CDWR Demands Reversal of Extortionate fees in Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC)
* We call for adequate funding of health sector and provision of free and quality health care at all levels
Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), Osun State, hereby condemns in absolute terms the extortionate, exploitative and inhuman fees being charged poor patients at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC) in Ile-Ife and its annex at Wesley Hospital, Ilesa. These fees show the inhuman character of the management of the health institution and the President Buhari government whose criminal underfunding of the health sector is also responsible for this situation. We call for immediate reversal of these extortionate charges and all other anti-poor policies of the teaching hospital.
According to information at our disposal, expectant mothers that want to undergo caesarean section (CS) procedure for delivery must cough out a minimum of N72, 000. This amount is for medical supplies which include surgical drapes (N24, 000), surgical gowns (N24, 000) and N95 facemasks (8 pieces) at N24, 000. All of this is aside other medical materials, drugs and fees for the procedure and post-natal treatments, which are more than 100 percent of these amounts. Just as it is for pregnant women so it is, or worse, for other patients. In fact, the hospital, just like most public hospitals in the state, is not admitting patients for regular treatment except for emergencies and child delivery, thus worsening the plights of poor Nigerians seeking treatment.
It is unfortunate that the management of OAUTHC is using the misery of the society, vis-à-vis the raging coronavirus pandemic to extort money from poor patients and, worse still, pregnant women. Nigeria is ranked as one of the countries with worst maternal and early child mortality in the world. One of the causes of this horrible record is the high cost of accessing health services, which has pushed many pregnant women and nursing mothers into the hands of quacks and untrained local ‘health’ practitioners. It is shameful that a tertiary health institution, that should know better, is engaging in such terrible extortionate policies that will worsen already terrible situation. It is shameful that a public hospital will be competing with private hospitals in the quest for extortion of patients.
Of course, we cannot take away the fact that underfunding of health sector and our various hospitals, which account for inadequacy of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessary facilities and personnel, is a major cause of high cost of out-of-pocket health spending. Aside the poor funding of various tertiary health institutions, making them to rely on out-of-pocket fees from patients, the state governments at all levels have killed primary and secondary health institutions that should attend to many medical cases that are taken to teaching hospitals and other tertiary health institutions, which are mainly for research and serious medical cases.
In Osun State for instance, despite the so-called rehabilitation of primary health centres, albeit through funding from multilateral institutions, most of these health centres cannot handle simple cases. This is because most of these health centres lack adequate medical supplies, they are poorly equipped and understaffed. The various state hospitals in Osun State are in terrible conditions as they are chronically underfunded. Throughout the state, the state government could only boost of less than 300 doctors and less than 1000 health workers in all the state-owned health institutions (primary to tertiary). This is for a population of more than 3.4 million.
Given this scenario, it is clear that tertiary hospitals like OAUTHC, especially the medical and health workers, will be overwhelmed. But this is not a justification for introducing extortionate charges that can actually threaten the health of expectant mothers and other patients. Moreover, the chronic underfunding of the health institutions, OAUTHC inclusive, by the government, has not stopped the management of the health institution from mismanaging the meagre funds allocated to the hospital, through award of contracts and exorbitant allowances for management officials. It is condemnable that the burden of this mismanagement is being offloaded on the shoulders of poor patients.
Consequently, we in the CDWR call for immediate reversal of these extortionate charges, and others anti-poor policies of the management of OAUTHC that make access to health services in the institution difficult. We also call for proper funding of all health institutions in the country by the governments, employment of adequate staff and provision for adequate medical supplies including PPE in all health institutions. Furthermore, we call for democratic management of the funds going to health sector and health institutions by elected representatives of trade unions, communities and government. We furthermore call for adequate remuneration for all categories of health and medical workers across the country. We demand a crash programme to expand and refurbish all health institutions from primary to tertiary level, especially in this emergency period of Coronavirus pandemic. We demand free and quality health care at all levels and end to extortionate out-of-pockets fees in all health institutions.
We call on health and medical workers and their unions to put these demands, among others, on their front burner. Medical and health workers should be under no illusion that their welfare can be guaranteed in a commercialized health sector. Only adequate funding of health sector at all levels can ensure a functional health sector. This underscores the need for collective struggle of workers and the poor.