The Lagos State Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA), recently shut down about 80 medical outfits across the state. This suggests that some unscrupulous quacks and unregistered hospitals are insistent on carrying on with their nefarious vocations and sending many of their victims to their early graves.
The chairman of HEFAMAA, Dr. Tayo Bello, revealed that some of the hospitals were closed down for not having qualified personnel, while for others it is the failure to comply with set standards or being located in distressed buildings, et cetera.
Bello said HEFAMAA monitored a total of 2, 715 medical facilities out of which 297 were registered, while 675 were yet to be registered. Reports have shown that the abuse of the medical profession and health care institutions is a growing problem in Nigeria. Unregistered and substandard hospitals are run mostly by quacks, especially male nurses posing as medical doctors.
They perform surgical operations ranging from abortion to more complex ones. One such quack running an illegal maternity hospital arrested in Lagos recently confessed to having lost many women during caesarean sections in his illegal hospital.
It was the establishment of HEFAMAA by the Lagos State Government in 2006 that exposed many unregistered and illegal health facilities in the state. In some other states, such illegal hospitals are said to be operating in collaboration with some of the ‘baby factories’ offering illegal adoptions.
Some also run illegal medical laboratories. Investigations carried out by this newspaper’s health desk indicated that the dangerous health establishments thrive on high patronage because they offer cheap services.
Sadly, many state governments do not have agencies to monitor hospitals and other health facilities operating in their areas, especially in rural communities. Health officials only parade a few culprits reported by members of the public. Only a handful of states, including Lagos, carry out monitoring exercises from time to time and make arrests. Unfortunately, too, most states do not have strict penalties to deter offenders.
In Lagos, which appears to be the most active state in tackling the menace, the penalty for running an unregistered hospital is N100, 000. Operating a hospital without qualified personnel only attracts a N50, 000 fine, even when such quack must have been responsible for quite a number of deaths. Virtually all unregistered hospitals (and even some registered ones) rely on auxiliary nurses, sometimes trained by them.
Yet, the penalty for training auxiliary nurses is a paltry N100, 000. Even the use of expired vaccine, which could result in the death and ill-health of children, attracts a penalty of just N50, 000.
The number of offenders so far prosecuted in other states can also not be determined. This is why Lagos deserves commendation for regulating the crime at all. In some states, such premises, when found, are merely closed down and compelled to register, after which they are back to business! But the consequences of such oversight are grave.
Simply put, quacks and unregistered hospitals are chambers of death for unsuspecting members of the public. They contribute in no small measure to Nigeria’s high infant and morbidity, mortality rates.
They offer treatment for ailments they know next-to-nothing about; and sometimes by their activities, promote treatment failure and drug resistance as a result of their inability to administer drugs at the correct dosage. In several cases, they worsen the patient’s health condition.
Therefore, there is an absolute need for a law at the national level against the activities of quacks and illegal health facilities because they deal with human lives. States should show more than a passing concern to the problem.
The interest of any state government should not just be limited to the revenue accruals from hospital registration fees. States ought to have in place relevant agencies, such as the HEFAMAA in Lagos; and come up with adequate sanctions that can truly deter any crook endangering people’s lives.
State ministries of health must cooperate and collaborate with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), Nursing and Midwifery of Nigeria Council and other federal health agencies responsible for the certification/licensing of doctors, nurses and other health workers to make it easy for them to verify the legal status of health professionals working in their various communities.
There is equally the need for sustained public enlightenment across the country. Nigerians need to know what to look out for when they visit a health facility. They should be encouraged to ask those who treat them necessary questions to ensure they are being attended to by the right health officials.
Share this news with friends!!!