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Nigerians decry rising cost of healthcare, as prices continue to soar



FG's executive order will significantly reduce cost of drugs - Minister

By Tumininu Ojelabi Hassan

Nigerians have raised concerns over the rising cost of healthcare amid the economic downturn. Most Nigerians, who already have to foot 80% of their medical expenses out of pocket have to bear more financial burden as hospitals adjust fees for medical services.

Lately, the rate at which Nigerians ask for donations to foot medical bills has increased tremendously on social media, this is due to the fact that the cost of medications, tests and consultations in hospitals are no longer affordable.

Poverty is a major problem crippling the Nigerian health sector. A 2023 report by World Bank revealed that Nigeria’s poverty rate rose from 40 percent in 2018 to 46 percent in 2023, as the number of poor people increased from 79 million to 104 million, adding that additional 24 million people have been pushed below the national poverty line due to sluggish growth and rising inflation rate. This explains why most Nigerians can’t afford quality healthcare anymore and consequently, hospitals are experiencing a drop in the number of people seeking healthcare.

Our correspondent interacted with some Nigerians, who shared their plights and expressed their grievances over the cost of healthcare in Nigeria. Most of the respondents, who spoke with our correspondent said they didn’t return to the hospital for treatment after consultations due to the high cost of treatment while others said they opted for traditional medicine, which was more affordable.

Taiwo Bello, a 69-year old, retired teacher, who spends averagely N20,000 on medications said he had been struggling to go for medical checkups and purchase his medications as he can no longer afford them.

“Since last year, I have been finding it difficult to buy my medications and go for checkups at the hospital. I used to go regularly, at least four times in a year due to my health condition, but since they increased the fee from N5,000 to N10,000, it has been difficult to go for checkups, coupled with the fact that I have to spend N20,000 on drugs every month. The last time I went to the hospital, I was told I will run some tests, which amount to N80,000. I am a retired teacher, who is just surviving on pension, where will I get such huge amount of money from?,” he said.

Justina Bassey, a 57-year old business woman shared her experience at a private owned hospital in Lagos, where she spent a total amount over N500,000 to undergo a fibroid surgery and treatment, which cost N350,000 in 2021.

“I did my fibroid surgery in December 2023, at a private hospital in Lagos. I paid N25,000 to book an appointment with the doctor. I was told I needed to undergo a surgery. Afterwards, I paid N450,000 for the surgery. The total amount of money I spent was over N500,000, meanwhile my friend who recommended the hospital did hers in 2021 and the total amount she spent was N350,000. Raising the money was a bit difficult, it, I reached out to my family and friends, who assisted in footing about 60% of the hospital bills,” she explained.

Richard Atuchukwu, a 42-year old, hypertensive patient, said since he lost his job six months ago, he had been finding it difficult to buy his drugs, which had increased from N800 to N1400.

“Since I lost my job last year July, I have been struggling to buy my drugs, Amlodiphine Teva. I used to buy it for N800 as at last year, but the price has increased to N1400 now. Sometimes, when the drug finishes and I don’t use it for a few days, I will start noticing symptoms like severe headache, and blurry vision. It’s mentally draining, when you have to struggle to feed and also struggle to stay alive,” he stated.

On the other hand, hospitals are attributing the recent increase in medical fees to economic factors, which has consequently led to high cost of operations in the health sector.

Due to the economic crisis, Nigerian hospitals have been forced to review their medical services depending on the location. In some hospitals, a full body comprehensive examination cost as much as N90,000 to N150,000. A 3-day comprehensive medical checkup cost about N4,000,000 in a well known hospital located in Ikeja GRA Lagos, however, first time patients are offered 50% discount.

In some hospitals, a full body checkup, which includes full blood count, Kidney function test, Uric acid, Urinalysis, Liver function test, HbA1C and Lipid profile (Lipogram) cost about N100,000, patients on ventilator pay as much as N150,000 per day while patients pay about N120,000 for ICU care and N8000 for diet. Oxygen (1-5 litres) costs N120,000 per day, oxygen (6- 10 litres) is about N150,000 per day and oxygen (11- 15 litres) is about N170,000 per day.

The price of Augmentin used to be N5000, it is presently N25,000. Ampiclox Beecham, which was sold at N2000 is now N16,000, a sachet of paracetamol, which used to N50 is now N200, depending on the location. Ventolin inhaler, which used to be N1500 is now N15,300

In an interview with our correspondent, Dr. Kehinde Ogunlaja attributed the rising cost of medical services in hospitals to the high cost of operations owing to the economic crisis in the county.


“Hospitals, especially private hospitals have to pay a lot of bills. They have to pay their staff, buy equipments, reagents, and drugs. They have to pay electricity bills and other bills. Most private hospitals are striving hard to stay afloat. The hardship in the country is affecting virtually all sectors in the country, including the health sector. When reagents was N300 to N400, malaria test was N1000 – N1500 but now it is N3000. It’s not only private owned hospitals that are increasing fees, government hospitals are also increasing their fees because they have to generate income,” he stated.

To ensure the accessibility of quality healthcare by all Nigerians, he, therefore, stressed the need to amend the National Health Insurance Scheme as well as adequate financing of the health sector, provision of sophisticated medical equipments among others.

“Every good government should be able to provide quality health care to its citizens because every human deserves access to quality healthcare irrespective of their social class. But in Nigeria, only the rich have access to good healthcare. More than 80% of medical services in Nigeria are out of pocket, in a country, where there is extreme poverty.

“It is crucial to amend the health insurance scheme to ensure the affordability of healthcare, especially for the vulnerable ones among us. The government should work on financing the health sector adequately, sophisticated medical equipments should be provided, primary healthcare centers should be well equipped so people can access health services nearby and most importantly, health workers should be properly remunerated,” he advised.

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