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Why Abuja is Expensive to live
« on: May 04, 2013, 02:25:28 PM »
Why Abuja is  Expensive to live
BY KEMI YESUFU

The beauty of Abuja is often talked about with pride. It is the same thing for visitors within the African continent, who easily praise the capital city’s magnificence. But one thing that takes a lot away from Abuja’s beauty is the cost of residing here. It boasts of being the most expensive city on the continent.

There are so many stakes and hurdles residents of Abuja have to contend with daily. They pay exorbitant house rent. Schools in Abuja charge higher than the national average and most regrettably, medical care isn’t inexpensive, neither is it easily accessible.

In most cases, people who need care have to use a mode of transport to get to the nearest clinic. When they get to the clinic, they have to wait to see a doctor in the case of government owned centres and when it is a private hospital, they cough out higher sums to afford quicker response.

Overlooked poor

Worse still, those who live in the city’s slums or in the rural areas often complain of neglect. Abuja’s poor, many of whom work in the highbrow neighbourhoods or provide services to the wealthy, live in communities that lack basic amenities. The poor sanitary conditions they live in make families, especially children under five, susceptible to killer-diseases. In order to survive, youths in these looked-down areas, majority of whom have little or no education and are lacking in skills, resort to clandestine activities that make them vulnerable to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). It as a result of this that the FCT holds the fourth position in national HIV/AIDS prevalence.

One of such communities that lack basic amenities in Abuja is, Damangazan, a dusty settlement in the Kabusa district. A stone throw from Gudu district, Kabusa village, as it is commonly called, is under the Durumi 3 ward of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), yet primary healthcare is alien to its inhabitants.

In Damangazan, pregnant women are taken on bikes or hired vehicles to private clinics in Kabusa for medical attention. According to Alhaji Abdul Hamidu the Serikin Hausa of Damangazan, his children have only received “the liquid medicine that is dropped in the mouth.” The polio vaccine administered to his children is only time government delivers healthcare to his people. The story is the same with Kado-Kuchi village located in the Jahi District.

Abuja Metro discovered during its visit to the village that there was no pipe-borne water and no health centre in the community. At first glance, it is easy to see that there is no drainage system.  Abuja Metro equally found out that it was through the efforts of the members of the community that they enjoy power supply. The only semblance of government’s recognition of the village is the LEA Primary School built when the former AMAC chairman, Zephaniah Jisalo was in office. People in such other communities resort to quacks and self medication due to lack of fund. Some of them seek spiritual solutions to medical problems just as they also look up to churches, other religious bodies and Non Governmental Organisation that carry out medical outreaches in their communities from time to time. Those whose ailments defy home treatment and prayers succumb to death.

Healthcare for the wealthy

While the poor die of preventable diseases, those with higher income pay heavily for healthcare. A good example is Mrs. Lauretta Igba. Igba revealed that her family survived a ghastly accident in Nasarawa State. She and her husband had spent over N5 million on her treatment, that of her husband and her two-year-old daughter since December when the accident occurred. After the accident the family was taken to a government hospital in Abuja where they paid N1.5 million for an operation on her hip and waist. Her husband paid almost the same amount for operations on his hands and right leg. Her family members paid cash to a surgeon in the hospital and weren’t issued a receipt for the payment.

“My operation was on a Monday. My sisters had to raise N1.5m to take care of the bill and another N40,000 to use the surgery room in the hospital,” she said. “We were told that my husband and I would have to wait for days until the official surgery day and since I had received blood twice; my sisters had to pay unofficially so that I don’t wait that long”. Igba who was in crutches refused to give the name of the hospital since she is still receiving post surgery treatment. She noted the prompt payment by her siblings was crucial to her survival. “Now, I have started physiotherapy. I don’t think I will be here today if my family members didn’t have enough money to pay the doctors.”

Sam Ode, a banker had a similar experience as Igba. He was involved in an accident on his way to Gwarimpa Estate. He ended up in Cedda Crest Hospital, Garki, where his elder brother, an orthopedic doctor had made contact with the in-house consultant neurosurgeon to handle his case. One look at the results of the MRI scan carried out on Ode and Dr. Biodun Ogungbo the consultant neurosurgeon he was referred to, suggested that he be wheeled into the theatre for surgery in the shortest time. His surgery cost not less than a million naira. Ode and Igba have recovered but at costs that 75 per cent of Nigerians, either resident in Abuja or elsewhere cannot afford.

Costly quality healthcare

Ode received treatment in the same hospital the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Idris Wada did following his involvement in a car accident, while Igba was treated in a government hospital. Yet, both patients paid huge sums for treatment. According doctors Abuja Metro spoke with, there is hardly any part of the world where quality healthcare comes cheap.

“The complaint of quality healthcare being expensive is worldwide,” said Dr. Jerry Oguzie. Taking a similar position Dr. Ogungbo said: “Globally, healthcare is expensive. Quality medical services don’t come cheap.”

Oguzie, a former chairman of the Abuja chapter of the National Medical Association (NMA) said the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has done a lot to make healthcare available to the people.  “Here in the FCT, government hospitals deliver quality healthcare at reduced cost.  These hospitals are meant for the people and government sees healthcare as social service.  So, the management of these hospitals works towards providing quality healthcare at affordable cost.

“But private hospitals have challenges they have to deal with. Staff salaries, purchasing and maintaining equipment and other issues they have to handle cost money.  When you look at the challenges private hospitals have to deal with, you will understand why they charge more.”

On the quality of care provided in government hospitals, Oguzie said they are up to standard and can withstand competition from private clinics. “I was chairman of the FCT NMA from 2008 to 2010. Then I regularly visited hospitals in the FCT. I can say that the General Hospitals in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse, Kwali and Kubwa operated at their optimal within that period. I still go round hospitals to see what is happening and I can say that these hospitals are doing well judging by their level of funding.

“You cannot judge a hospital that has a large number of patients trouping in with one that its charges ensure that only those who can afford it come around. It might appear the general hospitals aren’t doing well because people have to wait a while to get attended to. But most people still resort to public hospitals because of the quality of personnel that finally attend to them.

The former NMA chairman also doesn’t agree that doctors in government hospitals aren’t committed and most times refer patients to their private clinics. “This is an old accusation that dates back to the era of military government,” he noted. “This talk led to the military government, enacting a decree, which I think influenced the laws of today, that a doctor is free to do whatever he chooses after he closes from work. So, government doctors have the right to consult for patients after they close from work.”

“What we frown at is a doctor using work hours to consult for patients that aren’t in the government hospital where he works.”

Dr. Ogungbo wants government to do more in improving service in government hospitals. “It is difficult to compare the private sector with the public sector. I think that the private sector is doing more and a lot better than the public sector,” he posited.

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Why Abuja is Expensive to live
« on: May 04, 2013, 02:25:28 PM »


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