Friday, June 9, 2023

Naira Scarcity: Hospital patients stranded over inability to pay for services

I don’t have the cash to buy the drugs prescribed, but I have money in my bank account to pay for the drugs. I pray that the transaction works before the end of closing hours.

• February 22, 2023
Redesign naira notes
New naira notes

Some patients receiving medical care at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), on Wednesday, expressed displeasure over their inability to pay for medical services due to naira scarcity.

The patients told journalists in Benin that they had no cash to pay for their bills, including hospital cards, drugs and medical examinations.

They said the cashless system was frustrating and prayed that the situation improves to prevent patients from dying from preventable causes.

Sarah Idemudia, an elderly patient, said she had been waiting more than two hours at the hospital’s Point of Sales (PoS) payment point to pay for her medication.

“I have been here at the General Practice Clinic (GPC). I have seen a doctor who prescribed some medications for me. But I have no cash to pay for the medication.

“I tried using the hospital’s PoS machine to pay, but it is not going through. I am stranded and do not know what to do.

“I even called my daughter to transfer money to the hospital’s account, but she said it wasn’t going through,” she lamented.

A hospital staff, who spoke anonymously, said she took her son for medical care but had difficulty using the cashless form of payment.

“I don’t have the cash to buy the drugs prescribed, but I have money in my bank account to pay for the drugs. I pray that the transaction works before the end of closing hours.”

It was observed that the payment point at the GPC section of the hospital had PoS machines, but some transactions, especially those involving First Bank, were not going through.

The PoS machines at the payment points at the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Ward and Consultant Out Patients Department had no network to carry out transactions as of the time of filing this report.

Some patients without cash for medical services were seen waiting patiently for the cashless payment options to work.

Reacting to the situation, UBTH spokesperson, Joshua Uwaila, said the hospital was ready to provide patient care.

Mr Uwaila said the hospital had made cashless options available for patients to pay for services, noting that the poor network was a concern.

He urged them to be patient, saying, “we pray that the situation gets better soon.”

The cash crunch situation in the country is not only affecting the buying and selling of goods, but it is also affecting access to medical services.

Some PoS operators charged as high as N1,500 per N5,000 withdrawal against the N100 charged per N5,000 before introduction of the new naira notes. 


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