In Nigeria, it is a common practice for a patient to be detained for non-payment of a healthcare bill.
Healthcare centers in Nigeria are detaining patients against their will, especially mothers and newborns mainly admitted for emergency treatment or requiring lifesaving procedures like cesarean section because they cannot afford to pay their bills. such detention occurs in public and private health facilities and it seems to be acceptable in our community.
The true scale of hospital detention or medical detention is still unknown but at least hundreds of thousands are been detained yearly across the country.
Victims of this detentions tend to be poorer as detention can push them and their families into poverty, they are also sometimes subjected to verbal and physical abuse a reason why it is very common to see Nigerians on social media seeking for financial assistance for their health bills.
This medical detention is a systematic failure, with a lot of human rights abuses, locking or holding people without proper trial stops people from accessing healthcare, it increases poor health delivery and also violated international human rights standards not to be imprisoned as a debtor including a right to access medical care.
The root of this problem is health policies that require people to make high out of pocket payments when health care is needed and a government that allows a patient to be detained.
The appointment of prof. Issacc Adewole as the minister of health and the emergence of President Buhari four (4) years ago we all hoped will come with new policies that will help strengthen our healthcare system but to no avail, our universal health coverage signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan is the best paperwork with no implementation.
After decades of implementing Primary Health Care and enrolment of Nigerians into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the progress achieved is still far from being favorable, as health status indicators have remained unacceptable.
Health financing systems should be reformed by moving towards publicly financed UHC, based on compulsory progressive pre-payment mechanisms. This would enable hospitals to become financially sustainable without the need to charge significant user fees.
We call on the federal government, to, as a matter of priority begin the implementation of the National Health Act so that the appalling health indices of the country would significantly improve.