The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has engaged the chief medical directors of federal and private hospitals from across Nigeria over the implementation of the Patients Bill of Rights (PBoR) that was launched last year by the commission.
The PBoR is an aggregation of patients’ rights that exist in other instruments including the Constitution, Consumer Protection Act, Child Rights Act, Freedom of Information Act, National Health Act, the Hippocratic Oath, other professional ethical codes and sundry regulations.
The commission expressed dismay over what it described as lack of patient protection within the Nigerian healthcare system which it noted, is perhaps the most significant factor affecting the level of trust in Nigerian healthcare .
Executive vice chairman/chief executive officer of the commission, Mr Babatunde Irukera, who expressed this concern, said undesired healthcare outcomes with few cases of successful medical malpractice investigations underscore the importance of the meeting.
Irukera said the sheer amount of avoidable deaths because of systemic failures in Nigeria for which doctors are so grieved calls for an urgent responsibility to reverse this scorecard.
This, he continued, was at the back of his mind when FCCPC initiated that patients bill of rights.
“There is no better time to talk about this now than at this time when there is a dispute between the residents and the government; at a time when the practitioners in the industry themselves are as dissatisfied with the sector as the patients themselves. At a time when just in a matter of days, we expect the work of a potential reform to start. And so, hardly ever do we have the level of consensus about the need to either improve our pace in a certain direction or travel completely in a different direction and we should not let the moment be lost on us as professionals both on the healthcare side and as a people who have the calling to protect lives.
“Everything has come together to a head. What is more, this is the most important index of humanity and nationhood, religion, and peoplehood. I was at the launching of the Patients Bill of Rights and I heard the vice president say that the way to determine the tone of a nation is how its people are treated. We can’t litigate a value. The life of a child here does not have less value than the life of a child in a place like New York.”
That space about treating people well is by far the most important.
“As a litigator if I made a mistake and it results in a death penalty, that penalty is not going to be executed in another decade and successive appellate reviews can reverse my decision. As a matter of fact, the final panel that will look at the decision is usually a panel of five or seven and so it is never going to come down to one man either a lawyer or a judge . But, with respect to medicine, whatever life we lose, is never going to come back.
“I understand the problems ; and I have my own thoughts on how the whole value chain can be improved. Some of the things that can be fixed while we are waiting for the longer issues. For instance, finding need to change health insurance, need to improve salaries, but I also know that if we built the best hospitals but didn’t take care of the soft infrastructure like the sensitivity, and responsiveness, like the compassion, those places will not be hospitals; they will just be facilities,” he said.
He explained that the bill had made significant impacts as some medical practitioners had been suspended; others disciplined, while some were still under disciplinary process in the past one year.