Scores of pregnant women on Thursday shut down the Ondo State Specialist Hospital, Akure, in protest over what they described as the outrageous medical bills being charged at the facility. The women, numbering about fifty, accused the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu led government of over-taxing pregnant women for antenatal care in government-owned hospitals before any childbirth.
The expectant women complained that they were being asked to pay between N25, 000 and N35, 000 before any delivery. The protesting women specifically berated the government for fixing the cost of Caesarean section at between N50, 000 and N80, 000.
They complained about other ‘anti-people policies’ introduced at state-owned hospitals since the inception of the Akeredolu government According to the angry women, hospital officials were in the habit of charging piling up frivolous medical bills ranging from N700 to N50, 000 on patients.
The protestors firstly blocked the main gate before forcing their way into the Ante-natal Care Unit of the government-owned hospital to register their anger. The protesting women chanted solidarity songs in which they accused Governor Akeredolu of destroying the legacies left behind by his predecessors in office.
One of the protesting pregnant women, Mrs. Iyabo Oladele said the money being charged at the government hospital was becoming too much for the poor women.
“We are here to protest over the unnecessary and outrageous medical bills which range between N25, 000 and N 80, 000 being collected from us at this government hospital even at the Mother Child hospital in Akure. We pay too much medical bills before the nurses are allowed to attend to us at the hospital and they have always been lackadaisical to our complaints. In fact, there are times they even get us detained inside the facilities or seized our properties if we don’t pay the heavy medical bills on time after delivery.”
“We don’t know why Governor Akeredolu government is introducing new funds and heavy charges on us before delivery in these hospitals. We have been enjoying free medical bills from the past governments in this state, but Akeredolu came in to change everything”, she said.
She added that officials at the government-owned hospital always failed to make appropriate drugs and other delivery materials available despite the heavy charges.
Mrs. Oladele also said there was a need for the government to look into the poor service delivery being rendered mostly at the Obstetrics and Gynecology section of the state-owned hospital. Speaking to Sahara Reporters on the phone over the protest, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Waheed Adegbenro, said the state government would address the issues raised by the pregnant women.
Dr. Adegbenro was, however, quick to reveal that the cost of providing medical services and facilities in the Ondo State Specialists Hospital was becoming “much burden” for the government. He said the state government was in the process of kicking off its health insurance scheme to address the issue of financing the health sector.
“The Ondo state government has embarked on the process of introducing the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme and it is designed in a way that everyone will have to put in a little amount of money while the government will put the large percentage of the fund.
“We believed this would go in a long way to help those who would key into the scheme because they won’t have to pay a dime but only walk into any of our hospitals and take free treatment.
“So, the bill for the off of the scheme has been signed into law, but we are still putting logistics into place and lots of paperwork is still ongoing, but hopefully before the end of the year, the scheme would have started running effectively”, Adegbenro said.