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Welcoming the Patients’ Bill of Rights

The Patients’ Bill of Rights (PBOR) was last week Tuesday launched in Abuja at an event jointly organized by the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Federal Ministry of Health. The PBOR is a list of rights and responsibilities that guarantees adequate information to patients, fair treatment and autonomy over medical decisions.

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Speaking about the PBOR, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo declared that “The Patients’ Bill of Rights is a remarkable effort at consensus and common purpose in the face of the many challenges of our healthcare system”. He also said “It cuts out the noise and distractions and focuses on what is truly important; putting people first”. According to the Vice President, the respect for human dignity is a universal principle and people never forget how they are treated especially when they are most vulnerable. 

Osinbajo further noted that while the ultimate goal was to ensure that the patient was alive and in good health, it was just as important that the journey to the realization of the final goal was underpinned by the full preservation of human dignity. 

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To express government commitment to the attainment of Universal Health coverage for all Nigerians, Osinbajo said “For the first time in the nation’s history, the 2018 budget allocated one percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund towards the funding of key health initiatives, in compliance with the National Health Act”. He assured that the bill would translate in to new standards of quality, equity and dignity in patients’ healthcare experience.

 Until now, patients in many Nigerian healthcare facilities are confronted with a lot gratuitous challenges largely occasioned by inexcusable human factors; leaving them at the mercy of healthcare providers including medical doctors. Some of these challenges that have little or no regard for patients’ rights include lack of access to relevant information especially about diagnosis and treatment. More life-threatening than this is the abrupt interruption of treatment of patients by frequent strike actions embarked upon by health workers.

The proposed PBOR seeks to address most inadequacies existing in Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system. The bill contains over ten areas of concern that include access to information, quality of care, patients’ dignity, confidentiality, access to emergency care, withdrawal of service by provider and patent’s refusal of care. The bill explicitly defines patient’s rights, responsibilities as well as the provider’s obligations.

Patients’ rights as outlined in the bill include access to record of the identity, skills and credentials of treating professionals and care providers; right to be treated with respect and dignity without prejudice to gender, religion, race, ethnicity, allegation of crime, geographical location, disability or socio-economic circumstances; right to receive urgent, immediate and sufficient intervention and care in the event of an emergency; right to be informed of impending interruption or disengagement of services; and the right to decline participation in medical research, experimental procedure or clinical trials in the course of treatment.

According to the bill, providers have the responsibility to inform a patient whether the proposed treatment or procedure is experimental or part of an on-going research. It is also part of the provider’s responsibility to deliver care that minimizes risks and harm to patients including preventable injury and errors. On the other hand, it is patient’s responsibility to pay bills or make provisions for such. In the event of an emergency, the patient or his relations should demonstrate ability and intention to pay for the services.

Given the capacity of the PBOR to resolve most challenges existing in the country’s healthcare delivery system, we encourage federal lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the bill. Daily Trust also urges state lawmakers to domesticate this bill when it finally becomes an Act. This would help to make Nigeria’s healthcare system compatible with international best practices.

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