PREGNANT women receiving antenatal medical attention at the Ondo State Specialist Hospital Akure, Ondo State, on Thursday protested against the increase in the cost of services at the state government-owned hospital, disrupting operations at the hospital.
The pregnant women numbering over 200 blocked the main entrance of the hospital preventing patients, workers and people from entering the hospital, hindering vehicular movement at the ever-busy hospital road for more than two hours.
The protesting women with their protruding stomachs, vowed to resist the over 300 percent in the increase of the cost of services in the hospital, and sat at the entrance of the hospital, rendering anti-government songs, and called on the state government to reverse the cost of service.
Some of the women who spoke with Nigerian Tribune explained that they usually pay N1,000 as registration for antenatal while delivery was free but said the fee has been increased to N4,000, while they have to pay N500 for every antenatal appointment and N25,000 for normal delivery.
A pregnant woman who was about to deliver was seen at the antenatal unit of the hospital while there was no doctor to attend to her, while some people were seen praying for her before she delivered a baby girl.
One of the protesting pregnant woman, Mrs Sharon Arise, said the new increased fees were being collected from them by the hospital’s officials on the order of the state government,while the services were free before the advent of this present administration in the state.
She said the cost of antenatal services were increased last December while other fees were introduced after the Easter break, saying most of them have resort to traditional midwives and private hospitals because of the outrageous bill and fee.
“This morning when we got to the hospital, we were asked to pay N500 each before they can attend to us and initially when we registered we registered with N2,500 which is to cover the whole antenatal period.
“But now, they asked us to pay every time we need to see the doctor and that we should prepare N25,000 ahead of our delivery and those who registered today had to pay N4,000 as against N1,000 we used to pay before for antenatal.
“We made a formal complaint at the office of the CMD, he failed to attend to us or address us and we decided to protest against the obnoxious policies of the hospital board and the state government.
“We were asked to be paying N500 per consultancy session but we suddenly discovered that we are to pay N25,000 for delivery. They collected N4,000 for registration, with no drugs for us. ”
Addressing the protesters, the Chief Medical Director of the General Hospital Dr Moses Adewole, who denied the development, said there was no increase in the cost of delivery of the pregnant women in the hospital.
He, however, said the newly introduced N500 for every antenatal appointment was introduced by the management to subsidise the running cost in the hospital, while he appealed to the pregnant women to cooperate with the hospital.
He said, “everything in this country is on the high side and most of the time we depend on power from Power Generation set because the power from the National grid cannot power most of the equipment in the hospital and we depend on generator most of the time.”
This infuriated the pregnant women who refused to listen to the CMD and started singing anti-government songs and vowing not to pay the new fee.
The Permanent Secretary at the Hospital Management Board, Dr Adeniran Ikuomola, however, compounded the situation, while he seized the phones of the protesting women and was booed out of the hall.
The protesting women refused to enter the hall to listen to Ikuomola until after the arrival of the Commissioner of Health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro, who reversed the new increase in the cost of services at the hospital.
Speaking to journalists, he said “We have resolved the issue and I think there was communication gap and that was what caused the protest. The people were not properly briefed about what is going on, but we have cancelled the N500 for the antenatal appointment and should revert to the old system.”
Adegbenro described the increase in the delivery fee as false saying there was no plan to increase the delivery fee, “there is nothing like N25,000 for delivery, it is a false information and the normal delivery fee remains N5,000.
“The service charge for antenatal patients should be lower than other patients and that is why the money covers every test and every investigation and analysis. This is because of peculiarities of their case”