NLC, NMA, and Others Oppose Privatisation of Nigeria’s Teaching Hospitals

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has strongly opposed the suggestion to privatise the country’s university teaching hospitals, asserting that such a move would make healthcare unaffordable without improving the system.

Amos Magaji, Chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, proposed privatising Nigeria’s university teaching hospitals, citing issues of underfunding, infrastructural decay, overstretched facilities, poor power supply, and personnel shortages. His suggestion has been widely condemned by Nigerians, including labour union leaders.

Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital

During a visit to Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) in Zaria, Kaduna State, Magaji stated that the parliament would support privatisation to enhance hospital efficiency and effectiveness. However, he acknowledged the potential difficulties for Nigerians and recommended a critical review of the health insurance system, suggesting increased capitation to alleviate out-of-pocket expenses.

Magaji likened the commercialisation of teaching hospitals to “giving Nigerians death sentences,” emphasizing that government policies should align with public aspirations and have a human face.

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Bala Audu, President of the NMA, argued that privatisation of public institutions has historically failed. He advocated for significant investments in primary and secondary healthcare to reduce the burden on tertiary institutions, allowing them to focus on training, research, and service delivery. He cited the failed privatisation of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) as a cautionary example.

Benson Upah, Head of the Information Unit at the NLC, warned of a nationwide revolt if the government pursued teaching hospital commercialisation. He argued that privatisation would make healthcare unaffordable and urged private investors to establish their own hospitals instead of taking over taxpayer-funded institutions.

Kefas Wida, NARD’s second Vice President, suggested that addressing existing issues in the health system would be more effective than privatisation. He called for better remuneration for medical professionals based on the quality and quantity of services provided.

Director-General Francis Ohanyido cautioned that the current economic fragility makes privatisation a poor choice. He highlighted unresolved sector challenges like healthcare access, brain drain, and inadequate primary and secondary healthcare.

Project Director Stanley Ukpai expressed concerns that privatisation would exacerbate the brain drain crisis and inflation, making healthcare even less accessible. He stressed that the scheme might fail to equitably distribute healthcare resources and reduce out-of-pocket expenses, ultimately threatening universal basic healthcare.

Chidalu Glory

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