Lagos: Nursing mothers lament high cost of maternal care
But the free health services for pregnant women and nursing mothers seem to be just lip service, as investigations revealed that women are currently paying through their nose to get antenatal services.
The Guardian visits to some public health facilities in Lagos revealed that women are not really benefitting any special treatment from the government in this regard perhaps, a little subsidy. Some of the nursing mothers and pregnant women lamented the high cost of maternal care, just as they pleaded with Governor Akinwumi Ambode to come to their aid.
The charges in these general hospitals are not the same, even though it is the Lagos State Ministry of Health that runs all of them. The policy of compulsory blood donation is another major problem for these women.
The General Hospitals visited were Isolo, Gbagada and Shomolu. In these places, the story is the same, as pregnant women and nursing mothers complained of high cost of ante-natal and delivery services.
At Isolo General Hospital, the delivery fee is said to be N10,500, antenatal care cost N20,000, including fees for drugs. In a situation where a woman delivers through a caesarian section, it costs N45, 000 or more, depending on the condition of the patient.
It would be recalled that recently, Mrs. Sara Ademola, abandoned her set of twins due to her husband, Adeyemi Ademola’s inability to pay hospital bills at Felken Maternity Centre in Shomolu area of Lagos. The couple was asked to pay N300, 000 before they could take home their bundles of joy.
Rita Bamidele, a nursing mother at Gbagada General Hospital, had an interesting story to tell with regards to the hospital’s requirement before delivery.
She said: “I came for ante-natal, but I was asked to bring my husband or any of my relatives to donate blood or pay N15, 000. I have been talking to my family members to arrange for someone to come, since the hospital staff explained that they need blood, but no one in my family has stepped forward to donate blood.”
Rita, who came to the hospital, when she was about to put to bed, claimed she was asked to pay N13, 000 for registration at the initial stage.
“After giving birth to my baby, the doctor told me that I had blood shortage, and that two pints of blood would solve my problem. But I cannot afford these charges, and the hospital is interested in blood donation.
“My husband works in Port Harcourt. I just called him now and he said he couldn’t come to Lagos to donate blood. I have also called one of his brothers, but he said he would not be able to donate blood, but would rather look for money to pay for blood or bring somebody, whose health status cannot be guaranteed.
“Right now, the challenge is to raise this N15, 000, including the booking and antenatal materials fee for N22, 000. All these fees are not major medical care services bills. If all the bills are added together, it would be up to N150, 000 or more.”
Kafayat Yusuf, a pregnant woman in the same hospital, said some private hospitals’ charges are not as high. She explained that the only benefit in public hospitals is that bills could be paid in instalments, until delivery.
“The total amount put together is more than N70, 000, excluding money for drugs and other laboratory tests,” she said. “Not everyone can afford it. Just last week, my neighbour, who was meant to register here, decided to patronise a nurse living closeby. She said she could not afford to pay all the fees.
“I came all the way from Maryland to Gbagada, because I believe this is where I would receive better medical service, which is why you see many of us in this hospital.
“We would want Governor Akinwumi Ambode to please come to our aid, as many people have been detained by the hospital management because they cannot pay their bills.”
Kudirat Olamide, an expectant mother at Isolo General Hospital, corroborated the complaints of excessive and multiple charges.She said sometimes, patients were charged differentially. While some pay N16, 500, others pay N7, 000 or more for registration.
She said the hospital management claimed that the registration fee, which is part of the first installment, would also cover the delivery pack, laboratory investigation, scan and notification of birth, while the second payment of N55, 500 would cover items such as underlay, admission gown, baby olive oil, bed pampers, sanitary pad and pharmacy pack, among others.
Olamide said: “After delivery, the patient is expected to pay another N30, 500 for normal delivery, excluding some other small charges. If you deliver through CS, you are expected to pay N150, 000.”
Idris Ola, whose wife put to bed through CS at Isolo, said he was asked to pay N150, 000 for the medical services, which he didn’t expect in a government hospital.He said: “I had already deposited N100, 000 and was supposed to pay a balance of N50, 000 before my wife could be discharged. And though the services here are commendable, but they are very costly. We were told most services are free in General Hospitals, but the contrary is the reality, and the charges are simply high.”
Mr. Adetayo Bankole, Director, Development Partnerships Department, Ministry of Economic Planning and Budgeting, Lagos State, said government has made everything easier for mothers to have safe delivery in government hospitals.
“There is a surveillance group in the Ministry of Health, which goes out to monitor activities in General Hospitals, as government is not shying away from its responsibility to take care of pregnant women in the state.”
At Isolo General hospitals Tobi Daniel, an Accounts Officer said the major challenge is that consumables are very expensive and are increasing every day. What was bought for N150 per unit now, sells at N250 and the same thing is applicable to every other material in the hospital, including medical services.
Daniel said: “For Antenatal care you have to first book with the hospital, which is N12,500 and you go through the normal treatment processes, including laboratory test and investigations, which cost N7,500. If you put the payments together it would cost N20,000 for antenatal care only.”
“Then by the time you come back to deliver what you have to do is to pay for admission, which would cost N10,500, but in case it results to a situation where one would put to bed, through surgery, it would cost N45,000. If you add the payments together it would cost N55,500”.
“But if you are coming here to delivery and you did not attend your antenatal care here your payment would be higher. The antenatal care here, is not free because of high cost of consumables, especially in this time of recession where things are very expensive.”
Mr. Olutola Stephen, Vice Chairman, Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Lagos State branch, explained that because of the economic situation in the country, consumables are very costly, but that government should not deprive people their right to medical services at government hospitals, where facilities are guaranteed.
He said: “Government should continue to give quality care to patients patronising government hospitals. Government should try to help the masses, because majority of the people are very poor due to the economic situation in the country. Those who come to government hospitals for medical healthcare believe they would get quality healthcare there.”