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SPECIAL REPORT: Patients, Relatives Groan As Cash Crunch Slows Down Treatment In UNIOSUNTH

SPECIAL REPORT: Patients, Relatives Groan As Cash Crunch Slows Down Treatment In UNIOSUNTH
  • PublishedFebruary 10, 2023


Ismaeel Uthman

LIFE has not been easy for patients and their relatives at Osun State University Teaching Hospital, formerly known as LAUTECH. 

Apart from the mental stress in getting their loved ones treated, relatives of patients at the hospital have also been going through difficulties in making payment for treatments and other medical needs, investigations have revealed.

Though UNIOSUN had for over six years been operating cashless policy as payments were encouraged to be made through automated payment method, OSUN DEFENDER noted that the ongoing cash crunch has brought untold hardship to the relatives of patients. 

Also, poor internet service and networks of commercial banks have been frustrating digital payment as well, a situation that further put relatives of the patients under pressure. 

Investigations revealed that cashiers at the hospital have been occasionally demanding for cash payments from people who wanted to pay for either drug, test or other medical service.

Of all the payment centres in the hospital, only that of the pharmacy section was consistent in automated payment through Point of Sales machine with Automated Teller Machine card. 

But the centre, according to some of the people who spoke with OSUN DEFENDER, declined the POS/ATM payment for hours on Monday because of poor internet service and the network of the banks. 

Besides, a payment spot behind the Accident and Emergency Unit has always been demanding for cash payment, according to findings. 

It was noted on Wednesday that the payment centre at Phlebotomy unit was accepting both transfer and cash payment from people.    

OSUN DEFENDER was at the centre on Wednesday morning and observed that the cashiers were more disposed to cash than transfer. 

However, where transfer payment was made, it took about 15 minutes, depending on the bank’s service, to confirm the payment, a development that slows down treatment of the patients involved. 

Speaking with the medium, Mr. Yemi Abolusodun, who had a relative admitted at the hospital, stated that he was asked to make payment with cash for the treatment of the person on sick bed on Monday. 

Abolusodun claimed that the treatment was delayed till he was able to get cash for the payment which took him about 18 hours. 

He said: “There was a drug prescribed for us on Monday to get for the patient but we couldn’t buy it until Tuesday afternoon because they demanded for cash at the pharmacy. They told me the POS was not working, so they needed to collect cash. They did not accept transfer either.

“The doctors keep telling us that we were endangering the life of the patient because he ought to have started using the drug.  

“I had to go to the town to look for where I could get cash. I was not able to get cash until Tuesday and that was when the doctors started treating the person we brought in through emergency. 

“Imagine a patient not able to use drug for 18 hours after it has been recommended. That is what we have been facing here.”

Confirming the automated payment system, a patient Mr. Ilias M.A, told OSUN DEFENDER that he has always been making payment with his ATM card.

He however, noted that there were complaints from other patients about the failure of the automated payment which forced the officials to demand for cash. 

For Mrs. Ilufoye who brought her dad for surgery at the hospital, the delay in the confirmation of transfer payment is not suitable for a person who requires urgent medical attention on sickbed.

Ilufoye said she made payment for the surgery of her father through transfer, stating that she was asked to wait for about 30 minutes for the confirmation of the transaction. 

According to her, she was told that the payment confirmation would come from Lagos.

Hajia Suliyat Olawale could not hide her feelings when speaking with OSUN DEFENDER on the cash crunch and the challenge of payment for treatment at the UNIOSUN teaching hospital. 

Olawale who was full of emotion lamented that patients and their relatives were going through hardship in getting payment done for treatment. 

According to her, almost every point of payment in the hospital were demanding for cash payment because of the poor internet service. 

She said the paucity of cash has resulted to delay in the treatment of their relatives on sickbed, calling on government to make cash available to the general public. 

Olawale said: “Making payment for treatment here is not easy at all. We are really suffering here. We couldn’t get our patients treated without cash.

“The network to transfer is not good and these people (cashiers) are no more accepting transfer. What about people who do not even know internet banking system? This is wickedness and I just hope that the government will find something to do about it before it is too late. What if the person died in the course of finding cash to pay?”

However, one of the cahiers in the hospital admitted that they were demanding for cash payment from either the patients or their relatives. 

According to her, the cash crunch has put more pressure on the networks of the banks, a development that have brought about discrepancies in the online and digital payment. 

She said: “UNIOSUN teaching hospital has been running cashless policy before this time; we have not been encouraging cash payment. But the current situation is that the internet service of some of these banks is poor, making it difficult to initiate transaction or confirm payment. That is why we asked the patients or their relatives to make cash payment. It is for the good of both sides.”

OSUN DEFENDER noted that a popularly pharmacy at the hospital area have also stopped payment through the POS machine and ATM. 

Attendants at the pharmacy have been demanding for cash or transfer payment for drug or medical materials. 

Asked why the pharmacy stopped the usage of POS machine for payment, one of the attendants who prayed not to be named said the service of majority of the banks have been declining payment. 

She added that customers’ account would be debited for payment while the account of the pharmacy would not be credited. 

“To avoid issues like this, we concluded in stopping the POS usage for payment and we encouraged our customers to pay with cash or transfer”, she submitted. 

Narrating her ordeal, a middle-aged woman who identified herself as Omolabake, said she waited for 25 minutes before her payment could be confirmed. 

She said: “I made payment of N8000 for drugs through my bank’s app, I was debited immediately but I was told the account of the pharmacy had not been credited, so I had to wait. I waited for 25 minutes before the payment was received. 

“My husband was on the sick bed and the doctors needed to administer the drugs on him. I came to this pharmacy because the one inside (LAUTECH) UNIOSUN teaching hospital did not have the drugs. Besides, those people were also demanding for cash payment too. This scarcity of cash is adding pains to those of us in the hospital. Our patients are not being treated on time because of the delay in payment for drugs.”

Aside payment for treatments, OSUN DEFENDER noted that getting cash to pay for food and other little things for the patients and the relatives have become difficult for the people. 

None of the ATM machine inside the hospital was dispensing cash as of the time the medium visited the galleries yesterday. 

Also, the POS operators in the hospital do not have enough cash to give to people. 

Like other Nigerians, the patients and their relatives appealed to government to make cash available in the interest of their wellbeing. 

Commenting on the matter, the Chairman Medical Advisory Council of the hospital, Dr. Babatunde Afolabi, said UNIOSUNTH is on Electronic Medical Records which means that everything about the hospital has been digitalised.  

Babatunde attributed the challenges being faced by the patients and their relatives in payment for treatment and other medical services to poor internet service and banks’ server. 

He said: “We are on Electronic Medical Records and that is the platform upon which all those things are generated and payment is made but as you know, technology will come with bottleneck.

“Those bottlenecks are things that we are trying to manage. We are meeting at different committee levels and the issue will be addressed as soon as possible. 

“We are having a serious challenge. Sometimes, the network will be down.  We have the same problem in all the banks but here, we are trying to overcome the challenge.

“In fact, we are going out of possibly to managing both the electronic and manual so that if you cannot do electronic, you can continue manual. Initially, we don’t want to do that but with the situation of things, we need to do that”.

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