Forcing down cost of service delivery

Alabi Williams

Alabi Williams

Seems citizens too are getting wiser and devising ways to blackmail governments and privileged Nigerians to listen and participate in their plights. Bills are mounting everywhere for millions of Nigerians and while government claims to be helpless, there must be some ingenious ways to defray some costs all the same.

There was this recent development of a set of lovely twins delivered at some Shomolu private maternity on December 3, after which their mother took to her heels On December 16, because according to her the bill was far beyond her contemplation. What about the husband? He too was not forthcoming initially, until some public-spirited persons helped them to advertise their dilemma. And that forced interventions from right, left and centre. The man now came out of his hiding, so it seemed, to claim his treasures, the twins, plus some handsome money to the bargain.

In case there are some who didn’t track the story while it played out, let me give it some flesh, so that we all can be on same page. It will help collective understanding of our plight as a struggling country.

The mother of the twins, Sarah Ademola was delivered of twins at Felken Maternity Centre in Shomolu Lagos. The maternity is a private facility that does not receive subvention from government. The woman absconded because her family could not raise the bill of N300, 000. The story that went virile was that the Maternity had detained her and the children, but she managed to escape. In her place, her mate Oluwabunmi, that is, the second wife of Mr. Adeyemi Ademola (an escort/driver) was free to come to the facility to take care of the children. Meanwhile, Oluwabunmi, also referred to, as Abimbola did not know that their husband secretly had a wife somewhere because she is yet produce her own child. All the same, she was kind hearted to come to Felken and look after the twins.

While the man claimed he was making efforts to raise the money to settle the bills, the story was reported to human rights people and the Police too was involved. The Maternity was queried over illegal detention and the matter was getting exaggerated in the social media and becoming nauseating. The noise had become some embarrassment for the good people of Lagos State. That prompted the wife of the Lagos State Governor Mrs. Bolanle Ambode to intervene. The senator representing Lagos East, Dada Ashafa also threw in his weight by donating N100, 000. Many others, including NGOs, agreed to pay whatever remained to make sure that the twins return to their parents.

It was a very good bargain for Ademola, who now threatened to disown Sarah, the mother of the twins because he now did not know that she had other children from a previous encounter. He said he had deleted her contacts from his phone. Hogwash! So, who will breastfeed the twins for him? Here was a man who had virtually retreated, now talking tough because some cash had hit his account. Come on, we are not all gullible. The sight of those children was what moved the people to do what they did. But I think it is time for everybody to take responsibility, first with our governments.

If you ask me, the entire story is full of gaps and half-truths. I don’t want to say lies, so that next time there is a credible situation to deal with, we do not begin to generalize with a previous encounter. But that is what you get when government is largely absent in the affairs of citizens. When the only time you force the hand of people in government to take responsibility is when you blackmail them to throw money at an issue, then we cannot claim to be building a fair and responsible society.

I got the impression that Sarah might not have had the privilege to register in a government facility for antenatal(s). The processes and time to access government health facilities are costly and sometimes, discouraging. At other times, tax certificates are required before citizens can register to enjoy some of state facilities. Parents like Ademola and Sarah may have avoided all that government-induced barricades and stress; and opted to manage their case unofficially until it became an emergency. That was when they forced themselves on Felken. Felken did not turn them away. Neither did they ask them to pay before treatment. In many, if not all government medical facilities, you have to pay before you are attended to. This is the larger picture commentators in the social space do not have the patience to accommodate. They are in a hurry to judge.

There are hundreds of cases like this all over the country. One cannot say government should not collect taxes, because that is what is used to provide services. But there should be a way to reconcile circumstances of very low and sometimes, zero income earners with the need to evolve a responsible citizenry, where parents, no matter their miserly dispositions are encouraged to join the tax net, one way or the other, so that they may also benefit from public facilities. Even though healthcare services are not free and cannot be said to be free anywhere, average and poor citizens should be entitled to some subsidy, especially on maternal issues.

Recently, it took the intervention of the much-denounced online investment group -MMM to release 12 patients who were ‘detained’ at a government health facility, in Igando, Alimosho council of Lagos State. They were remanded for not less than three months after there were supposed to have been discharged, all because they were unable to pay bills ranging from N30, 00 to N184, and 000. There was the pathetic case of this lady among them who lost her twins after her husband absconded. She was only discharged after MMM paid N50, 000, which was her balance before she was allowed to go home. She had paid N130, 000 previously. I have all their details but because they deserve some privacy, it will be unfair to list them here. The point is that what allegedly happened at Felken happens more brazenly and at alarming frequency at government health facilities.

Bringing down the cost of healthcare is what governments at all levels should focus on. The average cost of child delivery is a bit too high for low-income parents, given the present state of the economy. I gathered that delivery at a government hospital would cost a minimum of N50, 000. That is if it is normal delivery. Birth by Caesarean Section goes for N70, 000 and above. Payment for drugs and accommodation is borne by parents. It is far more expensive to use private hospitals and clinics for the same services.

It will not be fair to say government has not tried. Lagos, since the time of Fashola has invested on healthcare. The facilities in the various Mother and Child hospitals are very good. Cost is where some parents have their challenges.

There will be less pressure on general hospitals and tertiary facilities if primary healthcare services are better than average. Right now, they are below average across the country. The Federal Government is planning to access funds in order to improve primary healthcare. About 10,000 healthcare centres are to benefit. States and local governments should play their parts, so that maternal and child healthcare will see some improvement.

Generally, cost of service delivery has become prohibitive, especially now that governments are looking for taxes anywhere and everywhere. The bills are mounting for average citizen. Yet, health is key. Our national average health budget hovers around six per cent, whereas, global standards recommend not less than 15. It means there is always deficit that causes some poor parents to disappear when they have twins or more. If we have to wait for opportunities of disappearances to throw cash and gain limelight from publicity stunt, then that’s hypocrisy. It does not address the issues.



1 Comment
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