October 3, 2023

Sodiq Ojuroungbe 

Patients and their relatives are lamenting the scarcity of the naira, noting that it has made payment for medical bills difficult.

Some of the patients who spoke with Reportr Door HealthWise bemoaned the impact of the ongoing naira scarcity on medical treatment, adding that they are facing serious frustrations to get treated as some doctors are also insisting on cash payment for tests, drugs, and treatment.

Our correspondent who visited some hospitals in communities in Lagos and Ogun states reported that many patients are lamenting the non-availability of naira notes to settle medical bills, noting that the naira scarcity has made the payment for medical bills to become a herculean task.

Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria had directed the swapping of old naira notes to new notes and fixed February 10, 2023, as the deadline.

The CBN directive has, however, led to long queues at Automated Teller Machines, while Point of Sales agents charges exorbitant fees for cash withdrawal.

Some patients, who spoke with our correspondent also said that they have their cash trapped in commercial banks that have refused to dispense both new and old notes to them.

At two different hospitals in the Ibafo area of Ogun state on Friday, our correspondent confirmed the demand of hospitals for cash payment as many of the patients either came with cash or were asked to find the nearest available POS agent to get cash.

Reportr Door HealthWise‘s findings revealed that hospital management stopped taking bank transfers due to network issues.

Our correspondent who requested treatment At the King’s Will Clinic in Ibafo was told to pay cash before a test to diagnose and ascertain what is wrong with him.

Despite taking his blood sample for the test, the hospital insisted that nothing will be done until the cash payment is made.

The hospital attendant said he should find a POS agent to get the cash to settle the medical bills first.

The entrance of Ibafo primary health centre visited by our correspondent. Image credit: Sodiq Ojurongbe

It was a similar experience for some patients who spoke with our correspondent at the hospital and other hospitals in the area.

They said some hospitals are refusing to attend to them until they were able to sort out the payment.

They said it is also tough to get medicines at pharmacies due to scarce naira and difficulty with money transfers as a result of network problems.

The problem of naira scarcity hindering healthcare services is, however, not restricted to only Lagos.

Reportr Door had reported that an Abuja-based man simply identified as Ajayi had lamented how a pressing Cesarean section could not be carried out on his wife because of the non-availability of naira notes.

Ajayi had claimed that the Maitama hospital in Abuja allegedly refused to collect transfers or make POS machines available, noting that he had to postpone the CS till next Wednesday to gather the needed cash.

He lamented that despite needing about N150,000 for the CS, he can only withdraw N20 000 daily.

He said, “The issue is this, you pay for hospital service before you can be attended to, and at the same time you buy all the drugs and injections together with the CS pack.

“The problem is there is no cash to pay in the hospital, Maitama hospital does not accept bank transfers and they don’t use POS machines.

“I have till Wednesday to pay up and get her operated on.”

Another patient denied treatment

Another patient, Tolu Adeoye, said he was not attended to at Springworth specialist hospital in Ibafo because of his bank app.

Adeoye, who claimed he had a fever when he visited the hospital said he resorted to the use of herbs.

He said, “I was feeling feverish on Wednesday, so, I went to this specialist hospital around my area. When I told them what was wrong with me, they asked for my name and they said I will need to pay N2,500 for a hospital card.

“I tried to transfer on my bank app, but it was not logging in. Despite my condition, I went outside to see if I can see a POS shop and get cash, but I gave up after going to like three places and the POS agents keep saying they don’t have cash.

“I later used the last N500 with me to get herb from a woman selling it beside my house. Imagine, if it is something that will kill me, I may have lost my life because of this situation.”

Another patient, Bamigbade Ibiyemi, said the POS machine at the SYD-Monic Hospital in the Okota area of Lagos state was also not working when went there to get treatment.

She lamented that she had to find a POS agent before she was able to pay for her medical bills at the hospital.

She said, “The POS at the hospital is not working, so, it is either you come with cash or look for a commercial POS operator around to get cash. It was not easy to get a POS shop.

“The cost they charged me was also too much, but I don’t have a choice because I was not feeling too okay and the hospital was not ready to attend to me.”

Another patient, Olawale Adefemi, who claimed to have visited the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State, said many people at the hospital had payment issues.

Adefemi said he was not attended to early because his bank app was not working.

He said, “I was later attended to, but it took a while. Where I was supposed to pay for the scan, a lot of people were there with the same network issues.

“I don’t think the hospital has a POS machine. So, many people that did not have cash and wanted to pay cash had to do bank transfers.

“There was a serious delay in that, but some people later came to assist. They collected our details while we carry on with what we came there to do. Luckily for me, I was able to transfer the money before I left the hospital premises.”

Speaking with our correspondent, a public health expert, Dr. David Ogunsanya said the scarcity of the naira may harm the health sector.

He said, “Personally, I think the cash crunch and fuel shortage is caused by government inadequate policy. The policies were not thought out well before execution and that’s why many people are suffering.

“This cash and fuel scarcity will harm the health sector, as I learnt many hospitals have cancelled non-emergency procedures, and many Nigerians are postponing care due to the inability to sort payments.

“Resources are scarce and the problems with fuel supply compounds even the already worse problem of cash crunch.

“The news of cash hoarding is devastating and making people suffer as it has disproportionately affected disadvantaged people. This is exacerbating the inequality that we already have in our society.”

However, speaking with our correspondent, the Public Relations Officer of FMC, Abeokuta, Segun Orisajor, said the hospital management is addressing the issue to ensure all patients are attended to.

He said, “Nobody is being turned back; I was also at the First Bank today and inside the banking hall, they said they don’t have any money to dispense at all.

“We are all in it. We understand everything that is happening. The hospital needs to provide health care and we will continue to do that. Those in charge of the account knows how to handle the situation based on the fact available and presented by each patient.”

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