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Medical Devices Providers Express Concern Equipment Cost

Experts from the Hospital Equipment and Medical Devices Providers Association of Nigeria (HEMDDAN) have expressed grave concerns over the rising cost of medical equipment and devices in Nigeria, highlighting its crippling impact on the country’s healthcare system.

These concerns were articulated during the HEMDDAN 4th yearly general meeting held at the Sickle Cell Centre, Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi Araba, in Lagos on Saturday.

The guest speaker, Prof. Auwal Abubakar, from the division of Paediatric Surgery at Modibbo Adama University Teaching Hospital, Yola, Adamawa State, highlighted the challenges faced by healthcare equipment providers.

He revealed alarming statistics, stating that one in 10 patients presenting to a health facility is harmed, with more than 50 per cent of these cases being preventable. Abubakar also noted that approximately 43 million patient safety incidents are reported every year, leading to three million deaths annually. In low-to-middle-income countries, as many as four in 100 people die from unsafe care.

In his words, “One in 20 patients are harmed due to preventable causes. Approximately 43 million patient safety incidents are reported every year. Three million deaths occur yearly due to unsafe care. In low-to-middle income countries as many as four in 100 people die from unsafe care. Patients harm potentially reduces economic growth by 0.7 per cent per year. Investments in reducing patient harm will lead to significant financial savings and economic growth. WHO recognises patient safety as a global health Priority. Patient safety is recognised as an essential component of strengthening health systems.

The second speaker, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Clare Omotseye, discussed the ‘Strategic Role of Healthcare Equipment Providers in the Healthcare Industry and its Challenges in Nigeria.’

Omotseye, who is a pharmacist, emphasised the need for better access to quality healthcare for Nigerian patients and identified the barriers to entry, including the high cost of medical equipment, tools, and consumables. She called for streamlined regulations to reduce the burden of multiple taxes and tariffs imposed on medical equipment importation.

Omotseye outlined various challenges faced by healthcare equipment providers, such as high government fees (Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, NNRA), supply chain disruptions, regulatory hurdles, legislative gaps, funding and forex issues, equipment standards, ISO certification bottlenecks, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) challenges, technology and innovation barriers, contractual complexities, importation complexities and timelines, duties and tariffs, training gaps, and technology adoption barriers.

The NNRA is the government entity responsible for nuclear safety and radiological protection regulation in Nigeria.

She said, “What we want to be able to do is to have better access to quality healthcare for Nigerian patients and one of the barriers to entry to access is the cost of medical equipment tools consumables, we are looking for ways to lower the barrier to entry and reduce some of the multiple taxation that are on medical equipment. We see that there are a lot of tariffs for importation, from NNRA, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON). By the time you add all these together, it adds to the cost of very important life-saving equipment, so we are looking for one way in which we can one single corridor like a desk within either the ministry of finance or ministry of health that would be able to do all various regulation that concerns the importation and maintenance of medical equipment in Nigeria.”

The BoT Chairman, Mustapha Falaki, echoed the challenges faced by the industry due to the heavy reliance on the dollar, as almost 100 per cent of all medical devices are imported.

He urged the government to take measures to mitigate the impact of the rising dollar on service delivery and emphasised the importance of prioritising quality over price when it comes to medical devices.

He stated, “I solicit the public to understand that when it comes to medical devices it is not an issue of price, it is an issue of quality, people have to stop thinking of the cheapest medical devices, people should start thinking of the most qualitative devices”. He therefore urged the government to take steps to cushion the effect of the rising dollar on service delivery.

Chairman of HEMDDAN, Dr. Ifeanyi Nwankwo, stressed the importance of quality medical equipment for patient safety. He noted that the quality of equipment provided to caregivers directly impacts the quality of care they are able to provide to patients. He also called for improved funding for medical services and the creation of special loans for equipment providers to encourage them to bring in more medical facilities.

He added, “The most thing that every provider should know is that we are responsible to the safety of the patient with the use of our equipment and what we give the caregiver is what they use and if we give them interior products we are not going to perform any magic they depend so much on what we provide for them for them to render quality services to the patients.

“If we go to most Nigerian hospitals, including government hospitals, there are no facilities because of the cost of equipment, and the government does not have money to fund hospitals. Once it is private hospitals, they don’t have money to buy very good diagnostic equipment. What that means is that the service we render is not optimum. That is why we have people running abroad and going abroad for medical treatment so the government needs to improve on the funding of medical services and if possible let there be a special loan created for people who are providing that equipment. Every provider must understand the core value of the services in the healthcare industry; they must know that the business is not all about money. It’s about life.”

He expressed optimism that members will come to understand the importance of the association and its role in improving the healthcare industry in Nigeria.