Patients and caregivers at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) in Kano State are finding it hard to adjust to the new cashless policy introduced by the hospital management with many of them lamenting on extra costs brought on them by the policy.
The policy, partly in consonance with the federal government’s directives, was informed more as a means to check cases of theft and fraud in the hospital, according to the hospital management.
- What bandits commanders told me in Zamfara forests Sheikh Gumi
- Top bandits commander, Buharin Daji, to lay down arms soon Matawalle
Some members of staff of the hospital suspected to have been involved in the financial misappropriation are presently undergoing internal disciplinary action pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation, the spokesperson of the hospital, Hajiya Hauwa Abdullahi, said.
An internal memo by the hospital management showed that effective from January 13, 2021, all pay points, which hitherto receives cash payments, are to collect payment through Point of Sales (POS), adding that pay points at General Out Patients Department (GOPD) and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), would be left with cash payment and collection until January 25, 2021.
The memo signed by Amosa Toyin Ibrahim, the Ag. Head of Department, Account and Finance, was titled “Commencement of Cashless Operation in the Hospital” and dated January 12 but sighted by Daily Trust on Sunday earlier in the week.
Following the directives, it was gathered that the hospital management engaged the services of money agents to receive payments for drugs, test, admission and other medical services from the patients and barred account officers of the hospital from physical contact with cash.
But this new development is not without hitches and extra cost on the patients and caregivers.
During a visit to the hospital earlier in the week, many patients were seen on a long queue waiting to either make payment for consultancy, tests or for medicines.
Patients with different illnesses including injuries are seen also lying on chairs and benches while their caregivers battle with the delayed cashless payment system.
Aminu Ahmad had been at the hospital since morning when Daily Trust on Sunday met him around 1pm and he said the delay in the payment system was disturbing to him.
He said even though he had his ATM with him, the payment was unsuccessful when it was his turn to make payment, after spending more than 30 minutes on the queue.
“The additional charges didn’t really bother me because that’s what the country is turning into. Everywhere, things are going up and hospitals are no exceptions.
“The most annoying thing is the delay in the new payment method. This is my consulting hospital and I’ve been coming here for more than 10 years. Over the years, I used to pay cash and go, and if I don’t have cash with me, there are ATMs in the hospital. So why this policy? It causes delay and remember, one has to rush and get to the doctor or get his medications,” he said.
He said the past payment method was faster and easier for patients, especially those that are not well educated and don’t even have an account with any bank.
Bashir Liman Sani Mainagge said the new cashless payment method has come with a lot of increments in the charges by the hospital.
He said over the years, people have been watching the hospital add charges without necessary reasons.
“Few years ago, we only pay N200 as consultation fee, but now it has doubled to N400. This is for regular and if it is your first time, you have to pay N800 as consultation fee, which used to be N300. And at the beginning of every year, you have to pay additional money on your first visit to the hospital. Is this really a government hospital?” he asked.
He further explained that with the new cashless policy, “there are also ATM charges which is N100 if you have your ATM while if you don’t have you have to pay someone N50 to pay for you aside from the N100 charges,” he said.
Another patient who doesn’t want to be mentioned said he had an accident recently and the new payment method has caused him to suffer so much.
He said the system may not work perfectly for many people and that he pities the less privileged and people who have little or no knowledge of the banking system.
“I know the hospital added their charges to patients and that is not favourable, especially to the masses. This is the only government hospital competing with the private ones; so, if the masses cannot afford its charges, then there is a problem.
“On the new payment method, I think it has to be reviewed honestly. This is a hospital not a shopping mall and people should be considered. Many people come from the villages and don’t even have bank account, how do you go about their case? Honestly, it’s good if they will make it work faster,” he added.
Responding, the hospital’s spokesperson, Hajiya Hauwa noted that the hospital management decided to introduce the cashless policy in order to block leakages.
“Investigation conducted about four weeks ago revealed that there are a lot of ways that the hospital’s funds leak. Some unscrupulous elements steal the money as a result of handling physical cash.
“And don’t forget, the cashless policy is the policy of the Federal government, and agencies are expected to adopt the system to minimise corruption and misappropriation of public funds,” she added.
She noted that it is unfortunate that the policy is affecting the patients, but noted that the hospital management is reviewing the policy to see that the charge for the transaction is reduced to N30.
“At a certain time, there are a lot of patients that do not have any means of relating with the bank; so, they come with their cash and the cash is not being collected. In trying to minimise this problem, AKTH decided to employ the services of these money agents who will sit by the cashier and collect the cash and then charge a negligible amount. We understand that they charge N100 and if somebody uses their ATM card, the bank charges N57.75.
“The agents are using their company ATM cards to give the service while in return they pay AKTH the money being paid by the patient,” she explained.
She appealed to the patients and caregivers to bear with the changes, noting that the hospital management is “trying to streamline the charges to about N30 per transaction.”