Q: One Mr Humphrey Alofoje was admitted at UBTH on 24th August, 2015. It is alleged that the blind man (Humphrey) who is suffering from acute diabetes is being held by the Hospital authority owing to his inability to pay his medical bills. Are you aware of his case?
On enquiry I found out that Mr. Alofoje Humphrey was admitted on emergency basis in August 2015 with poorly controlled Diabetes mellitus complicated by Diabetic Foot, Diabetic Retinopathy and Autonomic Neuropathy- all of which are indications of poorly controlled diabetes and lack of social support. He was discharged late in September, 2015 and has been unable to settle his bills as against what is alleged that he is being held by the Hospital. Investigations reveal that he has some relations overseas who are supposed to provide for his care in Nigeria but the local contact has been evasive, promising to clear the bills at each visit and not doing so ultimately. He was therefore not classified as indigent. That could explain his prolonged stay in hospital after discharge.
The question you may ask is why are patients made to stay back following discharge. Experience has shown that the average patient does not want to pay hospital bills as they believe that services should be free in Federal government hospitals. It is also pertinent to note that UBTH is one of the very few Hospitals in Nigeria that provide services before payments are made. This unique service option has created problem for the Hospital as patients feign indigence following successful interventions. Allowing discharged patients to go without investigating the claims of indigence would cause financial crisis for the Hospital.
Q: It is alleged that medical students now go to him to carry out observatory experiment on the patient ( Mr Alofoje Humphrey). What is your reaction to this?
That students (we are uncertain concerning the nature of such students) now carry out experiments on him cannot be true because the training of students (including medical students) in the Hospital do not involve the use of live subjects for experiments.
Q: It is also alleged that sometime last year, an agreement was reached for Humphrey to pay N70,000 instead of the about N500,000 which he owed and he would be allowed to go home. After paying the N70,000 in two instalments of N50,000 on Jan.4,2016 and N20,000 on Jan 16th 2016 respectively, he was discharged but kept in another ward where he is kept till date. Are you aware of his being held and kept in another ward meant for people who are unable to pay their hospital bills and if so, how does the hospital under your watch handle such cases?
There is no special ward for persons who are unable to pay their bills in the Hospital. I am also not aware of anytime he was asked to pay N70,000 (Seventy thousand Naira) in place of N500,000 (Five hundred thousand Naira) to secure a discharge. Usually rebates on bills are in the range of 15 to 50 percent of extant bills.
Q: What measures have you put in place to take care of indigent patients who have serious health challenges that needs urgent medical attention?
There are established avenues for persons, unable to pay their bills, to resolve such issues in the Hospital. These include:
a. The consultant in Charge of the case can write to Management affirming that the affected patient is unable to pay bills and such bills are waived.
b. The nurse manager in the ward where the patient is can raise a referral to Department of Medical Social Services. The Department then investigates the case including home visits to ascertain if the patient is really indigent. On the strength of their recommendations the bills are waived. This was eventually done in this case.
c. The family member or the patient can also write to Management stating reasons for his/ here inability to pay and this is investigated and if found to be correct the bills are waived.
d. The family member/ patient himself can also approach Servicom unit with the complaints of inability to pay. Such reports are also subjected to investigations. If claims are correct the patient