By Femi Onasanya
A healthy nation, they say, is a wealthy nation. When the health sector of a state or nation is in distasteful condition, the entire population is not safe. Over the years, the growing trend of abandonment of the health sector by successive government in Nigeria is worrisome. This, apparently is the reason the high and mighty have seen medical tourism as the best alternative and woe continues to betide the populace who do not have the wherewithal of such luxury.
Hence, the decision of the Governor Abiodun led government to hold the bull by the horn and fix the systemic, infrastructural and financial problems in the sector has so far been a right step in the right direction. Since there many road lead to the market as it is commonly said, the need for a holistic approach in tackling the rot cannot be over-emphasized from the primary healthcare to secondary facilities and tertiary health system respectively.
The June 9, 2019 visit of Governor Dapo Abiodun to the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, barely 10 days after his assumption of office as the Ogun State Governor remains reference point. The OOUTH which before then was the pride of Ogun, had become the shadow of what itself. It is on record that OOUTH is the first state teaching hospital in Nigeria. It was so great that even Federal health institution knew it as a major force to reckon with. Apart from its commitment to teaching, it was renowned for fixing difficult health challenges which might have been termed impossible in other places. Then, students from across the nation used to strive to come study Medicine and Pharmacy in OOUTH. It was indeed a Mecca of sort for many Nigerians and foreigners given its reputation as a solution provider in the health sector.
Unfortunately, the same institution with such enviable pedigree suddenly relapsed into a ghost town dreaded by the living and the dead. Things fell apart such that even the stench from the OOUTH morgue was horrifying aside the lack of necessary facilities which made medical practice so difficult for health practitioners. Hence, many of them had no option but to look elsewhere for greener pastures.
Little wonder, Governor Abiodun expressed dismay over the deplorable condition of the facility despite its rich history. On the spot, Governor Abiodun affirmed, “I am putting up a team after a final report from the Medical Director. I don’t see how this place can produce good doctors. We shall go back to the drawing board. My administration will attach importance to the health sector and we are going to turn round the institution for better.”
Ordinarily, it is not out of place to consider a holistic approach for the health sector going by the rot discovered in the foremost tertiary health facility in the state. However, the journey of a thousand year obviously begins with a step. This informed the reason the state government immediately set up a nine-man visitation panel for administrative enquiry as well as play an advisory role on the way out of the woods. It should be noted that the present administration had within one year deployed the same and consistent passion to address the challenges across the three tiers of the health facilities, including the tertiary, secondary and primary health centers.
In line with the recommendations of the panel, the Governor immediately approved the recruitment of resident doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists, and all other categories and cadres of healthcare professionals. The process which began in September 2019, had the newly employed absorbed into the system within few months to strengthen the manpower and boost efficiency.
Without delay, the government began the fixing of infrastructure in the facility by rehabilitating a number of structures, fence and painting same for beautification and attraction.
As a way of ensuring a lasting turn-around in the physical structures, the channelization of drainage system within the four walls of the hospital was given a priority. The state government also deemed it fit to fix internal roads within the facility to ease traffic.
Since medicine is first about care which cannot be done without equipment, the present administration fast-tracked the process of replacing obsolete equipment with the latest technology such as renal machine, dialysis machine, peak flow meter, the brain CT scan, among others.
In the same vein, the State Hospitals in Ijaye-Abeokuta, Ijebu-Ode, Ota and Ilaro have in the last one year been brought back to life with the provision of state-of-the- art essential medical facilities to augment their services (and boost revenue). The government has procured Operating Theatre equipment such as new operating lamps, operating table, Anaesthetic Machine with Halothane Vaporizer, Oxygen Concentrator, Gurney Trolley, Instrument Trolley, Resuscitator (Neonatal), wheel chair, and patient monitor as well as laparoscopy set which is the first of its kind in the state. It is heartwarming that the process of procuring equipment for the hospitals in still in progress as the government is determined to make Ogun health a tourist destination for all.
This initiative of addressing the infrastructural deficit across the State Hospitals in phases, has commendably made the renovation a seamless one. This included the replacement of windows panel with aluminium, retiling of the damaged hospitals floors, landscaping and flooring of the exterior and renovation and repainting of wards. The government also did the laying of asphalt on some of the roads in the hospital premises.
For instance, the State Hospital, Ijaye by reason of the face-lift has raised the bar of its services to meet the criteria required for the re-accreditation of its post-graduate residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN). This move has been helpful in bringing fresh blood into the system just as the present administration keeps working on the introduction of other residency programmes.
Without leaving any stone unturned, the state government rolled out its plan to renovate primary health centers (PHCs) which spread across the nooks and cranies of the state in phases with the hope by that by the end of this tenure, 236 PHCs would have been given a face-lift. The government selected 20 health centers, one in each local government area. The renovation includes structural adjustment and expansion as well as equipping the health facilities and provision of alternative Solar Power. This step will go a long way in strengthening the health system and it will make healthcare delivery more accessible for the people at the grassroots.
As a way of putting an end to the shortage of manpower in the hospital environment in the State, the present administration embarked on the recruitment of medical interns across all cadres in the state-owned hospitals has been helpful in boosting human resources. These include 20 Medical House officers, 8 Pharmacy Interns, eight Medical Laboratory Scientist Interns, eight Nursing Interns and eight Physiotherapy Interns. Also, the state employed the service of consultant physician, renal nurses and renal technicians respectively for Dialysis Center at the State Hospital, Ijebu-Ode.
