Good Samaritan Act

Editorial

 

The National First Aid Trainer for Nigeria Red Cross Society, Bashir Umar, has advised Nigerians to learn basic first aid applications to reduce sudden deaths: “When accidents happen, we need to give the victims first aid treatment before they are taken to the hospital or medical people arrive at the scene. There is the need for basic knowledge,” adding that lives would be saved when people know relevant first aid skills.

This call on people in non-medical occupations to volunteer for first aid education is timely. Nigeria’s population has been rising exponentially and does not look like it is likely to go down anytime soon.  With over 200 million people, the chances of transport-related accidents, workplace accidents, and even disease-related health emergencies in the home, on the road, at work, in churches and mosques; and in schools also increasing phenomenally are high. It is, therefore, significant that Mr Taiye Olaniyi, Chairman, Nigerian Red Cross Society, FCT Branch, also sponsored a similar advocacy to that of the national first aid trainer of the Nigerian Red Cross: “We advocate that individuals such as employees, businessmen or women, students could register for courses at the Red Cross offices or any humanitarian organisation at their leisure times to acquire the skills.’’

No attempt in Nigeria to increase awareness of the importance of training volunteers and others to prepare to play the role of bystander first-aider to people in accidents and other medical emergencies before such patients reach formal health-care centres for full professional medical attention can be misplaced, especially given the number of accidents on our roads—rural or urban — and at home in the middle of the night. The call for extending first aid training across demographic groups to prepare the average bystander to function as effective first aider with basic knowledge of first aid intervention when it is needed is the way to go in a country with high numbers of accident victims on the highways and in the inner cities dominated by ‘Okada’ riders.

While the Red Cross Society and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) have set an enviable record for quality of training in basic and advanced first aid courses for other training facilities to adopt or build upon, there are still challenges in other areas, if the initiative to popularise acquisition of first aid knowledge and skills among citizens is to be achieved.

Observant travellers would have noticed that the enthusiasm of people to assist accident victims as lay first-aiders on the highways is noticeable. But many people fear litigation or harassment by the police for coming to the aid of someone with an injury. Even many hospitals refuse to accept accident victims from individuals without proof of duty to care as doctors or registered nurses attached to registered hospitals. Such embarrassment often prevents people from seeking any training in first aid. The Red Cross and other stakeholders ought to appeal to the government to review operations of lay first aiders in respect of delivery of first aid to people at the point of injury.

We recommend that governments provide legislation to mandate universal and free first aid training for non-medical first aiders. A common practice is that drivers who often serve as first aiders in Nigeria are laymen. There ought to be opportunities for drivers to receive training. The Federal Road Safety Commission is a fitting agency to run such training facilities for applicants for driver’s license. The same opportunity should be given to experienced drivers.

In addition, science has demonstrated that young people, including elementary school children, have the capacity to benefit from first aid training. Governments should review the curriculum of primary and secondary schools to include basic first aid knowledge to school children. Our university system with a course system that allows for core courses and electives, should be strengthened to serve as providers of first aid training.

There is also need for a law that protects potential first aiders, with proper training from liability for providing first aid service to people who desire such intervention. Such humanitarian spirit deserves a Good Samaritan Act from the federal legislature.

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