By Ben. Agande
Kaduna – At a time that many private and government hospitals in the country insist on cash deposit before attending to sick patients before treatment, one expects that any hospital that is committed to saving life by treating people without bothering on monetary commitment first should be commended.
But if the experience of the St Gerald Hospital in Kaduna is anything to go by, many hospitals may soon join in rejecting critically ill patients except they deposit money to cover the cost of their initial treatments.
The St Gerald Hospital is a faith-based Christian Hospital built in 1958 by catholic missionaries to take care of patients, especially those who are unable to bear the cost of treatment in regular hospitals. Although the hospital charges a token to treat patients, what it charges over the years is not comparable to what other hospitals of equal standing charge. And because of its human policy towards patients, the hospital, over the years became the first point of call for many sick persons in the state, especially those involved in accidents and others who may be rejected by regular hospitals because of their lean financial status. Even successive governments of Kaduna state found the St Gerald Hospital a ready partner for the state government to refer patients, especially victims of successive riots in the state.
But the hospital’s open door policy is proving to be its Achilles Heels as some of the patients who come to the hospital in urgent need for treatment end up absconding without paying a dime for their treatment. Consequently, the hospital has accumulated a huge bill of over N15 million naira from such dubious patients, threatening its very existence.
Raising the alarm recently in Kaduna, the Hospital Administrator, Reverend Sister Beatrice Danladi said though the issue of absconding by patients has been going on since the establishment of the hospital, it has recently assumed a more worrying dimension as more people, not only so called indigent people, abscond after treatment.
According to her, apart from the financial loss incurred from the runaway patients, the state government is also owing the hospital about N12 million from treatments of patients that the state government directed to the hospital
She said the N12.1million owed the hospital by Kaduna State government was from the treatment of victims of 2011 post election violence as well as victims of derailed train in Kakau area of Kaduna, as well as medical bills of those who were attacked at a police station in Kujama and children electrocuted in Kakuri.
Sister Danladi said, “As a matter of fact, the hospital is being faced with huge utility bills, outstanding medical bills owed by some patients who after treatment, they end up absconding to the detriment of the hospital and inadequate support from donor agencies.
“We also want to sincerely express our gratitude to the executive governor of Kaduna State. Mallam Nasir El-rufai for the payment of N8 million as part of N15,649, 861 owed by the State government for the treatment of 2011 post election crisis, derailed train accident in Kakau, police station attack in Kujama and electrocuted children in Kakuri. We really appreciate it and at the same time looking forward for the complete payment. “Also, following the visit of His Excellency to the fire and accident victims, he gave a directive that we should treat and send their medical bills to him which amounted to N4,530.918 million in 2016/2017.
“The bill has been sent and no positive response till date. In total, Kaduna State government owes the hospital N12, 180,779 million.
“However, we are appealing to the State government to include us in its subvention plan because we are not getting anything from the government, and we have never rejected victims for treatment whenever the need arises from government.
Notwithstanding, the challenges ahead are very massive in nature and our quest of becoming the foremost health care provider of choice in Nigeria is creeping.
“We would have loved to offer inexpensive services but due to the economic situation in the country, we have no means of generating adequate funds for easy implementation of our goals and sustenance of skilled staff” she said.
Though the hospital administrators are willing to carry on its humanitarian treatment of indigent patients, the experience it has had in the hands of some unscrupulous ones may force it to review its liberal policy where it admits people in critical conditions without asking for financial commitment. Sadly, genuine people who need the services of this hospital may lose the services of this humanitarian hospital if conditions compel them to change.