By Christiana Ekpa
Houses of Representatives yesterday passed a bill authorising free healthcare services for pregnant women in the country.
The bill seeks to mandate free antenatal and postnatal health services to pregnant women in government hospitals across the country.
To ensure compliance, Clause 6 of the bill provides that “any person who is found guilty of subjecting any pregnant woman with child to any form of abuse, strenuous duties or labour, or through any act of negligence, omission, dereliction of his/her lawful duties or influences, resulting into miscarriage or termination of pregnancy, shall be liable to N500,000 fine or five years imprisonment or to both.
Clause 1(a) of the bill, seen by our correspondent, provides that; “Any woman residing in Nigeria certified as pregnant by a medical practitioner shall before child birth, be required to register her condition of pregnancy with any government and licensed and designated private facilities (maternity hospital) nearest to her place of abode within three months of the happening of her condition of pregnancy.”
The beneficiary, is also expected to attend all antenatal appointment as specified for her by the relevant health care provider, be eligible to obtain or receive free pre-natal and post-natal health services from a government hospital which shall be within minimum acceptable standard and not subjected to any person or authority, to any form of abuse of discrimination, strenuous duties or forced labour.
Clause 1(b) of the bill further provides that after child birth, the beneficiary shall be placed under suitable post-natal care and supervision with the baby in the appropriate maternity hospital; be issued a child health card for her child by the relevant maternity hospital which shall specify the dates and times for the administration of any vaccination or treatment; not be charged any fees whatsoever by the relevant government maternity hospital for the delivery of her child; be eligible to receive or obtain post-natal medical treatment for a period of six weeks and encourage optimal breast-feeding of her child in line with the national breast feeding policy.
The legislation further provides that “in the event that the mother gave birth to a set of triplet and above, the government shall provide stipends to assist the family where such family is indigent,” as stipulated in clause 1(c)(vi).
In the case of an abandoned new born child, the bill provides that the mother who abandoned her child, management of the hospital where the delivery takes place shall take necessary steps to report the matter
to the police or make necessary arrangements to transfer the said new born child to any social welfare establishment nearest to the child’s place of birth for proper care and continue to render necessary health
services to any such abandoned or deserted new born wherever the child may be for not less than two years.
The bill is expected to be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence.