Law & Justice

News: Medical team of prisoners on hunger strike quit over inability to transfer Bekele Gerba to private hospital

Among the prisoners on hunger strike are Bekele Gerba, now said to be in critical condition, Jawar Mohammed and Hamza Borana of the opposition OFC

By Siyanne Mekonnen @siyaanne 

Addis Abeba, February 13/2021 – The medical professionals following the health conditions of prisoners on Jawar Mohammed case who are on a hunger strike said the team has stopped providing care for the prisoners over the inability of the team to transfer Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), to a private care facility after the health condition of Bekele has deteriorated.

Dr. Illili Jamal, who is leading the medical team after a federal court ruled the prisoners to be treated by medical professionals of their request, told Addis Standard that physical examinations and laboratory tests run for Bekele indicated that the damage to his kidney is worsening and that electrolytes and nutrients in his body are depleted, putting his heart at risk. “He has underlying conditions of hypertension,” she said, adding “we finally convinced him to seek medical treatment after weeks of refusal.” Yesterday the medical team reached a consensus with the prison administration to take Bekele Gerba to a private hospital. Accordingly, the medical team arrived at Kaliti federal prison late in the evening to take their patient to a private hospital. “However, after being made to wait for over two hours, we were told that the patient can only be taken to a government hospital as per ‘orders came from above’” Dr. Illili said.

The striking prisoner was “denied the right to be taken to a private hospital of his choice, which was previously granted to them by the court of law. The medical team has therefore decided to stop attending to the patients’ health after the prison administration failed to uphold the court’s order,” she added.

The health condition of Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, Hamza Borana and others who have been on hunger strike since January 27, 2021 has deteriorated.  Prisoners Bona Tibile, Arefat Abubaker, Shamsuddin Taha, Dejene Tafa, Soboka Kako, Alemayehu Geleta, were admitted to Hospital in the last couple of days according to their lawyer Kedir Bulo.

The prisoners are on hunger strike since January 27.  They are only taking water and as they have reached the 17th day today Bekele Gerba’s health condition worsened as a result of “depletion of nutrients from prolonged hunger.”

“Private hospitals have a better set up for us to take care of our patients. But the way the prison administration is handling things, it would be too late to do our jobs had it been an emergency case risking their lives after being kept outside for that long.” Dr. Ilili said, explaining their reasons for resignation. “We realized that the court’s order to allow personal doctors is a facade. We want the public to know that we can’t be held responsible if anything happens to our patients.”

Dr. Ilili also spoke of the status of the detainees who were previously admitted to the hospital. She said that they have all refused treatment, removed the IV lines and left the treatment. Dejene Tafa who was admitted to the hospital after 6 days of hunger strike didn’t receive medical attention until the medical team of Jawar and Bekele Gerba paid him a visit according to her. The prison administration allowed them to treat them and they had been receiving treatment from these doctors while being admitted to the hospital in the prison. “Since the prison is not allowing us to do our jobs, we were forced to resign. Our patients have also told us to stop coming to them.”  AS

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