As a patient, part of the due diligence to carry out before a surgical procedure at a private hospital should be to research the qualifications of the hospital and its team of experts.
Experts who spoke with BusinessDay advise that the licensing and accreditation by relevant government authorities and a recognised accreditation body is a great starting point to ensure that the hospital meets basic standards of quality and safety.
The hospital must have the necessary facilities and equipment to perform surgery safely and effectively including operating rooms, surgical equipment, and recovery rooms, said John Ajefolakemi, a global health policy expert and advocate of quality health service delivery.
Also, such hospitals must tick the box for qualified staff of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who are experienced in performing surgery.
Specifically when the surgery is not urgent, a patient should carefully assess policies and procedures are in place to ensure the safety and quality of the surgical care. This includes policies on surgical consent, infection control, and risk management.
In addition to the above requirements, private hospitals may also be required to meet additional requirements depending on the type of surgery they are performing.
For example, hospitals that perform complex surgeries such as open-heart surgery or brain surgery may be required to have additional specialised facilities and equipment.
In Nigeria, for instance, the activities of a private hospital must be regulated by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, Medical Laboratory Scientist of Nigeria, and Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria.
This is apart from varying state requirements.
In the United States, for instance, private hospitals must be accredited by a recognised accreditation body, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. They must also meet state-specific requirements for licensing and credentialing of surgeons and other healthcare professionals.
In the UK, they must be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). They must also meet the CQC’s standards for quality and safety.
In Canada, they are regulated by the provinces and territories in which they operate and each province and territory has its own specific requirements for licensing and accreditation of private hospitals.
Australia ensures they are accredited by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards and must also meet state-specific requirements for licensing and credentialing of surgeons and other healthcare professionals.
The World Health Organization, on its part, expects certain standards to be met in areas of infrastructure, service delivery, workforce, financing, and information management.
According to data published by the Federal Ministry of Health in 2021, 40,368 hospitals and clinics are in operation in Nigeria, split between 10,900 private facilities and 29,468 public facilities.
Private hospitals constitute 27 percent of the total, while public hospitals account for 73 percent.
Of this total, 85.2 percent were primary care facilities, 14.4 percent offered secondary care, and 0.4 percent provided specialised, tertiary care.
With Nigeria’s large and young population, the longer-term prospects for private sector investment in the healthcare sector are promising, and the pandemic has created new opportunities for expansion and innovation, a 2022 analysis by the Oxford Business Group shows.
But the regulation is not catching up.
To reduce the risk posed by these gaps, Olufemi Fasanmade, a professor of Medicine at the College of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, urged patients to check the profile of the facilities they want to use online as well as the attending team of experts.
“There are ways to check on every doctor. I go to the council website. Even if you Google a doctor, you can confirm if he’s authentic. But if you go without a referral from a doctor to another, you might get into trouble,” he said.
Akin Osibogun, a professor of Public Health at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos said citizens must also be alert to sharp practices in any facility and notify regulatory agencies when they notice professional misgivings.