Features

Bed spaces for sale in Abuja

 

Patients groan as bed spaces, access to healthcare go to highest bidder

 

From Godwin Tsa, Paulinus Aidoghie, Fred Ezeh, Charity Nwakaudu, Jude Idu, Abuja

 

•National Hospital, Abuja

Frustration is being unleashed on patients seeking affordable health services at public healthcare facilities in Abuja. The horrible experience has, perhaps, made some of them to lose hope and interest in patronizing public hospitals.

While those who could afford the cost have switched to private healthcare facilities that are relatively unaffordable, the poor have glued theirselves to government-owned healthcare facilities because that’s the only affordable option.

•Yunusa

According to the patients, aside from the unfriendly treatment and attention they often get from workers in public hospitals, cost and conditions of securing a bed space in the hospitals have been unfavorable for people with low financial status, even when some are demanding for free or subsidised medical services in public hospitals.

•Dr. Onuh

The patients have accused the management of the hospitals of joining forces with the elite class to deprive them of the opportunity of enjoying medical services from such public healthcare facilities through several activities that are unfavorable to the poor.

The population in the FCT has been on a steady growth, yet, healthcare facilities to match the rising population, which relies on public healthcare facilities for medical attention, is grossly inadequate.

In the FCT, there are tertiary health care facilities, notably, National Hospital, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH) and Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi. There are several other secondary healthcare facilities assisting the tertiary ones in the provision of medical services to patients. These include the district hospitals at Life Camp, Wuse, Asokoro, Nyanya, Kubwa, Maitama, and several others owned and managed by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).

Unfortunately, these hospitals were built several years ago when Abuja’s population was, perhaps, moderate and manageable. Sadly, neither new ones nor any expansion has been built in the facilities after several years of usage to, perhaps, accommodate the significant surge in population.

This has limited the capacity and ability of the facilities to provide improved services to the rising number of people, thus putting pressure on facilities in the hospitals, particularly bed spaces, which have become ‘products’ for the highest bidder.

As a result, patients, amid their pains, are forced to spend long hours, sometimes days, at hospitals to get the attention of the doctors, consultants or other professionals. When they finally do, some of them are treated with “disdain, unkind and unprofessional” words by obviously “overworked, unmotivated and unhappy” health workers.

Howbeit, there are indications that patients from neighbouring states like Niger, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kogi and Plateau are responsible for the “surge” in the patronage of health care facilities in the FCT because of poor state of medical facilities in their states. This has made the hospitals to change modalities to favour certain categories of patients.

There are also indications that patients’ ability to get timely medical care in these hospitals is dependent on the generosity of such patients. Patients are left with the option of being ‘generouas’ in order to get quick and quality healthcare services, particularly scrambling for limited bed spaces and other critical services in government  hospitals.

Daily Sun found that despite the fact that the system of allocating bed spaces in the hospitals has been digitalised, hospital workers still find their way of manipulating the system to make some personal fortune.

Federal Medical Centre (FMC)

At the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, Abuja, Daily Sun gathered that securing bed space is a major concern for patients, perhaps, because of the increasing number of patients who visit the hospital.

Some “frustrated” visitors (names withheld at their request) at the car park beside the hospital entrance lamented the poor treatment their brother got at one of the general wards.

One visitor who identified himself as Saidu Ali said his brother was dying in pain and did not get the attention needed from the workers, hence, they considered the option of taking him to a private healthcare facility for proper medical care.

Meanwhile, a worker in the hospital told our correspondent that fees for bed space was recently increased to N10,000 per night for the general ward but a patient must make initial deposit of N30,000. Similarly, the price for private ward was increased to N30,000 per night, but a patient must make initial deposit of N90,000.

Daily Sun gathered that, hitherto, each night in the hospital cost N5,000 for the general ward, while a night in the VIP ward, which is en suite, cost N20,000.

Asked if the jostle for bed space was as a result of the huge population that regularly visit the hospital, the worker said it was not that they were too many.

“Management is the issue. There were lot of changes made recently and that includes upward review of prices. After paying the N30,000, the patients are still made to pay N2,500 every day for utility bill,” the worker said.

A patient, Aisha Farouk, said: “I visited the hospital a few days ago from Federal Medical Centre, Keffi , Nasarawa State. I came as early as possible so I could get the needed medical attention for my diagnosed ailment, but I had a horrible experience.

“I sat in one place for several hours without attention. I don’t know if it was a case of unseriousness or limited number of health workers attending to large number of patients. From my conversation with other waiting patients, it was clear that many of them came from different parts of Abuja and beyond, and would have loved to to return the same day. My saving grace was a male doctor whom I suspected was a Hausa man. I was forced to approach him to register my disappointment, using Hausa language. That was when he took me to someone that attended me. I would have spent the whole day in the hospital.”

National Hospital

It was a mixed experience for patients at the National Hospital, Abuja. While some patients were disappointed at the quality of service they received at the hospital, it was another experience for some others who openly commended the improvements so far in the facility in terms of human capital and facilities.

