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CPCN’s revival of Patient’s Bill of Rights

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Director General, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Babatunde Irukera

It is gratifying to note that the old and complicated Patients’ Rights that authorities have always treated piecemeal have been reworked by the Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria (CPCN), which has now integrated them as Patient’s Bill of Rights (PBoR) that serves both patients and care providers.

This is how institutions should be developed seamlessly.

The PBoR, which the Federal Government recently unveiled, is meant to tackle consumer abuse in the health sector and help the country achieve Universal Health Coverage.

The initiative identified the rights and privileges in a patient-care giver relationship for the protection of consumers and providers, while it seeks to promote higher and safer health care standards in hospitals.

Obviously, PBoR is a significant contribution in establishing one of the most important rights of all humanity: the right to life in which inheres the right to adequate healthcare.

With the PBoR, the stakeholders in the health sector have as part of their responsibilities the duty of ensuring that people have the right of information, the right to proper explanation of their medical situation in a language they understand; the right to control decision-making with respect to their treatment regimen; the right to know when to, where to and how to secure a second opinion where necessary.

Essentially, this Bill will help to reduce the number of people who go to the hospital to seek succour only to go home with sorrow.

So, it may appear that the giant of Africa, is beginning to rise up to its responsibilities in the health sector because protecting rights in the healthcare sector, is an important and defining feature of how society should function.

However, while the PBoR is a soft infrastructure in health care as it is the vital vehicle upon which, even physical infrastructure must ride to deliver services, the Federal Government has to walk the talk of the Bill by ensuring adequate and professional supply of health services because currently, the nation’s health sector is groaning and unacceptably decrepit, with very little hope; and so many citizens do not have access to quality and affordable health care.

This is scary in the world’s most populous black nation.

Critical factors hampering access to health care in Nigeria include obsolete equipment and the brain drain that begun since 1985, let alone the harsh operating environment.

Besides, inadequate medical facilities, high cost of drugs, sub-standard drugs, wrong diagnosis, poor attitude of health workers occasioned by poor remuneration resulting in inexplicable neglect of patients by medical personnel, long waiting time for patients, etc are all responsible for the situation.

So, actualising the PBoR requires a repositioning of the health sector and distillingthe mechanics for the actualisation of the PBoR.

A strategic private sector intervention participatory solution can reposition the Nigerian health sector and make more people have access to quality health care at a lesser cost.

A private sector led world class specialist hospitals, driven by local investors, especially members of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerians health professionals and experts in the diaspora, health professional organisations, development agencies and health related not-for-profit organisations in partnership; can improve Nigeria’s health sector.

Therefore, government can partner with the private sector to take over the gigantic hospital buildings that are wasting away and turn them into quality health care facilities.

Yes, there should be robust Public, Private Partnership arrangements to save the health sector.

The unhelpful bureaucracy now in place should not be allowed to sabotage this PPP initiative.

Furthermore, CPCN and NMMA can synchronise the PBoR with NMA five-year (2017-2022) Strategic Plan, which was launched the other day to improve the health sector comprehensively.

The robust plan includes areas of health care where doctors can play direct roles, including operationalising the National Health Act, which sets standards for rendering health services, achieving universal health coverage, elimination of quacks from the profession, provision of health care insurance to certain class of people who are actually deprived; clinical governance, medical education and research and improving health care delivery nationwide.

Similarly, achieving Patients’ Rights pragmatically would require the involvement of the three tiers of government.

As such, government at all levels should support this initiative, procure more equipment in different areas of health care, especially modern hi-tech equipment and machines that could enhance the quality of service delivery; provide physical space; and employ more personnel to reduce the waiting time of clients.

Some very critical areas such as laboratories; ophthalmology departments; radiotherapy; cardio-thoracic, paediatric and renal units should be well equipped with state-of the art equipment to reduce the incidence of wrong diagnosis.

Furthermore, hospital pharmacies should be well stocked with drugs; there should be capacity building for health workers to address their poor attitude and further hone their skills.

Also, assuring that the rights of patients are protected requires more than educating policy makers and health providers; it requires educating citizens about what they should expect from their governments and their health care providers—about the kind of treatment and respect they are owed.

Citizens, then, can have an important part to play in elevating the standard of care when their own expectations of that care are raised.

Therefore, citizens should be sensitised and empowered on their rights and responsibilities, which hopefully, should equip them to have critical minds needed to engage the health care service providers; not discounting its importance in seeking remedies for dissatisfaction suffered in exchange relationships.

So, implementing the PBoR requires the Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria and ServiCom working in concert with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and other relevant professional organisations.

It is only when health care improves in the country that the PBoR would have come alive; and would be known as the document that helped restore patients’ rights in Nigeria.

While we commend the Federal Government for the PBoR, various stakeholders should follow through to ensure that government walks the talk of PBoR! This significant step must not be another mirage in the health sector!


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