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Rural areas often face a lack of essential healthcare services.

Electricity Tariff Hike: MDs Lament as Eight Borno Private Hospitals Shut Down

The Guild of Medical Directors (GMD) of Nigeria has raised the alarm that the hike in electricity tariff is straining private hospitals, forcing some to shut down.

The Guild disclosed that no fewer than eight private hospitals in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, recently shut down over the high cost of electricity supply and insecurity.

Besides the hike in electricity tariff, the hospital owners identified multiple taxations, brain drain, high cost of importation of medical equipment, and hike in drug prices as other factors crippling the operation of private hospitals in the country, which they noted deliver 70 per cent of healthcare to Nigerians.

The healthcare providers who called for immediate government intervention before more hospitals go moribund noted that the highlighted challenges have made the nation’s health sector very volatile.

The Medical Directors made their concerns known during a press briefing at the end of the guild’s 2024 National Annual General Meeting, themed, ‘From Profession to Industry Practice in a VUCA Environment’, held in Lagos.

Recall that the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission had on April 3, raised electricity tariffs by about 300 per cent.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, as well as experts had opposed the tariff hike, arguing that this would drive manufacturers out of business, worsen inflation, and stifle small and medium enterprises.

Addressing journalists, the GMD’s National President, Dr Raymond Kuti, called on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency, intervene and provide subsidy on power supply for its members as well as give waivers on imported medical equipment before things get out of hand.

He said” The environment for the health business is very volatile now. It is very uncertain, very complex, and very ambiguous.

“We have restrictive policies, which are not making the needed access to healthcare to be available.

“These restrictive policies involve multiple taxations and then, we are having issues with the cost of running our hospitals due to an increase in the cost of medications and the other consumables.”

Lamenting further, he said, “The most important one now is power supply. I can tell you now that we have hospitals that are using at least close to N25 million a month to generate power and that is tough for hospitals.

“That is just to generate power and of course, the policy of dollarisation of most of our consumables is impacting the running of hospitals.”

The senior medical practitioner also expressed worry that they were unable to access funds provided by the government for private hospitals to enhance their services to patients.

“Also the accessibility for the allocated funds for health, we are having difficulty accessing those funds. The government has put funds there for hospitals to have access to, but unfortunately, we are having issues accessing those allocated funds. Then, we also have a problem of insecurity.

“Now some of the hospitals in the north have closed down. Not that they don’t want to work there, not that they can’t do it but we were closed down due to these challenges.

“In Maiduguri, at least six to eight private hospitals have closed down and that is just because of these challenges we have mentioned.

“Then the japa syndrome is also affecting the private hospitals”, he said.

Kuti noted that amid the challenges confronting the operation of private hospitals, most Nigerians are unable and unwilling to pay for healthcare services.

He explained, “Like we know that the purchasing power of an average Nigerian is very low now. An average Nigerian is finding it difficult to feed, and talk less of how to treat himself or herself.

“Apart from that, we also know that the national health insurance, which is supposed to be compulsory now, only less than 10 per cent of Nigerians are involved in it. So, the majority of Nigerians are not insured to have access to health services and that is a big issue in this situation that we are in.

“Also, most Nigerians are unwilling to pay for health services and we have to ask ourselves, why are these issues coming in?”

On how to solve these problems, Kuti suggested that the government should formulate policies and regulations, but should not be involved in the implementation.

The GMD boss recommended, “The government should not be involved in the implementation and running of hospitals whether tertiary or secondary.

“Let people who are adequately knowledgeable run these hospitals the way they should be run and then we believe that should help us out.

“Concerning the japa syndrome, I believe if the government put more money into the private sector and we can get people to come in, the running of the private hospitals will be more achievable, accessible, and affordable and the government can make money from that.”

Speaking on some of the measures adopted by private hospitals to remain in the business of health, Kuti said, “Concerning ourselves, we have agreed that we will start merging as private hospitals, collaborating, and consolidating what we have so that investors can come in.”