However, the negative experiences seem to be more, perhaps, due to the sophisticated services being offered in the facility. Many patients, due to their unfriendly experiences, described the hospital as a “dead zone”, where patients visit with anxiety, fear and 50-50 chances of survival.

Some patients accused the hospital management of hidden charges as regards bed space allocation in the hospital. A patient who identified himself as Kingsley said his mother, who was admission in the hospital, was being charged different prices for the bed space.

He said: “We have been here for about two weeks now and we are meant to pay different amounts of money for bed space and other undisclosed charges. We have asked questions and unsatisfactory answers were provided by the workers.”

However, there are indications that N50,000 is the minimum deposit for a patient to have access to bed space in the hospital. A senior worker in the hospital confirmed that securing a bed space in the hospital was dependent on the available spaces and patient’s financial balance in the portal: “You will get whatever is available if you have money in the portal and there is space.”

On the contrary, a patient and mother of two, who identified herself as Dorathy, said she was impressed with the services she received at the Family Medicine Department of the National Hospital: “The services are not as perfect as it should be, but there was a slight improvement as regards medical services in the hospital compared to previous experiences.”

Garki Hospital

At the Garki Hospital, Tanko Yunusa, an accident victim, said his encounter with the hospital management made him abandon his treatment in the facility for another hospital. Yunusa said he couldn’t continue with the hospital due to poor attention to his injury as a result of lack of bed space for him.

He said: “Yes, I had an accident and I was there on admission. But things got from bad to worse when I was told to leave my bed space, that someone else was in need of it. It was not as if I was owing, but because someone had been assigned my bed space, maybe because of deeper pocket.

“The drama started when a staff came and suggested that I should be coming as an outpatient. I didn’t understand the drama initially until later when it became clearer to me. I reacted angrily on the suggestion because I knew I could afford the bed space. But it was already late by then. Someone was already waiting by the corner to take over the bed space.”

Another patient, Kingsley Edughele, said: “We have been battling to secure a bed space for my daughter in this hospital. We were told that there was none at that moment, but we kept seeing people being admitted in what they referred to as private ward. We almost left the facility but because the ailment was not the one to handle as outpatient.

“When we arrived the hospital, we were told that there was no bed space, unless we managed the corridor. I could see so many patients alongside their caregivers on the ground, and we decided to join them because that’s the only available option. Little did I know that bed spaces were being paid for through the window.

“So, whenever you hear that such a health facility lacks bed space, be rest assured that the bed spaces have gone to the highest bidders. But the most annoying thing is that such monies are never remitted into the purse of government”.

James Olukoya had his own experience. He told our correspondent that illegal fees and transactions were among the most popular forms of corruption in public hospitals in Abuja, describing the trend as “lubricant” that denies many patients access to health care services in public hospitals.

It was also recorded that administrators in FCT hospitals collect payment for services that are ordinarily meant to be free, as well as tips for special favours from patients who are trying to speed up access to care.

Dr. Marcus Dokubo, a lecturer at Bingham University, Karu, Nasarawa State, narrated his experience at Garki Hospital: “Payments for such services are considered illegal because they are meant to be free, but, unfortunately, they are made mostly without the issuance of receipts. Most likely at hospitals, a challenged individual is already desperate and can do anything to regain his or her health. So, a healthcare official must avoid, reject, and refuse any illegal payment.

“Such persons should rather guide patients properly. Unfortunately, these health officials are taking advantage of the vulnerability of patients. In some public hospitals, administrators intentionally create bottlenecks that would make these illicit payments inevitable.

“It’s a systemic failure in Nigeria, and it’s endemic among all the MDAs. For instance, a minister feels the monthly allocations are his birthright, governors believe that allocations and security votes are their birthrights. So are directors who always tell their subordinates to ‘wait for their time’. It is a very unhealthy situation, and sadly, government is not addressing it because even the subordinates work without motivations which also encourages corruption in the system”.

The medical director, Garki Hospital, Dr. Adamu Onuh, described the act as an abuse of patients’ bill of rights, which should not be allowed to fester.

Dr. Onuh blamed hospital managements for allowing such illegal acts to thrive, describing such practice as evil that should stop.

“This is very strange to me and I think that the federal government should do something about it. I insist that once a staff is seen doing such, then, it is the failure of management. Here in my office, I have all the activities monitored because my computer is networking with other departments. We should be able to know the bed spaces available, but if such is being proliferated then it is the failure of the management,” he said.

Dr. Onuh reminded health practitioners of the need to ensure that patient’s bill of rights is duly applied to the day-to-day services. He said that full implementation of the bill of rights gives everyone the right to transparent billing, the right to information, and the right to a clean and conducive environment.

Kubwa Hospital

The experience seems to be the same in Kubwa General Hospital. An out-patient, Loveth Onu, who spoke with Daily Sun at the General Hospital, alleged that hospital beds were made for only the rich.

She said that before someone could be given a bed space in the hospital, a downpayment of N50,000 must be made, which is not affordable by most families these days.

Loveth said the experience has forced people to adopt new strategies to survive the situation. Most people now choose to see the doctors, collect prescriptions and look for a health personnel outside the hospital to administer the treatment for them.

