Burden of service: Despite FG’s approval of health insurance, corps members continue to suffer poor healthcare, bear cost

Burden of service: Despite FG’s approval of health insurance, corps members continue to suffer poor healthcare, bear cost

Five years after the Federal Executive Council approved the enlisting of National Youth Service Corps members into the National Health Insurance Scheme for the mandatory one-year service, many corps members are still bearing the medical cost for health issues with many depending on family members for the treatment of injuries from accidents and road mishaps. Alfred Olufemi reports:

After printing her NYSC call-up letter, an elated Zahara Komolafe looked forward to her trip to Enugu, where she was hoping to spend her service year. She was eager to embark on the trip as it would be the first time she would be travelling to the Eastern part of Nigeria.

Zahara’s thinking aligns with that of many prospective corps members who believe the inter-state deployment offers an opportunity to explore a new environment.

But as fate would have it, when she got to Enugu, popularly called the coal city, her first point of call was not the NYSC camp as expected. Rather, she was wheeled into the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu, bleeding profusely with both legs broken on that ill-fated Tuesday.

Zahara, now 33, narrated how the Enugu trip became the genesis of her disability.

According to her, the 14-seater Toyota bus that she and the other twelve corps members boarded collided with another oncoming vehicle.

“It was on the 24th of January, 2017. The journey from Ilorin to Enugu was smooth. And on getting to Enugu, the majority of us called our families to inform them that we arrived safely and that we were now heading to (Agu) camp, but we didn’t get to the camp. This was because

we had an accident on the way.

“I would say the bus was overspeeding and the driver was shuttling between lanes. He was not staying in his lane. He (The driver) was actually competing with one Cross River bus when the accident happened. He was off his lane and a jeep that was coming from the other side had no way of avoiding us and collided with our bus. That was how the accident happened,” the graduate of the University of Ilorin recalled.

Although no one died in the crash, the driver and most of the passengers had their limbs broken, Zahara said, adding that her injuries were severe because she was sitting next to the driver.

“So we were rescued by good Samaritans and they decided to take us to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu which actually we were received well and the treatments began immediately.

The officials of the hospital said since we were (as they called it) government pikin, they would attend to us. Although during the period they were on strike, they still attended to us because we were all corps members. I think they called off the strike and immediately and began treatments.

Mine was very critical because of my two legs, after the normal X-ray, they gave us a tetanus injection because I was bleeding outside and I was bleeding inside actually, so I had an open wound. So after giving me tetanus and you know they couldn’t do surgery that same day, they gave me first aid treatments.”

According to the young lady, on different dates, she had to undergo two major surgeries that spanned hours.

“It was a long procedure and it wasn’t easy actually, I thank God for life.”

She also mentioned that it was at the hospital that she did her NYSC registration, after which she was allowed to redeploy to Lagos state where her parents reside.

“I redeployed to Lagos because that was where I was based and I was referred to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi and that was where I continued my treatments.”

Neglected after redeployment

While she confirmed that the free healthcare delivery during the one month spent at the Enugu hospital was top-notch, Zahara said her redeployment to Lagos was a sour experience as regards treatment.

She recounted how her parents bore the bills with little assistance from relatives and her struggles using a walking aid to move around Lagos.

“When I got to Lagos what I was told and I could remember was that once we are done, all the money we spent and everything, we’ll have to write a letter and submit and then you know they (NYSC Directorate) will pay but up till now, nothing,” she said in disappointment.

NYSC and medical bills of corps members

On its website, the NYSC prides itself as an agency that refunds medical bills of corps members, listing it as one of the functions of its Corps Welfare and Inspectorate Department.

“The division is responsible for all matters relating to health issues as it affects corps members. It basically prepares and processes corps members’ medical refund bills for payment. It liaises with the accounts department for payment, “ the agency claimed.

Documents reviewed by PUNCH Healthwise indicated that Zahara’s bill after an implant surgery at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, totalled N693,500. The titanium plate surgery was intended to hold Zahara’s mending bones in place.

By the end of the scheme in December, the ailing lady wrote the NYSC management, asking for a refund of N1.27m, being payment for the surgical procedure, post-surgery treatment, and other miscellaneous.

The letter obtained by our correspondent was dated December 17, 2017, and was addressed to the Director-General of the NYSC Directorate, through the office of the Lagos state NYSC coordinator.

Five years on, nothing has been heard from the directorate.

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