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Nigerians shuns hospitals due to hardship

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By Usman Oladimeji

Rising cost of living makes it challenging to access healthcare services.

With inflation on the rise and the increasing hardships faced by the general population, it has become challenging for individuals to afford frequent trips to hospitals, especially during emergency situations. Nevertheless, it is imperative to acknowledge the significance of regularly visiting healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies in maintaining optimal health. The increasing cost of living in Nigeria has left many struggling, making it challenging to access healthcare services. As a result, people are turning to alternative medicine and preventive therapies for relief.

Several economic reforms implemented by President Bola Tinubu’s administration in the past few months, including the elimination of fuel subsidies coupled with the declining value of Naira, have impacted the purchasing power of numerous Nigerians and their access to high-quality healthcare. It was reported that many individuals now only visit the hospital in severe situations, particularly when it concerns the health of their children. Many individuals have turned to alternative medicine and herbs for healing as they prioritize spending a large portion of their income on food, leaving minimal funds for other necessities. Some even rely on prayers to prevent serious medical conditions that would require invasive treatments like surgery.

Drug prices have surged by 100-300 percent in some cases.

A common suggestion from many individuals was for the government to provide support through the subsidization of healthcare services and expanding access through local health clinics and small hospitals. Health professionals also confirmed that a significant portion of the population lack the necessary funds to receive medical treatment, viewing high-quality healthcare as a privilege rather than a necessity, due to the country’s current economic climate. Wunmi Balogun, a nurse, expressed concerns about the challenges faced by elderly individuals who are no longer working or are retired. Many of them rely on free medical treatment and medication, which presents a difficult situation for us to address, she said.

The rising costs of medication, caused by fluctuating exchange rates, are exacerbating the issue and leading people to seek help from unlicensed practitioners or self-medicate. Medication costs have surged by 100-300 percent in some cases, with a malaria medication that originally cost ₦2000 now selling for ₦3500-₦5000, varying based on the area. It was reported that the expenses associated with offering medical services and purchasing medical supplies have surged. As a result, healthcare providers and practitioners have had no choice but to raise their service fees.

Individuals are only seeking medical attention in emergency cases.

In recent months, the cost of bed space in public hospitals has increased significantly, ranging from ₦25,000 to ₦40,000. The price for a typical delivery remains between ₦60,000 and ₦120,000, while a Caesarean section (CS) can cost anywhere from ₦100,000 to ₦250,000. Meanwhile, the cost of caesarean sections in private hospitals ranges from ₦250,000 to ₦400,000. Furthermore, the cost of oxygen has surged in both public and private healthcare facilities. Healthcare professionals have noticed a rise in postponed surgeries due to financial constraints among patients. Some individuals opt for more economical healthcare options instead.

Dr. Akinwale, a surgeon at the state hospital in Ota, Ogun State, as well as the owner of several hospitals in the same area, noted a concerning trend. He observed that a growing number of individuals are only seeking medical attention when their conditions have escalated to emergency levels, after exhausting all other treatment options. Unfortunately, this delay in seeking care has led to increased harm, particularly among vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. Experts recommended that governments at all levels should take action to address the increasing costs of healthcare services and infrastructure gaps in order to prevent a decline in the nation’s health indicators.

Related Article: Ogun State Gov to grant free health insurance

Over the years, the health sector is increasingly facing brain drain as many experienced professionals are leaving the country rapidly due to the attractive opportunities in countries abroad. This is causing a dearth of workforce and limiting healthcare service delivery within the country. Suggestions have been made by experts for the government to offer competitive salaries in order to retain these individuals and combat this ongoing issue. It was widely acknowledged that promoting partnerships between the public and private sectors is essential in creating a greater number of joint ventures, expanding the number of medical facilities, and improving healthcare delivery for the population.

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