Are waiting times over at our public hospitals?


There are many problems that one can solve with money. There are many that money cannot solve. One example is the time it takes to be seen by a doctor in any of our public hospitals. We have mentioned this in several blog posts in the past. In any public hospital in our country – the first patient for the day is normally seen by a doctor from 11 am. In all my time as a houseman and registrar in Nigeria – I cannot remember a consultant that started his clinic before 10am. ….as my colleagues would say “na so we deh do am for Naija”

…so I was quite excited to read a recent article in The Guardian of a new policy whose goal is that in the next one year.Have you heard about SERVICOM? If not read on…..

… the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with Servicom office gathered all the chief medical directors of university teaching hospitals, specialist hospitals and the medical directors of Federal Medical Centres in Abuja to brainstorm on how to roll out a pilot programme aimed at reducing patients’ waiting time at the General Out Patient Department (GOPD) of hospitals in the country developed by the Servicom office. The pilot implemented at the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi by the Servicom office reduced waiting time at the GOPD from seven hours to 30 minutes.

Read a full account here.

Wow…so we can do these things? ….We will congratulate our Honourable Minister of Health on this and we will watch the progress of the policy. We hope that it will be extended beyond the General Out Patient Departments to the specialist clinics where the consultants reign…What a difference this would make! What a difference….

The fact is that in the context of the options for quality health care, the best specialists are still found in our teaching hospitals. The primary reason people choose not to go to these places is because they are managed like everything else in our public sector…nobody cares about the “client” or “patient” in our case. You are made to wait for hours….walk around from laboratory, that can only do half of the required tests, to pharmacists that can only provide a third of the required drugs. To be admitted you have to buy your bedsheets, kerosene lamp, mosquito net, food, drinks, gloves for doctor, syringes for nurse etc etc (please I am not exaggerating!)….If you really want to know how bad things are try taking the body of a loved one to the mortuary of any of our teaching hospitals……

These things have nothing to do with the actual delivery of health care.  Nothing. They are the reason NITEL failed, the reason NEP plc is the way it is, the reason why Nigeria Airways is extinct, the reason why Sam Mbakwe “airport” in Owerri is the way it is, the reason why it takes 4 hours to get past Ore, the reason why public our Univerities were closed for 4 months, the reason why to renew our passports at Nothunberland avenue in London takes a full day plus….it is not rocket science – its our public sector!

How do we fix it? Servicom is a good idea….

Servicom a social contract between the Federal government of Nigeria and its people. Servicom gives Nigerians the right to demand good service. Details of these rights are contained in Servicom charters which are now available in all government agencies where services are provided to the public. The charters tell the public what to expect and what to do if the service fails or falls short of their expectation.

Let us support the strengthening of Servicom. It will only work if we work with them. Its a challenge for us! Let us start with our hospitals. If they do not provide the service we expect …do not accept it. Write about it. Send to everyone you know. Send it to Servicom through the contacts below..its your problem too! Its your public sector.

No 3, Usman Dan Fodio Crescent, Zone A4, opposite Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa

Asokoro, Abuja, P.M.B 622, Garki, Abuja
FCT, Nigeria

09-3140372, 08036591090, +234-9-3140373

….no patient would wait for more than an hour before seeing a doctor in any Federal Government owned hospitals across the country.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. I read this piece & i thought to myself it sounds like a good idea on paper but i just wonder if it would work really.It would be interesting to find out how exactly this pilot programme was able to reduce 7 hour wait-times to just 30mins..that sounds incredible!

    So i’m thinking,in a situation where a govt has failed and is consistently … See Morefailing to provide BASIC amenities & infrastructure to its people,how do the hapless people bring about a change in the status quo?….and why would we have to have a “social contract” with our govt to get it to fulfil its responsibilities and do what it is normally expected of govts to do?I’m sure the very idea may sound laughable to some in other societies.

    So what happens if the govt breaches its part of the contract?do the people take it to court?and how does the court get the govt to do its duties..fine it?issue a stern warning?..but hey,wait a minute the court is part of the judiciary arm of govt!…so not really a neutral body in this sort of thing is it? and what about Iya Risikat,the elubo … See Moreseller in Bodija market who can’t read or write not to talk of understanding this contract between her and the elected officials who promised heaven & earth to make things better for her….who does she turn to & how does she seek redress if at some point her rights do get infringed upon according to this charter?

    Taking the hospitals issue as a case in point,you see,i don’t think the problem really is in the waiting of long hours to see the doctor for example…provide the labs with water,let the hospital have constant electricity,make sure the workers’ salaries are paid on time & you’ll be surprised how efficiently and effectively the system would run!

    Govts NEED to be accountable,they HAVE to be open and transparent and very clearly and unapologetically ANTI-CORRUPTION at levels…..this is the root of all ills and the cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of our society…address this and we are on our way to becoming a just & egalitarian society

    Just to be clear,i’m not knocking this initiative…i’m all for us standing up and seeing how we can make a change,make things better and improve the present state of affairs from what it is now to what it should be,so it would be really interesting to know the fine details of how Servicom is meant to

Leave A Reply