suddenly, somebody came from behind and snatched the camera from me.”

He said the attackers began beating him mercilessly, hitting him with their fists, sticks, bottles and other dangerous weapons, resulting in serious bodily injuries, especially on his face. Indeed, dangerous weapons were freely used to inflict injuries on his head.

 

An eyewitness perhaps…

According to media reports, another journalist, Mr Kola Olasupo, who was present at the scene, corroborated Mr Uwalaka’s account.

He was quoted as saying

“Uwalaka was wrongly attacked for an offence he did not commit and his camera destroyed by attendants and officials of the mortuary; if we were not around to rescue him while the mortuary men pounced on him and stabbed him, he would have died from severe loss of blood.”

But the Police is our Friend…

The incident was immediately reported at the Area ‘F’ Police Division headquarters in Ikeja where Uwalaka was taken to by his colleagues and a police report sought to take him to the emergency unit of the hospital.

It’s curious that the police station beside the hospital where the incident was reported refused to act on the lodged by the Uwalaka, possibly there were a little over stretched at this time.

This is poor branding on their part, they would simply have saved the day by nipping such violence in the bud, and refusal to answer a call for help in a brawl does not inspire much confidence that calls for help will be answered when assailants are armed with firearms et al.

A Case of Double Standards perhaps?

Swift detention of accused nursing mother but no action on murderous attackers of photo journalist…

Why has the nursing mother accused of murdering a Lastma official been held in detention even when she denies the allegation? While we have a video clip by Channels Television of multiple assailants/officials murderously attacking a photojournalist armed with his camera, they are not even denying the crime captured on video camera yet they are still walking free while the government, police and hospital management are busy passing the buck back and forth.

Why invite journalists to your hospital if you don’t want them around?

If people are not safe in a hospital which is meant to be a sanctuary for the infirm then where then are they safe? Does it make any sense that Uwaleke walked into the hospital whole but walked out with horrific injuries and awful bruises? Is the hospital hiding something?

Does the hospital not owe the photo journalist a duty of care?

I beg to think that they actually do, there is a good reason why contractors are vetted, and this is because the lines separating an agent from an independent contractor are easily blurred thus making vicarious liability anything but a distant reality.

 

An unreserved apology…

Our Hardworking and Innovative Governor an oral apology however unreserved would simply not do.

For one,  your Excellency, it won’t heal the photojournalist’s injuries, it won’t pay his medical bills as he would need to nurse those horrific injuries he was inflicted with ( seeing the shoddy treatment he allegedly received at the said hospital one doubts the wisdom in going back for more maltreatment, …sorry treatment..). It does not suffice as compensation which the law courts would gladly award all things been equal and it won’t in any way deter other evil doers from assaulting other people…

The future of Public Sector Health Institution Branding

All branding is about communicating a clear offer to your customers or users, however for public sector health institutions organisations, such as hospitals and health services, the focus may be on clarity and access to important information.

So branding and design may focus on signposting information or communicating issues clearly in order to change people’s behaviour.

Like many others, we’ve been deeply saddened by the video clip of that brazen assault on citizen Uwaleke, this highlights the undignified attitude of some care givers towards people in our hospitals and care homes.

In too many cases, people like Uwaleke have been let down when they were vulnerable and most needed help.

We know there are some hospitals and care homes providing great care, and we need to learn from them to get dignified care right for every person, every time and at every place.

Hospitals and care homes should be lights to the rest of the community, demonstrating how we are all the richer when people are protected, respected, valued and celebrated. I mean if you are not safe from physical assault in a hospital then where are you safe?

We need a major cultural shift in the way everyone in care thinks about dignity to ensure care is person-centred and not task-focused.

It is absolutely clear that we all need to work together to improve dignity in health care and earn back public confidence in the health institutions in Lagos State.

 

Conclusion

Re-branding Lagos won’t be very effective when staff/ assorted hangers-on of public sector institutions go out of their way to negatively rebrand our beloved state with such despicable acts and vile behaviour.

An apology was the first step in the right direction, now we expect swift and hard sanctions Your Excellency!

Men set their hearts to do evil when punishment is slow in coming; it is probably not the first time such barbaric acts would have taken place, but as long as they remain unpunished men will continue to behave in such vile and despicable ways. Eko oni baje o!

Olufola Wusu Esq. © 2012

Counsel with Megathos Law Practice

Olufola Wusu is a Contract Review Specialist and Intellectual Property consultant

He can be reached at folawusu@yahoo.com

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by Olufola Wusu Esq

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