In a fit of anger Femi Johnson,* a returning patient in his mid-forties at an Abuja hospital, blocks the reception entrance refusing to let others through to make a point.

“Oga, we can’t do anything about it”, the receptionist says in a defeatist tone. “They told us this morning that we are not accepting Hygeia from today,” she adds.

Mr Johnson, seemingly out of options, ignores the receptionist’s plea.

Some takeaways:

  • According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), only 20% of Nigerians who fall ill consult a health practitioner and 70% of people who fall ill do not get proper healthcare consultation emphasising the need for affordable, available and accessible care. 

  • When insurers are introduced into the doctor-patient relationship, it warps the dynamic as the healthcare provider may be motivated to dispense treatments beyond what is necessary knowing the insurer ultimately bears the financial burden. 

  • Social health insurance is gaining popularity as an alternative solution combining different sources of funds, with the government contributing on behalf of people who cannot afford to pay themselves.

At this point, a scene familiar to many Nigerians plays out. Fellow patients beg Johnson to “take heart” and allow others to seek treatment. He ignores them as much as possible until an elderly patient intervenes and takes him aside to appeal to his sensibilities.

“Pele, you know that’s how these people behave… they like to do anyhow,” she says to Mr Johnson.

The rest of the conversation was inaudible as they walked out to the car park to discuss. Inside the reception, after a few hisses and backhanded comments at both the receptionist and Johnson for the disruption caused, things proceeded as usual.

What seemed like a