NDDC Interim Committee

President Mohammadu Buhari and the Nigerian
Medical Association, (NMA) have been tasked on the multi-billion Naira
fraud linked to public and private health sector.

The crime syndicate is said to be controlled by health officials
including medical doctors and selected hospitals across the country.

In the fraudulent scheme, Doctors ask patients to conduct tests
unrelated to their ailments marked by referral letters for the purpose
of corrupt enrichment.

The Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre)
opened up the new flank in its impressive anti corruption campaign on
Sunday when the leading anti-corruption group beamed its searchlight on
the health sector.

In a petition addressed to the Nigerian President Buhari and the NMA,
and signed by its Chairman Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA wants an immediate
probe of medical doctors, health workers, laboratories and hospitals
associated with the large scale crime.

“This is an important threshold. Corruption in the health sector has
direct impact on human lives. This is a scam that if unchecked will
worsen the fatality rate in Nigerian hospitals. It’s a kind of
corruption that is almost akin to sucking the blood of fellow human
beings by those expected to save human lives” HEDA said.

The petition was informed by media reports that revealed  a criminal,
multi-billion Naira fee-splitting, cut or rebate scheme in the
healthcare sector in which medical laboratories hike the cost of medical
tests by between 20 to 35 percent which is later paid to the referring
doctors or hospitals thereby defrauding patients, private and public
institutions through a well organised cartel.

The report had stated that doctors and hospitals set up unsuspecting
customers for medical diagnosis at laboratories they recommend to which
doctors prescribe tests that patients do not need just for kickbacks.

An undercover reporter from PremiumTimes blew the lid after 20 months of
painstaking probe, posing as a patient.

The reporter discovered people are refered to do several medical tests
in at least nine of the country’s biggest medical laboratories using
referral forms obtained from sales representatives of the diagnostic
laboratories.

Affected Medical laboratories allegedly involved in the kickback  are Me
Cure Healthcare, Echolab, Afriglobal, VCare Diagnostics, Vedic Lifecare
Hospital, Clinix Healthcare, Union Diagnostics and SYNLAB

Suraju said the rebate or referral scam  is appalling and should be
visited with immediate sanction.

“The medical profession is a noble profession; the profession is being
dented with this outrageous line of behaviour. According to the report,
the rebate or cut scheme has remained entrenched in the healthcare
sector, swindling patients of wads of Naira every year, in blatant
disregards of the ethical concern and the criminal implication of the
illicit practice,” Suraju said.

The anti- corruption group state that the Rules of the Professional
Conduct for Medical Laboratory Scientist, Laboratory Technicians and
Laboratory Assistants (2018) prohibits deceit and extortion of patients
adding that the rule relays that practitioners can be sentenced up to
five years in prison if found guilty.

HEDA cited Section 17 of the Rules which states that
“Any practitioner who extorts or engage in any act found to be
incompatible with the ethics of practise of medical laboratory science
with the purpose of extorting from the patient shall be in breach of the
Rules of Professional Conduct and shall be guilty of malpractice
Any practitioner in breach of sub-rule (1) of this rule shall also be
presumed to have contravened the relevant section of the Corrupt
Practices and Other Related Offences Act in force and may be guilty of
an offence of using his office or position for gratification and shall
on conviction be liable to a fine of N100,000.00 or imprisonment for
five (5) years for the purpose of these rules or both.”

Similarly, the group refers to Section 33 of the Code of Medical Ethics
of Nigeria which forbids doctors from deceiving their patients with the
aim of extorting them.

The section further emphasised that any practitioner “who keeps a
patient in the hospital as an in-patient when it is not necessary or
longer than is necessary for good care, or who undertakes to carry out
any form of ‘ghost’ procedure including ‘ghost’ and unnecessary
investigations, for the sole purpose of increasing his earnings from the
patient breaches the Code of Ethics and shall be guilty of malpractice.”

It also refers to Section 36 of the code which explicitly forbids the
physicians from accepting kickbacks from laboratories, chemists and
others.

Other sections violated by the criminal act are
Section 65 of the Code which specifically prohibits medical
practitioners from soliciting for “unwholesome transactions” such as
“arrangement for fee-splitting, which is the practice by the managing
practitioner of returning a part of the fee paid by the patient to the
referring practitioner, or a third party, with or without the patient’s
knowledge,” among other improper financial gratifications. The section
of the code added that the “practice constitutes a threat to the best
care of the patient because practitioners would tend to refer patients
not to the practitioner with the best facility or skill demanded by the
patient’s condition, but to another practitioner who is ready to pay the
highest return.
Right to life is fundamental for every citizen; acts of this nature can
be tantamount to the deprivation of the right to life and healthcare.

HEDA said healthcare ought to be affordable, however, devious schemes
like these that involve the outrageous inflation of services related to
healthcare can lead to loss of several lives.

“This is corruption beyond words and should be curbed with all sense of
vigilance and appropriate sanction” HEDA said.

The group demanded for investigation to be carried out into the
allegations against the listed medical centres and hospitals with the
aim of uncovering, penalizing and ridding the medical space of
corruption.

“It is about sanctity and protection of lives” HEDA said.

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