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Nigeria lacks policy for ‘unknown patients’ in emergency

Labelled the “Unknown Patient”, these are people brought into hospital unconscious from trauma or accident, medical conditions as heart diseases or any other condition that impairs a patient’s ability to identify themselves.

The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has raised concerns about the absence of any policy to care for Nigerians in emergency situations, where they are unconscious or unidentified.

Labelled the “Unknown Patient”, these are people brought into hospital unconscious from trauma or accident, medical conditions as heart diseases or any other condition that impairs a patient’s ability to identify themselves.

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Many in similar emergencies are denied treatment for lack of identification and inability to pay.

The National Health Act provides for emergency care covered by the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, “but the disbursement process is largely ambiguous,” said Dr Philips Ekpe, chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association in the FCT.

“It is sad to note that the Federal Ministry of Health is yet to put template in place for judicious use,” he told a press briefing at the start of the 2019 Physicians Week in Abuja.

NMA said it was perplexed the federal health ministry was “concentrating on purchasing ambulances rather than rolling out mechanisms to address critical aspects of emergency care services.”

How are you going to disburse for emergencies? What are the criteria, who is supposed to pay? They have not formed template and that makes it ambiguous,” said Ekpe.

“After treating an accident patient, how do you access the bill? These are nebulous and ambiguous. We need a clarity of procedure on what to do.”

As yet, there is no clear line of paying for emergency care for treating gunshot victims, even though they are provided for in the Fund.

NMA said the government “has not deemed it pertinent to accord the desired attention and value to this category of patients, the unknown patients.”

In addition to gunshot victims, people involved in road crashes account for a large number of unknown patients.

“There is lack of commitment to the implementation of the National Health Act which reasonably provides for the care of patients in emergency situations, including those with identity challenge,” said Ekpe.

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