In addition, the State’s helmsman in his magnanimity formally absorbed 65 medical personnel employed at the twilight of the immediate past administration. Prince Abiodun dazed the world by adequately paying their salaries without nursing any form of vendetta.
Also, it is on record that the present administration upgraded six in-service training medical officers from Senior Registrars to Consultants having completed their Postgraduate/Residency Training programmes in various fields of medicine. These personnel have since been contributing their quota to the development of the health system in the state.
The Prince Abiodun led government was responsible for the regularization of the appointment of twenty-one health personnel for the Ministry of Health. These include six Medical Officers, four Graduate Nurse Tutors, One Nursing Officer and 10 Scientific Officers. This has further strengthened the capacity of the Ministry to provide qualitative healthcare in the State.
Within this space of time, the Central Medical Store, Abeokuta which has over the years been moribund was given a new lease of life in line with the aim which the founding fathers of the state had for it at the outset. With the renovation, the Medical Store is now back to life as it has since been catering for adequate supplies of all the hospital drugs and consumable needs of the aforementioned hospitals.
The commitment of the present administration to the training and retraining of health workers is legendary. This is obvious in the trainings conducted for various categories of health workers, numbering 1,784. Also, 80 patent medicine vendors and 60 community caregivers as well as over 300 private health facilities on several Malaria components such as service delivery, case management, recording, prevention, malaria in pregnancy, malaria commodity Logistics system, severe malaria etc.
Furthermore, 400 healthcare workers in public and private; primary, secondary and tertiary health facilities across the state have been trained on diagnosis and management of hypertension and diabetes is laudable. This has continued to have great impact in enhancing the delivery of the trained personnel in the management of these conditions in line with global best practices.
Similarly, gesture has been extended to the top echelon of the Ministry of Health and Hospital Management Board with a one-day training of directors which has engendered cross-fertilization of ideas and gave birth to renewed vigour towards moving the sector forward. It also served as an eye-opener for them about the vision of the state government for the sector and how the management staff can easily key into it without stress.
On Malaria, the Ministry facilitated the provision and distribution of 605,100 pieces of Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs); 1,914,611 pieces of Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kits and 1,854,722 doses of Artemisinin-based Combinations (ACTs) as well as 402,731 doses of Sulphadoxine Pyrimethamine (SP) and 67,026 vials of Artesunate Injection. This move is a continuous exercise that will effectively combat malaria in Ogun State and improve people’s health.
Undoubtedly, the approach of Ogun State Government to Tuberculosis (TB) is remrkable.
This is evident in the deployment of innovative approaches to increase TB case finding in the State, engagement of Patent Medicine Vendors and Community Pharmacist in suspecting and referring presumptive Tuberculosis (TB) cases, training contact tracers and FAST Strategy (Find Actively, Separate and Treat). Without mincing words, these strategies have enhanced the management of Tuberculosis in the State for the overall benefits of the entire citizenry.
On the immunization of new- born, pre-schoolers and school age children as well as other health programmes, Ogun State has become a force to reckon given its commitment to the time of the year and specification for each campaign.
For example, the government conducted the 2019 school-based deworming exercise for children, 2019 Ogun Medical Outreach with the introduction of Meningitis Vaccine into routine Immunization, Maternal Newborn and Child Health Week (MNCHW) and First round 2020 Immuniztion Plus Dys (IPDs), among others.
As a responsible and proactive government, when the index case of Coronvirus in Nigeria was recorded in Ogun State on February27,2020, the state’s health system was not caught napping. It immediately swung into action by setting up the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which till date is the oldest in the country. The state without delay contained all the 40 contacts of the index case in one location for 14 days. Afterward, one of the contacts tested positive and he was given appropriate medicare. By and large, the Ogun State Government management of the Covid-19 is remarkable. Today, the state has relatively lower cases compared to other state that recorded positive case much later.
Unlike other state, Ogun State has five fully equipped Isolation and Treatment Centers in OOUTH Sagamu, Ikenne, and Abeokuta with over 300 beds and 10-bedded Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility for low risk and high risk cases. Aside, the present administration constructed a state-of-the-art Molecular laboratory in partnership with 54 Gene and Afri Global for covid-19 testing in the State.
Notably, the first Mobile Community testing for covid-19 in the Country which is widely commended by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organization was implemented in Ogun State. There is no gain saying that the construction of a “Drive Through and Walk-in Testing Booth” for covid-19 in Ogun State is the first of its kind in Nigeria.
As a responsible government, the Prince Dapo Abiodun administration has placed the welfare of its health workers, particularly, those in the frontline in the combat against Covid-19 on the front burner. Recently, the 300 per cent hazard allowance with special package and the insurance cover provided for over 8,000 health workers in the State have encouraging.
It is true that Rome was not built in a day. But when there is a will, there will definitely be a way. There is no doubting the fact that the drastic moves of the Ogun State Government have really brought succor and hope. And if it could get the health sector in Ogun State back on its feet within this one year despite the pandemic, it will apt to say that Ogun health sector under the watch of Prince Dapo Abiodun will continue to experience phenomenal growth and repositioning in years to come.
This much, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker attested to during the commissioning of the Isolation and Treatment Center in Abeokuta, as she said that, “Ogun State health sector will not remain the same after Covid-19 pandemic. Whatever we procure will outlast this pandemic. Every equipment will move to our health facilities. They will be used judiciously way after Covid-19.”
Femi Onasanya, the Press Officer attached to the Ogun State Ministry of Health wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org