1 December 2012

Nigeria: Kano Private Hospitals in Survival Battle

Kano — Many private hospitals are being closed down in Kano for over stepping their bounds, according to the state government.

Recently, a number of clinics were closed by the Kano State government for alleged violation of rules of operation and environmental issues.

The exercise performed by the Special Adviser on Private Hospitals to the Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Dr Salisu Ibrahim has affected over 20 private hospitals, and the process is still going on. Expectedly, the action has spured reaction from the proprietors and patrons of the affected hospitals.

While the proprietors see the action as a deliberate attempt to push them out of business, those patronizing the hospitals said it is a step in the right direction, noting that the move was long overdue.

Over the years, people patronizing private clinics in the state have been complaining about the environmental conditions of such health facilities and the services they offer. They alleged that unqualified personnel are often employed. What is more disturbing to the patients visiting the private hospitals, as they relayed to Weekly Trust, is what they describe as huge amounts of money they said they are made to pay for services they said they are unsatisfied with.

A housewife, Ladi Ibrahim, recounts her experience at a private clinic when she took her younger sister who was in labour there. "The environment inside was so dirty, the water container used by in-patients was kept near the toilet with flies having a field day over it," she said.

She said after billing her about N13,000 as labour fees, her sister was left at the mercy of an environmental officer, because both the doctor and the other health workers had closed for the day around 10pm. "By 9pm the doctor came in and said he was going home, so he left us with a health worker. When it was about 10pm, the health worker also said she was leaving and we were left with the environmental officer. I was so disappointed by what was happening while my sister was in labour. At last it was our granny who stood by her till she gave birth, with the environmental officer assisting," she said.

Ladi said she regretted going to the hospital in the first place and wished she had given that money to her granny instead, adding that they could not see the doctor until around 11am the next day.

On their part the proprietors see the clamp down by the state government as some form of witch hunting. A proprietor who craved anonymity said the action was aimed at extorting money from them and a deliberate attempt to destroy their business and to intimidate them for being part of the past administration. "This is just a way of collecting huge amount of money from us. In the first place, our registration has been increased by 100 per cent and anytime this seal is put on your hospital, you have to pay another fee before it is removed and the more days it takes to remove them, the more charges, and again if one reports to their office, he is further fined for an offence that sometimes is not fully established," he said.

He said "the action taken against some of us was purely political and it is an attempt to reach a certain target set by the state government to extort money from us."

Reacting, Special Adviser on Private Hospitals to the Governor, Dr Salisu Ibrahim said it was not true that they were extorting money from private hospital owners. "In the first place, I'm sure you are aware that government has reviewed its revenue generation. We met it like that and in fact we have even reduced it by 50 per cent. If they will be sincere to us, it was the commissioner who sat with them and agreed to reduce it by 50 per cent. And on the issue of seal, seal is a government property and once it is put on a person's business, it becomes mandatory for him to pay a fee before it is removed."

He also refuted the allegation that he was doing his work to reach a target, he said he has no monetary target to reach, adding that his only target was to set the standard. He also said his work was purely professional. "This is purely professional and professional work has nothing to do with politics," Dr. Ibrahim said.

On the other hand, the Special adviser said so far his office has shut down 22 private hospitals. The hospitals, according to him, were either closed due to facility or personnel issue or due to ethical reasons.

He noted that some of the hospitals were shut down for operating above standard. Explaining what he meant by operating above standard, the special adviser said each facility according to the edict that establishes the private hospitals must operate based on its registration, "If a facility is registered as a laboratory or as a nursing home, it should operate according to its register. And if a facility is registered to have only 10 beds but it decided to have 20 or 30, that facility is operating above limit," he said.

He added that instead of operating according to stipulation, some of these facilities go beyond limit and as such, they were shut down.

Ibrahim further explained that other facilities were shut down due to lack of appropriate inadequate and unqualified personnel, saying it is mandatory on each facility to have a doctor that is overseeing the activities of any place. "But instead of complying with this, some of the facilities use auxiliary staff to man the place. And in some places not even a nurse or a health worker is found but an environmental officer whose job is to take care of the environment is consulting for patients. In fact these kinds of people are supposed to be arrested," he said.

In addition to the problem of facility and personnel, another issue according to him is that of ethics. He opined that some of the doctors were abusing the ethic of the profession in the way they admit patients. Elaborating, he said, "You find in some of these clinics patients with infectious diseases are admitted in the same room with diabetic or hypertensive patients or sometimes you find both surgical and orthopedic patients staying in one room. This is unethical! The rule is that they should be separated," he said.

He added that some facilities operate without document that would show the record of patients. He further noted that though some of the hospitals were closed for sanitary reasons those were not the main reasons, in most cases it was a secondary issue.

Commenting on the development between their members and the state government, the Nigeria Medical Association, Kano State chapter said it has nothing to say because according to them, the affected members have not lodged a formal complain to them.

The Public Relations Officer of the association, Dr. Sanusi Muhammad Bala said they could only comment or act on something when they are formally involved. "We cannot comment on this, though they are our members but the fact that they have not informed us formally, we cannot take any action."

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