BY RUTH TENE NATSA, Abuja –
The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) said it has inducted the National Hospital in Abuja into the “FOI Hall of Shame.”
This the group accused the apex medical facility of multiple violations of the provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, including its poor record-keeping practices.
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) described the attitude of the hospital towards transparency and accountability as an “open sore in urgent need of healing”.
In a statement to LEADERSHIP yesterday, signed by MRA’s programme manager for Freedom of Information Ridwan Sulaimon, it reads: “It is disheartening that the management of the hospital does not appear motivated to redeem its bruised image despite the fact that the FOI Act not only provides the opportunity for it to do so, but actually makes it mandatory for public institutions like the National Hospital to put appropriate record keeping in place.”
Sulaimon, accused the hospital of violating Section 2(1) of the FOI Act, which provides that “A public institution shall ensure that it records and keeps information about all its activities, operations and businesses” as well as Section 2(2), which states that “A public institution shall ensure the proper organisation and maintenance of all information in its custody in a manner that facilitates public access to such information.”
He cited a report published by the Daily Trust newspaper on June 26, 2010 titled: “National Hospital or national headache”, which indicted the hospital for poor record keeping such as losing patients’ files and misplacing test results, thereby leading to wrong prescription of drugs.
The report also chided the hospital for being “dogged by state-of-the-art problems”, adding that the situation was compounded by a financial quagmire in the institution and lack of transparency in the hospital’s dealings.
Sulaimon said, “Clearly, the situation with the National Hospital, Abuja is an open sore in urgent need of healing. The practices in the hospital, in so far as they relate to its poor record-keeping and lack of transparency or accountability are not theoretical issues for debate but are critical to the health, well-being and safety of the millions of Nigerians and possibly other nationals that patronise the hospital, and are sufficiently so to warrant urgent intervention by the federal government.”
According to him, “Under these circumstances, the enactment of the FOI Act in 2011 presented a great opportunity for the hospital to redeem its image by rigorously implementing the Act, improving its record-keeping systems and practices while also ensuring transparency and openness in its operation. Regrettably, it appears that the management of the hospital has chosen not to do so.”
He noted that: “rather than complying with the clear provisions of the FOI Act, for over six years since the law was enacted, the National Hospital has continued to flagrantly violate the binding provisions of the Act.”