Nigeria published its first ever patient’s bill of rights July 31, 2018. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo launched it officially in Abuja , the nation’s capital. Wikipedia describes the patient’s bill of rights as “a list of guarantees” for anyone receiving medicalcare. It may be legally binding or non-binding. Nigeria’s version of the bill of rights is the collaborative work of Nigerian Consumer Protection Council and the Federal Ministry of Health.
The bill outlines 12 guarantees in all. They include rights such as access to relevant information; right to timely access to medical records; transparent billing; right to privacy, clean healthcare environment and to be treated with respect. The rest are: urgent care, reasonble visitation, the right to decline care and to accept or decline to participate in medical research.
While launching the bill Vice President Osinbajo had this to say: “It will ensure that the increasing funding that is coming into healthcare in Nigeria translates into a direct improvement in the quality of the final output at what one might call the ‘last mile’ phase of healthcare delivery, the very personal arena of interaction between health personnel and the beneficiaries of the healthcare. Our aim must be to develop a standard worthy of emulation, by ensuring strict compliance with and the enforcement of the Patient’s Bill of Rights. We must hold ourselves – professionals and patients – accountable to the rights that this document enunciates, and when we see others who should, but do not, we must insist that they do.” .
We, at Peoples Daily, welcome wholeheartedly the introduction of the patient’s bill of rights which, we understand, draws heavily on the 1999 Federal Constitution, the Consumer Protection Council Act, Freedom of Information Act, National Health Act and the Hippocratic oath taken by healthcare providers. If properly enforced, the bill is capable of reducing, if not eradicating totally, the abuses perpetrated in our health institutions. These range from lack of courtesy to patients, refusal to accept accident victims, abandoning surgical wares in the patient’s body to insistence on payments before treatment. Very often, these infractions lead to avoidable deaths.
The problem is that most patients are not aware of their rights, and so, are unable to seek legal redress. To obviate this problem, we suggest that the Ministry of Health and the Consumer Protection Council give the bill of rights of the patient the widest publicity possible. The efficacy of the bill will depend on the awareness of the patient such that he or she is able to insist on his or her righs. Another suggestion is that the bill be made actionable through legislation enacted by the National Assembly.