How government policies, greed fuel rise in substandard medical devices

Medical experts have identified how poor government policies, greed, and ignorance have led to an increase in importation of substandard medical equipment.

They said that the use of substandard medical devices could lead to wrong diagnosis, wrong treatment and sometimes death of the patient. They said that the Nigerian faith in the healthcare sector declines daily which encourages medical tourism. According to them, the economic forces in the market favours the sales of cheap products and customers are more concerned with the cost of the product than the quality.

The experts noted that many importers do not care about quality due to greed and desperation for wealth, adding that most importers do not have the requisite knowledge to run the business.They reiterated that there is an urgent need to discourage the flooding of the Nigerian market with substandard medical devices to save the country’s healthcare system.

However, determined to sanitise the healthcare space, National President, Hospital Equipment and Medical Devices Dealers Association of Nigeria (HEMDDAN) Dr. Ifeanyi Nwankwo, at his Inauguration Ceremony and Investiture said the association would formulate standard rules, ethics, and code of conduct for her members to encourage honesty and integrity.He disclosed that the primary objective of HEMDDAN was to minimise the importation of substandard medical devices and gradually make it unavailable in the market place.Nwankwo added that HEMDDAN would partner with the key stakeholders in the health sector and the federal government agencies to ensure total compliance to quality and contribute to national issues with one voice.

According to him, it is imperative to have an organised union for hospital equipment providers, to stop the importation of substandard medical devices and encourage local manufacturing of hospital equipment.The president continued: “We would organise periodic seminars and workshops for hospital equipment dealers to educate and sensitise ourselves to become quality conscious. We will appeal to our conscience to instill honesty and dignity in doing business.

“HEMDDAN will blacklist any oversea manufacturer for consistent poor quality products. No member of the association will import from that company anymore.”On the need to encourage local manufacturing of hospital equipment Nwankwo added: “There is a serious economical need to discourage the importation of everything in this country. No economy can thrive with total dependency on imported goods.

“As of today, almost all medical devices including hospital furniture are imported. We import everything including drip stand and simple examination couch. If we continue to import everything, we will never improve. We will continue to be dependent. We cannot create jobs for our youth and there will be no economic growth.”

The expert charged her members to go into local manufacturing of simple medical devices and hospital furniture.He said: “HEMDDAN will encourage members who are suppliers to buy from our local manufacturers to instill the spirit of patriotism and also organise an annual medical exhibition for made in Nigeria products. This will stimulate and promote positive competition among manufacturers and improve the quality of their products.”

Also, national vice President, HEMDDAN, Dr. Romanus Okafor lamented that most problems in the medical equipment business in Nigeria are hinged on government policies ranging from high import tariff, too many regulatory agencies, delay from both shipping companies and the Nigeria Custom Service in the releases of goods among others.He said that incessant increase in tariff from one rate to another leads to the increase of goods.

“For instance the federal government without consideration would raise the duty rate of medical equipment from five per cent to 20per cent and even more. When this is done what follows is a proportionate increase in the cost of medical equipment and services.“The duplication of duties by different agencies of government like Standard Organisation of Nigeria and the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) also militates against the progress of medical business in Nigeria and this invariably leads to price increase too,” Okafor said.

Director-General, NAFDAC, Prof Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye, said the agency is responsible for control and regulation of importation, exportation manufacture, distribution sales of medical devices.Adeyeye who was represented by the Assistant Director Drug and Research Directorate, NAFDAC, Kadijah Ade-Abolade noted that HEMDDAN are key stakeholder because they are going to help the agency in regulating products in the Nigerian market.She added that the association and has the mandate to ensure that only safe and efficacious, good quality medical devices are available to Nigerians.

The NAFDAC boss disclosed that they would be working with HEMDDAN closely to ensure that only quality safe and effective medical devices entre the country.She continued: “They are going to serve as a self-regulating body for us. We work together; collaborate with them to build capacity in the industry to ensure that they have the right knowledge and training for them to be able to do their business and also to ensure local manufacturing of some of these devices.”

Adeyeye added that local manufacturing would create jobs and build our industry. “We have done a lot in terms of regulations of medical devices. We have regulatory controls like registration processes, laboratory evaluation, assessments; we have port inspections and post-market surveillance. All of these put together to ensure only safe and quality medical devices are available,” she said.

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