He called me and said he wanted to discuss a health issue with me.
Turns out he has a bad back and was at the end of his tether. The pain had been on for a long while. We called that chronic. However, he had a recent acute exacerbation which was crippling and unbearable. He needed surgical intervention and had been offered surgery by other hospitals.
Okay, this is not the issue.
In Abuja, we are the fourth hospital often considered for surgical intervention on the spine. Many of our patients have already been to 3 other hospitals before coming to us. We don’t mind this. Its best they taste other places first, since then, they kind of appreciate what we have to offer.
For patients coming from Lagos, it takes us 2 days to get them to relax and let their guards down. Two days for them to realize we are not going to scam them. That we will do whatever we promise to do for them. Many are so apprehensive and distrustful, they hide information and pay their bills in part. They keep some money back just in case there is an issue so they have leverage.
Okay, this is not the issue.
I invited him to the clinic for a consultation where he proceeded to tell me more about the pain. He has had severe back pain for a long time. He had been to an orthopedic doctor and a neurosurgeon. The orthopedic surgeon offered him drugs and injections. These worked for a while till the pains returned. This time he went to see a neurosurgeon who offered him surgery.
His back was broken and needed to be fixed. This much he accepted but the issue was who and where to get it fixed. Since he had family abroad, he sought their assistance. The bill for the operation in the USA was astronomical and unaffordable for the family. He was referred to a hospital in India. The Indian hospital gave him a bill which roughly translated to N2M (Two Million Naira only). Then, Covid-19 entered the race and he could no longer travel to India. With the pain escalating, he needed the operation performed locally and so ended up in my consulting room.
The operation was billed at N3M. He said the bill estimate for India was much lower than the bill we quoted for him. He was prepared to pay the cost, until unfortunately for him, Covid-19 reached Nigeria. This was when he made the mistake of telling me how he would have preferred to go to USA or to India for the operation.
Here is the kicker.
So, I am sitting there with him and he says he would have preferred to have the operation performed in the USA but the cost was too much. Secondly, his second choice was India for which he had been quoted N2M. Covid-19 put paid to that. Now, he has a hospital in Nigeria for which he deigned to have the operation performed, yet the cost of N3M was too much.
This is the last thing you should say to me.
That you expect to pay cheap or cheaper in Nigeria and yet, get or expect the same quality of care. Don’t question why the bill in India is expectedly cheaper than the bill quoted for the same operation in Nigeria.
It does two things for me. It shows me you are ignorant about the actual business practices of the Indian hospitals. The Indian hospitals use low prices to attract you into their system and into their country. However, once you are over there, you quickly realize that the money is already spent in investigations and consultations. By the time they ask for the real cost of the operation, you are broke, and unable to return to Nigeria! Then, you have to phone family and friends for more money and your daily sustenance.
Good surgery is not cheap. Cheap surgery is not good. If we are struggling to put manpower and materials in place to ensure good outcomes for you, the least is to acknowledge the effort and pay for the sustainability of local care in Nigeria.
It doesn’t pay to sit in front of me and tell me how you would have preferred to be somewhere else. It also tells me you do not and will not value the care here in Nigeria. So, why must we bend over to be screwed by you.
For me the price will be non-negotiable.
I will and deliberately not move on the cost estimate for the procedure. However, if you do pay the price, the quality of care will be exceptional. We would also pray for the success of the operation and move mountains to ensure we deliver.
So, you can appreciate the care and hopefully become an advocate. (Featured image courtesy, master1305)