It’s no secret that health care costs in the private hospitals or specialist hospitals in Lagos; is significantly higher than those in other parts of Nigeria. For routine procedures in in-patient care, patients are charged about three times the cost of the service. And on the higher end of the cost-to-charge spectrum; for MRI scans or Renal Dialysis for example; patients are charged as much as 28.5 times the amount that these services cost.
Private hospitals in the West are expensive because they spend on preventive measures for worst-case scenarios. This is usually to avoid lawsuits from patients. Nevertheless, what is the excuse for these Lagos hospitals? The threat of litigation from patients are close to zero!
I recently had to take my mother to a specialist hospital in Ikoyi, one of the best; for a routine full-body check-up and the experience left a super bitter taste in my mouth. It opened my eyes to the extortion being endured by people who opt for private hospitals or specialist hospitals; especially in the city with the hope to receive premium health care at a sensible rate.
After the initial series of tests, which were about three times the cost at an average hospital; she was further referred to the cardiology unit to have a “heart check”. The first ECG test came through with minimal issue. Thereafter, she was “advised” to take an ECO test that cost us about NGN 65,000.
And although the test showed no cause for alarm; we were “advised” again to go for a heart stress test the following week. This cost another NGN85, 000. Note that for each separate day we visited the hospital; we had to pay a NGN40000 consultation fee. You are probably thinking that it is not a whole lot.
However, my anger is that they could have just asked her to do the Stress Test; (which didn’t really show anything different from the ECO); from the beginning and saved us the cost of all the other tests! Let’s not even talk about the cost of the vitamins and medication they prescribed. Ugh.
Apparently, it is the norm for doctors in private hospitals to order unnecessary tests for a patient; all in the name of ruling out possible problems just so that the hospital can make a few more bucks. For instance, a doctor in a private hospital ordering a CT scan for a simple condition like persistent stomach ache; because he/she suspects a possible case of appendicitis that could lead to complications if it was not diagnosed in time.
Even more annoying is the case of pediatric surgery where we have doctors conducting congenital surgery in multiple hospitals; simply because such an operation may not be very common in one particular location.
I shared this frustration with a friend who is a doctor. He informed me that only about four per cent of a private hospital’s total profit goes into the pockets of a doctor. So, technically, only four per cent of the exorbitant hospital bill is the doctor’s ‘fault’.
Further, he disclosed the reason it may look like private hospitals are ripping patients off with their bill; is because a hospital bill includes various aspects like bed charges, ventilation charges, ICU charges, medication charges, equipment charges; oxygen charges, OT charges etc.
And of the myriad of charges included in a bill, nothing except the consultant’s fees and sometimes; the procedural charges reach the doctor treating you. All the other charges are determined by the hospital administration of which the doctor is NOT a part. This varies from place to place.
While he made a fair point, here is my argument. Why do these Lagos doctors have a predilection to work in private hospitals or set-ups? What happened to the Hippocratic Oath they take to put a sick patient above all else? Why are they not fighting the system; instead they encourage it by proffering avenues for them to continuously rip patients off?
They are the ones that influence the mix of treatments used; as well as patients’ ability to go to specialists or seek more expensive treatments!