In an effort to bolster healthcare accountability and ensure the well-being of Nigerians, the Vaccine Network for Disease Control (VNDC), a non-governmental organisation, has passionately advocated for a safer environment for healthcare workers to report negligence.
The CEO of Vaccine Network for Disease Control, Mrs. Chika Offor underscored the paramount importance of fostering an environment that encourages transparency and accountability in healthcare.
Speaking during an interview in Abuja, Offor emphasised the need for a conducive atmosphere that allows healthcare professionals to report negligence and misconduct without fear of retaliation. She stated that this endeavour was crucial for the public health and safety of Nigerians.
Offor urged the government to take the lead in creating a secure platform for healthcare workers to report incidents of negligence and misconduct. “Encourage and protect whistleblowers who come forward with information about negligent practices,” she stressed. Such a proactive approach would not only expose but also address systemic issues within the healthcare system.
One of the primary challenges faced by health workers when reporting negligence is the fear of retaliation or negative consequences, such as job loss or damage to their professional reputation. Inadequate legal protections for whistleblowers further exacerbate this fear, making it risky for health workers to speak out.
In addition to these challenges, reporting negligence often involves navigating complex and time-consuming bureaucratic processes, which can be discouraging. There may also be peer pressure and institutional cultures that discourage reporting, fostering a prevailing “code of silence” within healthcare facilities.
Inadequate confidential reporting mechanisms further hinder health workers’ ability to report negligence discreetly. Some health workers may not be sufficiently trained in recognising and reporting negligence, while high workloads and understaffing can limit the time and energy available for reporting incidents. Additionally, some health workers may be unaware of the processes or channels available for reporting negligence.
Offor proposed several steps that Nigerians can take to address negligence in hospitals effectively:
Raise Awareness: Nigerians can start by raising awareness about the issue of negligence in hospitals. This can be accomplished through social media campaigns, community discussions and public forums. Sharing personal stories and experiences can highlight the impact of negligence on both individuals and the healthcare system.
Engage with Healthcare Providers: Encourage open dialogue and engagement with healthcare providers. Town hall meetings, patient feedback mechanisms and regular interactions with hospital management can create a platform for patients and their families to speak up about their experiences and concerns.
Advocate for Stronger Regulation: Support efforts to establish stronger regulatory bodies overseeing the healthcare sector. Push for stricter regulations and enforcement mechanisms to hold medical professionals accountable for negligence. Promote initiatives that enhance transparency and quality assurance in healthcare delivery.
Invest in Healthcare Infrastructure: Insufficient resources and outdated facilities can contribute to negligence. Advocating for increased funding, equipment and training for healthcare professionals is essential to ensure the delivery of quality care to Nigerians.
Educate Nigerians About Their Rights: Collaborate with relevant agencies, such as the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, to educate Nigerians about their rights and responsibilities in healthcare settings. Empower them to be active participants in their own care, ask questions and report signs of negligence.
Engage with Policymakers: Engage policymakers at local, state, and national levels to advocate for policy reforms prioritising patient safety and addressing negligence in hospitals. Push for legislative changes that promote accountability, transparency and patient-centred care.
Establish Monitoring Mechanisms: Encourage the establishment of monitoring mechanisms to track and report cases of negligence in hospitals. These mechanisms can be implemented through independent organizations or government agencies. Regularly publishing reports and findings can help keep the issue in the public eye and hold healthcare providers accountable.
This advocacy for a safer and more transparent healthcare system comes in the wake of a tragic incident involving the alleged negligence leading to the death of Ms. Greatness Olorunfemi. Sympathisers rushed Olorunfemi to Maitama District Hospital after she was pushed out of a moving vehicle by suspected criminals. However, she did not receive medical assistance until it was too late.
In response to this incident, the FCT Administration (FCTA) set up an investigative panel to examine the circumstances of Olorunfemi’s death. The panel, comprising representatives from the Nigeria Police Force and other stakeholders, aims to ensure that justice is served in this case.
While the facility’s medical director, Dr. Imuentinyan Igbinovia denied the allegations of negligence, the tragic incident underscores the pressing need to address negligence within the healthcare system and create a safer environment for healthcare workers to report such incidents. By advocating for transparency, accountability and patient safety, Nigeria can move closer to achieving a healthcare system that truly serves the best interests of its citizens.