COLLAPSE of values and government failure at all levels in the country have been identified as the main driver of corruption in the nation’s health sector.
These assertions were made in Abuja on Wednesday by participants at a weekly anti-corruption radio program tagged “Public Conscience”, a program produced by Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) with the support from the MacArthur Foundation.
The program which was tailored around a recent publication and investigation by Premium Times on sharp and shoddy practices of health practitioners in the country x-rayed the scam in medical referrals by some doctors and other medical workers in Nigeria.
The Premium Times investigation which was conducted over the span of 20-month detailed how medical diagnostic companies are colluding with doctors and hospitals to scam Nigerians through a referral kickbacks scheme
Lemmy Ughegbe, the Communication and Advocacy Director, “Make A Difference Initiative,” while commending the investigation during the radio program, blamed the government and regulatory agencies for looking the other way while patients suffered under the scam.
Ughegbe said that it was worrying that referral kickback was even obtainable in government-owned hospitals and stressed that the failure on the part of the government made citizens to be the ones to provide basic amenities for themselves, increased their desperation, and encouraged fraud in public offices.
Speaking on the moral decadence and poor value system among Nigerians, Ughegbe noted that gone were the days when people would prefer a good name to unscrupulous riches and wealth.
“We find out that unlike in those days a good name was better than riches but now, we seem to have turned it to a bad name is better than poverty,” he said.
“Nigeria needs a rebirth, the total collapse of our value system calls for retrospection and rebirth. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) must come together to work with civil society organizations and we need to rejig our value system.”
Ughegbe called on Nigerians to be vigilant when accessing healthcare in the country while condemning the idea of medical doctors of mystifying treatment.
He also stressed the need for Nigerians to be more enlightened about the ugly trend.
Nicholas Ibekwe, the author of the investigation, lamented on the radio program that despite unearthing such fraud in the health system, no punitive action has been taken on the individuals and companies indicted after one month.
“Since my story was published nobody has been punished. I called the Consumer Protection Council and they made all the promises in this world that they were going to do something, yet nothing has been done.
“I will go back this week to the story and talk to the regulators to know how come a month after the story has been published nothing has been done,” Ibekwe said.
Several callers to the program lamented how they became victims of the scam and called on the government to strengthen regulations to stop the fleecing of patients in the name of referrals.
Many of the callers said they declined to carry out tests and refused to go to the preferred laboratories of their doctors because they suspected some foul play.