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Patients lament shortage of drugs at Asokoro, Maitama hospitals

Shortage of essential drugs at most public hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has remained a cause for serious concern for residents, especially those…

Shortage of essential drugs at most public hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has remained a cause for serious concern for residents, especially those on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

When our reporters visited Asokoro and Maitama District hospitals, it was discovered that despite having two pharmacies each, patients still get frustrated at the dispensing counters as the most likely response from the pharmacists is always, ‘we don’t have these drugs.’

Asokoro District Hospital is always crowded as it serves patients from Asokoro District and several satellite towns.

Despite the serene environment, patients lamented that services are poor and the staff unfriendly.

Mrs. Justina Habila, a patient at the Asokoro District Hospital where she is accessing  health care services under the NHIS, expressed concern over the current drug shortage, describing the situation as very dangerous for patients, especially those in need of emergency attention.

Mrs. Habila who had four items on her prescription list, said she was able to get only one of the drugs in the hospital.

Another patient, who did not give his name, said the fact that patients hardly got drugs at hospitals after waiting on long queues to see doctors was a sign of system failure.

“This is a tell-tale sign that the health system in the FCT is not working. What is the essence of having beautifully built hospitals when they cannot dispense drugs to the patients they attend to? he queried.

He lamented that he had been looking for a particular drug for the past two months, after it was prescribed for him at Asokoro Hospital.

Another visibly angry mother was seen walking out of the hospital with her three-year-old daughter in tow when our reporters caught up with her.

She identified herself as Joyce Ikima and said her daughter had just seen a consultant ophthalmologist but that the two drugs he prescribed for her were not available at the NHIS pharmacy.

“This little girl is on referral from a private hospital. We have just seen a consultant ophthalmologist after waiting for six hours. We came to the hospital some minutes before 6a.m because they say it is first come first served. But when we went to the NHIS pharmacy upstairs we were told that the two drugs he prescribed for the treatment of vernal conjunctivitis were not available.

“I don’t know if it is a deliberate plan to rip off NHIS patients but it is certainly not a good feeling for one to contribute to the scheme on a non-refundable basis and then come to the hospital and not get drugs. You pay for what you don’t get and then go outside and buy same thing,” she lamented.

 She said when she attempted to see the Chief Medical Director to complain to her on why NHIS contributors were treated like that in the hospital, she was told to go and buy her drugs outside as seeing the CMD would not solve her problem.

She lamented that if she had known that the hospital will not dispense drugs, she wouldn’t have wasted her time going there at all.

“The most painful aspect is the fact that this little girl missed school today and she woke up as early as 4:30 am,” she said.

Also, a civil servant who would not want to be named described it as cheating, when patients under NHIS don’t get drugs at the hospitals they are accessing services at.

The man who was at Asokoro Hospital with his nine-year-old son said the government was only extorting money from the people as he had discovered that the only thing that NHIS earned could be the consultation fee.

“Last month I was here, though it was only one drug that the doctor prescribed, I had to buy it for N500 from a pharmacy outside because I could not get it at the hospital’s pharmacy,” he said.

The man who was trying to locate the laboratory said he just saw the doctor and was given prescriptions, which he was not certain he could get from the pharmacy.

Few minutes later, after the hospital secretary declined speaking with our reporters over drugs shortages at the hospital, the man met our reporter outside the hospital premises.

 “The same thing happened again today,” he said, explaining that that was the second time in two months that he was forced to buy drugs from private pharmacies outside the hospital.

He said he was a civil servant and had been remitting money to NHIS for over five years that he has been on the scheme yet he had to buy drugs from private pharmacies. Though he was grateful that the amount was minimal, he expressed concern over the issue.

At the Maitama District Hospital, our reporters observed the same trend.

Frederick Gyan, a patient at the hospital blamed the recurring scarcity of drugs in public hospitals on  the “nonchalant attitude of hospital managements.”

He said, “some of them do not care to know the situation surrounding their work, as a result any emerging issue like drug shortage does not receive prompt response. Managements of the hospitals are partly responsible for drug shortages in their health facilities because most of them are unaware of what is happening around them.’’

Another patient at the hospital however commended the management for its effort at ensuring standard health practice but added that more was desired in the availability of drugs at the pharmacy.

The man who pleaded anonymity said though prescribed drugs at the hospitals are relatively cheap, “they are usually not available.”

He urged the government to address this issue.

Patients on the scheme are mostly public and private sector workers who remit money monthly purportedly for medical services which they alleged are not forthcoming.

NHIS was established in 1999 to serve as a form of intervention by the government to Nigerians in terms of access to public healthcare and medical services at an affordable cost through various payment systems.

 The scheme in theory is committed to securing the universal coverage to adequate and affordable healthcare in order to improve the health status of Nigerians especially for those participating in the programme.

However, contrary to the core objective of the scheme, most of the beneficiaries lamented what they call the “conspiratorial attitudes’’ by some government-run hospitals facilitating the scheme.

This unending problem has made the supposed beneficiaries to begin to question the credibility of the scheme.

Aso Chronicle did  a similar report in October last year and the situation has not changed.

When reached for comments, some workers at the Public Relations Unit of the  Asokoro District Hospital referred our reporters to the secretary who in turn directed them to the FCT Hospitals Management Board.

At the Maitama District Hospital as the staff declined comments without a letter from the FCT Hospitals Management Board.

When contacted, the General Manager of the FCT Hospitals Management Board, Dr. Aminu Mai, said the Chief Medical Directors (CMD) in the two hospitals were in the best position to talk, “what you are saying is news to me,” he said.

He told our reporters to contact the CMDs for comments and reach him should they be uncooperative.

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