Mrs. Amaka, a resident of Gwagwa community, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is terrified about using hospitals where she lives. She says a number of people have died in hospitals in her area due to underqualified nurses. Corrupt doctors are causing a lot of harm. According to her, ‘someone will be selling akamu (hot corn cereal) today and tomorrow she has carried syringe because she has paid N50,000 to become a nurse but with no adequate training’. She reports doctors employing their ‘friends’ as nurses and collecting money in exchange for recruiting unqualified nurses. Even basic procedures, like injections, are resulting in patients’ getting abscesses due to negligence. She reports a number of women are dying during childbirth in a particular hospital due to poor medical care.
Another experience was reported by Victoria Bawa, a farmer in one of the FCT suburbs. She complained of being extorted by health care staff during her recent visit to a government hospital in FCT. Victoria was asked to pay more than the official fee to buy drugs for her sick nephew in a government hospital. She was given a receipt of N2000 while she paid N4000 despite pleading that she had no money.
Others have also alleged that some directors kept in charge of managing the government hospitals are running hospitals as if it is their personal business. Issuing false bills or fake receipts and not remitting monies to the government is commonplace in such facilities. This is the state of public health care provision in Nigeria where corruption is thriving, while the poor are extorted for money and losing their lives. It is not surprising that that the Word Health Organization ranks Nigeria 187 out of 191 in the area of access to universal health coverage.
Lack of access to quality healthcare coupled with the prevalence of quack hospitals, doctors, fake drugs and substandard products is destroying the quality of health care provision in Nigeria, and this particularly affects the poor. The absence of transparent mechanisms and proper regulation gives room for corrupt practices.
Tackling corruption in this area will require a holistic approach. This will involve increasing funding to health care facilities, improving the pay conditions for medical personnel as well as building social accountability in local communities. Users of these health care facilities should have platforms where they can make complaints on corruption and poor service delivery. We need to have transparent mechanisms such as citizen service charters in hospitals to make people aware of their rights. Sanctions or punishment should be placed on any medical professional that is caught engaging in corrupt practices. We should not continue to allow corruption to kill more people. We need to act now.