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The Abuja National Hospital – Thisday

By The Citizen
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The National Hospital, Abuja recently descended to a new low when the medical records of patients were dumped in the open, following a minor fire incident. For days, these confidential documents littered the hospital premises and remained accessible to whoever cared to take a look.

While dumping such records in the open cannot be an appropriate storage option, no matter the circumstances that led to moving them out in the first place, such a reckless violation of the right of a patient to what should ordinarily be considered private and confidential information is just one of the many afflictions that have turned an otherwise good medical centre into a national disgrace.

Originally conceived as National Hospital for Women and Children, the medical institution has been operating for 14 years – enough period to enable it achieve its objective as a Centre of medical excellence in the country. Regretfully, its management has been bogged down by needless politics, especially in recent years. For instance, the hospital was initially placed under the auspices of the Presidency, after which it was relocated to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); now finally it is being supervised by the Minister of Health. It is therefore not surprising that its underbelly was laid bare in August 2011 when, following the attack on the United Nations office in Abuja, many of the victims who had earlier been admitted at the hospital, had to be evacuated to other African countries for better medical attention.

To worsen matters, every day comes with mounting tales of woe from those that utilise the services of the hospital, including its staff. Two months ago, Mr. Ahmed Sani, father of conjoined twins, attributed the death of his babies to the failure of the management to act promptly to ensure that they survived. He alleged that when the babies were brought to the hospital, they were abandoned for four days without even a scan- a prerequisite for surgery – carried out on them. There are several other unfortunate recollections about the unacceptable quality of service provided at an institution that ordinarily should be a source of pride for all Nigerians. But with poorly motivated workers, as shown in the recent protest by some employees, it is no surprise that many people have lost faith in the hospital.

There is no gainsaying that Nigerians are among the biggest spenders on medical tourism. From privileged private citizens to top government officials, seeking medical solution for sundry ailments abroad has now become a status symbol, as some even proudly announce their annual foreign medical check-up itinerary.

Yet the huge funds expended annually on these medical expeditions could be used to improve our health sector if the quality medical services sought overseas are provided here. Some foreign medical institutions are even said to be taking advantage of the poor state of our health sector by conniving with their partners in Nigeria to refer patients to their facilities abroad, even when the specific medical condition could be treated locally.

Sadly, there are several Nigerians who equally have horrible tales to tell about their voyage abroad in search of healing. Many who had walked into some medical facilities overseas based on such indiscriminate referrals, have returned home permanently confined to wheelchairs or in worse conditions before they travelled.
We therefore call on the federal government to urgently look at the state of the National Hospital, and indeed all other major medical facilities, for a comprehensive review of the quality of service provided by medical institutions in the country. There is also an urgent need for the implementation of a national policy on health that would ensure that all our major medical institutions are world class not only in name but also in terms of modern equipment, quality of personnel and service