Prominent Nigerian online newspaper, Premium Times, is set to release a series of investigative reports exposing “a massive referral kickback scheme showing how the country’s top diagnostic service providers” work with health professionals and hospitals to get additional money from those seeking healthcare.
The paper said in a statement released on Sunday that its undercover investigations, which lasted 20 months, indicate that this bribery runs into billions of naira annually.
“A Premium Times journalist posing as a doctor referred several persons to leading diagnostic centres for medical tests,” the statement said.
“We covered the costs of the tests as well as funded the patients’ transportation to the laboratories.”
The paper described its findings as “shocking and disturbing” because nearly all the laboratories paid kickbacks ranging between 10 and 20 per cent of the cost of the tests and none attempted to confirm the reporter’s claim.
“One medical laboratory service provider even gives doctors loyalty tokens for every referral sent to it, which doctors can use to purchase telephone recharge cards, utility bills, spa, and vacations. The loyal tokens also qualify doctors to obtain car loans and mortgages backed by the diagnostic firm,” Premium Times said.
“This fraudulent kickback scheme does not only contravene extant regulations, it also places an additional financial burden on sick Nigerians 90 per cent of who pay for medical expenses out of pocket.”
The paper’s managing editor, Idris Akinbajo, said the outcome of the investigation is upsetting and urged relevant authorities to react promptly in stopping the practice, which is “clearly overburdening patients and endangering health care in our country”.
He added that the investigative series will be released this week.