Deaths by medical mistakes rise

doctor• Private clinics five times more expensive than government-owned
• Experts canvass mandatory health insurance scheme

Deaths and irreversible damage caused by medical mistakes especially by doctors and nurses are rising and less than five per cent of such errors ever get reported, according to an investigation by The Guardian.

A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. This might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a disease, injury, syndrome, behaviour, infection, or other ailment.

According to Wikipedia, globally it is estimated that 142,000 people died in 2013 from adverse effects of medical treatment up from 94,000 in 1990.

The investigation also showed that costs of medical services are rising daily and bills at most private hospitals have become unaffordable to most Nigerians some of who now resort to visiting quack doctors and trying any other alternative including unproven crude traditional concoctions while others besiege government-owned hospitals, which are cheaper especially when other options have failed and when the situation is seemingly irredeemable.

It revealed that the average cost of services in private hospitals in Lagos is at least five times the cost at public and specialist government-owed ones.

It was learnt that a Caesarean Section (CS) costs between N30, 000 and N50, 000 in government-owned hospitals but it is from N150, 000 to N350, 000 in private clinics.

It was also found that there is the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act to establish the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) for the registration of medical practitioners and dental surgeons and to provide for a disciplinary tribunal for the discipline of members.

Most medical and financial experts spoken to called for mandatory health insurance scheme to make medical services affordable. They also called for a nationwide social health insurance scheme to take care of the most vulnerable population including pregnant women, children under five and persons above 70 years.

Reacting to the findings, a Consultant Public Health Physician/Epidemiologist and former Chief Medical Director of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba, Prof. Akin Osibogun, told The Guardian: “I am not sure of the statistics you have quoted and it may be difficult to quote any figures due to the paucity of data on the subject in this environment.

“Deaths by medical errors definitely occur in all countries seeing that doctors are human beings and can make errors of judgment. However, most health institutions endeavour to keep the likelihood of errors at the lowest by establishing diagnostic and treatment protocols which professionals are required to follow.

“Patient Safety and Service Quality Units in Hospitals have been established in many institutions globally to monitor patient care and facilitate the development of clinical protocols for patient safety.”

Osibogun said The Guardian’s findings that patients besiege specialist public hospitals as cost of medical care rises and that private clinics are five times more expensive than government-owned are to be expected.

The consultant epidemiologist explained: “For similar services of the same quality, public hospitals are expected to be cheaper than private hospitals simply because of the partial subsidy provided by governments to public hospitals. For example, government may provide staff salaries in public hospitals while salaries in the private sector must be recovered from patient fees. I cannot confirm your assertion that private hospitals are five times more expensive than government-owned.”

The consultant public health physician who said the call for mandatory health insurance scheme to make services affordable is in line with current thinking as part of the strategies to promote Universal Health Coverage (UHC) added that it would protect citizens against catastrophic expenditure for health and in the long run it may be a good strategy to ensure the continuous availability of quality health services because of the guaranteed funding that accompanies a well-planned health insurance scheme that is made mandatory.

Acting Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Mr. Femi Akingbade, told journalists: “One of the things that government can do to help this country is to first and foremost find a way to make it mandatory for everybody in this country to be under one form of insurance or another. And then we at NHIS will be able to develop a pro-poor scheme because we have a large population of people under this category which is classified as pro-poor.”

Meanwhile, in the United States (US), preventable medical errors persist as the number three ‘killer’– third only to heart disease and cancer – claiming the lives of some 400,000 people each year.

In the United Kingdom, a damning investigation first published recently by DailyMailUK online revealed that scared hospital staff are still failing to report errors in treatment for fear of repercussions.

According to two reports led by former health minister, Lord Darzi, as few as five per cent of mistakes in the way patients are treated ever come to light.



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