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Patient Rights Bill and Its Implication for Nigerian Healthcare Reform

The new Patient Bill of Right signed into law by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbanjo last week demonstrates in clear terms the present Administration’s resolve to reform the nation’s healthcare system for the good of all.

It also demonstrates the progress being made in making qualitative healthcare service available to all Nigerians irrespective of their class or political leanings.

The bill initiated by the Nigerian Consumer Protection Council, covers the consumers or citizens relationship with insurers, health plans and everyone else in the healthcare systems.

It contains basically health insurance reforms which it tries here to cover holistically for the common good of health consumers.

This is in fulfilment of one of the campaign promises of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The goal of the Patient Bill of Rights is to put Nigerians consumers back in charge of their health coverage and care.

It contains and come with certain obligations to take an active role in making the systems work smoothly.

The Patient Bill of Rights was enacted and developed with the expectation that hospitals and health institutions would support these rights in the interest of delivering effective service to patients without any man-made hindrances.

The Nigerian hospitals or Medical Associations are encouraged alongside other institutions to translate or simplify the Patient Bill of Right to meet the needs of their specific patient populations and to make patient rights and responsibility understanding to patients and their families.

The bill also stipulates that a patient rights can be exercised on his or her behalf by a designated surrogate or proxy decision maker if the patient lacks decision making capacity or is legally incompetent or is a minor.

This articulated Bill include the following;

(A). The patient has the right to considerate and respectful care. This is and has always been the missing link in our healthcare administration

(B). The patient has the right and is encouraged to obtain from a physicians and other direct care givers relevant, current and understandable information about his or her diagnosis, treatment and progress and prognosis.

(C). The patient has the right and except in emergencies when the patient lacks the ability to make decisions and the need for the treatment is urgent, the patient is requested and is entitled to a chance to discuss and request information related to specific procedures or treatments available.

The risks involved, the possible length of treatment and recovery, and the medically reasonable alternatives to existing treatment along with their accompanying risks and benefits.

(D). The patient has the right to know the identity of physicians, nurses and other health practitioners involved in his or her treatment and rehabilitation as the case may be.

(E). The patient also need to know the immediate and long term financial significance of treatment choices in so far as they arise.

(F). The patient has the right to make decisions about the plan of care before and during treatment or plan of cure if it is permitted by law and hospital policy and be adequately informed of the medical consequences of such actions among other rights stipulated in the bill.

The present Administration by this bill enacted and signed into law revolutionize one of the important sectors that touch the lives of Nigerians directly; the health sectors particularly the accident victims who before now have to wait for police report before been attended to by healthcare practitioners.

Also with the introduction of this historic bill, patients must be treated first before payment has to be made when the need arise, unlike in the past when patients are mandated to make deposits before they are attended to in our hospitals.

Prior to signing of this bill into law, we can all attest to the fact that the Nigerian patients’ rights were denied without punitive measures being applied, but by this singular gestures of government giving to Nigerians, one of their basic rights through legislations, our health sector shall never be the same again.

Invariably also, the complaint made every day against the dehumanizing attitudes of our healthcare practitioners can now be redressed through the Nigerian judicial systems that is constitutionally empowered to apply appropriate sanctions against erring medical practitioners.

The collaborative nature of healthcare requires that patients and their families and surrogates participate in their care. The effectiveness of care and patient satisfactions with the course of treatment comes through shared responsibilities and the successes depends in parts on the patient fulfilling certain responsibilities

(A). Patients are responsible for providing information about past illnesses, hospitalizations, medications and other health related matters.

(B). Patients must take responsibility for requesting additional information’s or clarifications about health status or treatment when they do not fully understand the current instructions.

(C). The health institutions have a copy of their written advance directive if they have one. This is a basic responsibility of patients.

(D). The patient must report any anticipated problems in following anticipated treatments. this will make the practitioners job easy.

Finally, patients should be aware that the hospital has to be reasonably efficient and equitable in providing care to other patients and the community. The hospitals rules and regulations are designed to help the hospital meet this obligation.

As a government responsible to the yearning of its people for development in the health sector, the Buhari administration has played its part in legislating this Patients’ Bill of Rights for its people.

The citizens are hereby called upon to reciprocate this gesture by abiding by the tenets of this bill for the common good. Everywhere in the world, institutions and its customers have shared responsibilities and Nigeria is not an exception.

Dr Jumia Ahmadu writes from Abuja

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