Hospitals: Nigerian govt moves to decrease waiting time for patients

Doctors performing surgery on a patient
Doctors performing surgery on a patient

The Federal Government has been urged to provide adequate medical staff, infrastructure and staff training as part of the strategy to reduce the waiting time a patient spends in the hospital before seeing a doctor.

This advice was given by the Bureau of Public Service Reform, BPSR, on Thursday in Abuja during the handing over of the preliminary report on the findings of the agency on causes of service delay at the hospitals and solutions to resolving such incidents.

The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, while collecting the report commended the team saying the project is timely because the government’s major concerns have been how to improve quality care in the health sector.

“We have concerns over the level of trust demonstrated by the public over the health sector and it is worrisome when people leave the country abroad because they believe those ailments cannot be treated in the country,” said Mr. Adewole.

The minister said the study is part of a way to build quality healthcare services, trust, and win the hearts and minds of Nigerians.

He added that the collapse of the system over the years has been responsible for the state of health facilities adding that the government is keen on revamping the primary health care services.

Mr. Adewole, however, expressed optimism that there can be a change in all health facilities across the country especially in terms of personnel, referral systems and infrastructural development.

The head of the investigation team and former Director-General of BPSR, Joe Abah, while handing over the findings to the minister said there was a lot to be done in the hospitals to make them functional.
He said the BPSR had rolled out the project to see how to make it easier for patients to see doctors in government hospitals.

According to Mr. Abah, twelve public facilities were used in four states – Enugu, Kano, Lagos and Abuja – for the pilot study to track patients’ experiences in the hospitals with a view to enhancing service delivery.

The facilities selected in each state were – one teaching hospital, one general hospital and a specialist hospital.

He said the project was necessary so as to understand the experiences of patients and know how to effect changes that would change the public perception of government hospitals.

Mr. Abah said he noted that an average waiting time it takes a patient to see a doctor in any of the hospitals is three hours, though some patients spend as much as six hours.

He blamed the documentation process, waiting for nurses and waiting to see the doctor as reasons for the delay.

Mr. Abah said there is a need to overhaul activities at the hospitals especially in terms of non-medical staff strength to ease the stress for the patients to see the doctors as this is the key goal of going to the hospitals and any obstacle on the way is considered a delay.

“We need to fix the referral system and most of the infrastructure in the hospitals, the toilets which mostly are non-functional, power outages, comfortable waiting areas, signages to assist patients to know where to go for services and new electronic data capturing equipment to ease documentation processes among others”.
The minister also agreed with Mr. Abah’s observation saying a good referral system would ease the undue pressure on the secondary and tertiary health system only if the primary is fixed.
Another member of the research team, Ayoola Arowolo, who presented the results from the findings made some recommendations to the government, among which are: setting up a benchmark for appropriate waiting time, guideline plus built-in regular reviews of the balance between the benchmark and outcome. He said this will help monitor the process to know if there has been an improvement.
He also said there is a need to also implement a robust referral system for the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare so as to limit the burden placed on the secondary and tertiary services and should be supported by policies to instruct health institutions to operate an appointment system.

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