Eko Hospitals canvasses cancer care in health insurance scheme
At the forefront of cancer treatment in the country, the Chief Executive Officer, Eko Hospitals, Dr. Olusegun Odukoya, has appealed to the Federal Government to include the treatment of cancer in the National Health Insurance Schemes (NHIS) to support cancer patients.
Odukoya, who said this during a Christmas party organised for the hospital’s cancer patients, said “the government has to take a lead in this, because cancer treatment is an expensive one and most Nigerian cannot afford it.”
According to him, “Doctors make diagnoses, plan treatment and the patients do not have money, and by the time they run round to gather money there is already an advancement in the cancer.”
“We are actually killing ourselves because of money, whereas some people just take this money away, which should be used to better the lives of our patients.”
Speaking to one Mrs. Joy Ibude, a cancer survivor, she said, “Cancer treatment is really expensive, and one thing I must let people know is that it is even the money that kills in cancer related cases.”
“The high cost is killing and it affects the treatment of patients,” she said.
Reacting to patients’ complaints of high cost of treatment, the Eko Hospitals Boss explained: “As a private organisation, when we look at the cost of everything, we have to pass it to the patients, and more so cost of equipments, training personnel and maintenance is high.”
He also pointed out that invariably: “The cost of importing medical equipments can be related to the high cost of treatment, and that is why government has to take a bold step to implement zero duty for importation of medical equipments, this will reduce the burden on Nigerians,” he added.
While some of the patients expressed gratitude to the hospital management for the get-together, others decline to speak with our correspondent.
The Head of Department, Radiotherapy and CT Scan, Eko Hospitals, Prof. Kofi Duncan who was also at the party told The Guardian that Eko Hospitals is the only private hospital in the country that has a Cobalt Machine for the radiotherapy treatment of cancer.
In spite of this, “we charge the most minimum in this place that can keep the place going.”
Relatively, Duncan explained: “The reason why cancer treatment is very expensive in Nigeria is because the methodology of treating is expensive, the radiation is expensive to produce, the drugs are expensive and the care too is expensive, and that is why most people cannot afford the treatment.
“It cannot be cheaper. If it is, then we cannot provide the treatment, the drugs and won’t be able to pay salaries,” he stressed.
He disclosed that the mismanagement of funds donated by the Federal Government in the immediate past administration was the reason the African Cancer Centre has not been actualized.
“Neighboring Ghana has got theirs going ahead, we should be ashamed of our selves,” he said.
He, however, urged the government to invest in the centre but with proper accountability process, to enable the start of more cancer treatment, education and research.
Duncan, who is an oncologist said, “It is a pity, with my years of experience, Nigeria still cannot find enough equipments to treat people.”
He expressed regrets saying, at the moment cancer patient in Nigeria report here very late, with advance stages like 80 per cent. But it is getting better now because people are getting educated.
Odukoya stressed the need for intense education, and screening programmes to create awareness about the scourge. He cited the instance of using the social media as a tool in educating the youth.
The Eko CEO urged government to create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, “for there is no doubt private sector is going to lead the health change in the country, but the enabling environment is needed.”