“Before, it is said that government hospitals are for the poor, but now the poor do not have any place to run to for treatment. The rich have also taken over government hospitals because, if you cannot deposit N50,000, no bed for you. As you can see, I am still on medication, I only came for checkup because I have been taking my medication outside the hospital; I don’t have the advance payment for bed space. So, I choose to be outpatient.”

Another patient who pleaded anonymity lamented that general hospitals in FCT are becoming “death” centres instead of a place of health and healing. She said a woman recently lost a child because she couldn’t pay the deposit for her childbirth early enough. That was painful and frustrating.

“It has not really been easy these days with the ordinary Nigerians like us in government hospitals because of the current economic situation. The medical personnel are also making a fortune from it because, when we cannot get bed space in the hospital, we would fall back to them to administer the treatment, privately.

“I wept at the way they treated the woman that lost her child. She begged them to commence the treatment, that her husband was coming with the initial deposit of money, but they refused and said the hospital is not her house that she will just be asking for accommodation without paying first.

“Before now, what I know about government hospitals is that, when someone is hospitalized, the bills are paid when discharged, and that is when the bed bills are paid. The recent developments is not really funny because most families can barely feed now because of the harsh economy.”

Similarly, a patient who identified herself as Lilian said she nearly lost her life due to wrong administration of medication by someone she paid outside the hospital. “I was supposed to be admitted in the hospital but was told that there was no bed space.

“So, I collected the prescription and headed for one acclaimed health personnel close to my house. He bought the drugs and started treatment, but I wasn’t getting better. The case was worsening. A family member who visited me insisted that I stop the treatment immediately.

“It was when I was taken to another hospital that it was discovered that the treatment was wrongly done. The government needs to come to our aid because the way things are going, we might end up looking for alternatives to health which might be disastrous to public health.

A medical personnel who does not want his name in print said the hospital resorted to taking that advance payment because most patients would start begging that they do not have the resources to foot the bill after treatment, while others will quietly disappear.

“We have recorded a lot of cases of patients running away with the hospital bills after treatment. Yes, they buy the drugs themselves but the bed bills and other little things that they are supposed to settle before leaving are left untouched. They would tie rags in the bag and be behaving as if they are exercising their bodies, before you know what is happening, they have gone.”

Nyanya Hospital

At Nyanya General Hospital, the experience has rendered many patients stranded. A visit to the health facility exposed the bitter experiences the sick goes through in search of medical care.

Standing with a face of anguish, Adams Omale could not believe his eyes at the Nyanya General Hospital where he took his aged father for an emergency medical care. Some patients who were helped out of their vehicles were simply told “there is no bed space” for them.

Others loitered in the facility, especially at its Accident and Emergency Unit. At its front doors were a group of people struggling to get the attention of the medical staff who appeared overwhelmed.

Nyanya General Hospital was established by the FCTA in 1991, with little space for expansion. It performs critical medical task in wards that are always overcrowded with patients in need of attention.

Adam’s father, Omale, was sick and needed treatment at the facility. He had waited for over an hour but was told there was no bed space for him. They were subsequently referred to Asokoro General Hospital.

For instance, the Emergency Ward for adults only had four beds separated by cotton, and another two in a small room. A major observation at Nyanya General Hospital was lack of bedding for patients that require treatment and admission.

A man who pleaded anonymity complained that his son died because the hospital management refused to admit him on the ground that there was no bed space.

He said after he was eventually checked after the stress of registration at the General Outpatient Department (GOPD), the doctor on duty advised them to try another hospital because there was no bed space.

He said they eventually tried a private hospital in Garki where his son died on admission for an unresolved plasmodium.

However, some lucky patients got space after queuing for hours. There was also a small room for treating minor injuries, and another called the ‘Resuscitation Ward’ outside the adult emergency room.

Asokoro Hospital

The situation seems the same at the Asokoro General Hospital, another public hospital owned by the FCTA, where Nurudeen and his uncle were turned back by a nurse shortly after their arrival at the facility. The nurse attributed her action to lack of bed space for admission.

The acute shortage of hospital bed space jas culminated in a dire situation for patients seeking medical attention across the FCT.

Sharing her bitter experience with our reporter, Susan Joseph’s mother, Elizabeth, said her daughter was unconscious in the early hours of Thursday, March 14, 2024, which led the family to rush her to Asokoro General Hospital.

While the hospital had been like a “family hospital” for the Josephs, the perception changed that day because the facility couldn’t admit her but referred her to a private hospital.

Because of the unfriendly situation at the hospital, Elizabeth took her daughter to Wuse District Hospital, hoping to get the care she needed. However, the situation in Wuse was the same as Asokoro as she could not secure a bed space for her daughter.

FCTA response

The FCT Hospital Management Board was not quick to respond to the allegations. However, it was gathered that the FCT Administration, in its capacity, has proven to curb the corruption menace among its health institutions.

A senior director in the FCT Private Hospital Establishment Management Council (PHARMC) who did not want his name mentioned insisted that the management has ensured adequate policing of both private and public hospitals to ensure compliance with standards. He said that a handful of “animalistic behaviors” cannot be detected since human beings remain what they are.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button