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NMA seeks restriction of overseas treatment for public officers

By Chioma Obinna
EVEN as Nigeria gradually inches towards eradication of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPDs) particularly polio, concerns about  the overall state of immunisation coverage in the country and the general state of public health institutions  continue to make the rounds.

Lamenting what is described as the dwindling fortunes of the sector,  Chairman of the Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Adedamola Dada has suggested that one of the  ways to make the authorities accountable towards improving the health sector, is to put a restriction on overseas treatment by public officials.

Executive Director of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Waziri Dogo-Mohammed fratenising with mothers and their children during the flag off of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) project in Bayelsa State last year.

Dada who was commenting on fortunes of the nation’s health sector in the last 65 days following absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua, told Good Health Weekly that the penchant for overseas treatment when the  Nigerian masses had no adequate access to basic healthcare, was uncalled for.

Arguing  that there is need to make it mandatory for any one in  public office to  patronise public health institutions, he noted: “It is the only way  to guarantee  this sector of the economy the required  investment.”

Warning that the National Assembly should not be distracted by controversy surrounding the ailing President, Dada  said the implication of poor power supply in the hospitals has virtually affected everything.

“Emergency patients who need suturing cannot be attended to immediately because of lack of electricity,  premature babies are suffering,  because there are no incubators that can last 24 hours.

“Very sick babies with neonatal jaundice cannot be adequately catered for. In the last quarter of 2009, it became a herculean task to take care of these babies and they are shouting that our infant mortality is very high. Why will it not be high when we have this type of situation?” he remarked.

Referring  to the 2008 demographic survey by the National Population Commission (NPC) which shows that immunisation coverage in the country has dropped to 23 per cent against over 80 per cent about two decades ago.

In his opinion,  the nation’s health sector has been on the ground in the last 20 years. “There is actually data to support this view.  First, one out of  every five children in our country dies before the age of five years,” he said.

“Even the immunisations we are talking about, the new national demographic health survey by the  national population commission, an organ of government says that the new immunisation survey shows that the coverage is 23 per cent which is one of the lowest in the world.

“In Ghana, it is 70 per cent.  Our maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world.  Our health sector is like having a plane crash every day. In a country, if there is a plane crash would there not be an outcry? That is the kind of thing we are losing in maternal mortality everyday. Our primary healthcare is on the ground, our life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world.

“And if you now go to the management of diseases, we have one of the largest concentrations of HIV patients in the whole wide world. Our prevalence rate is increasing. Despite that, I do not know of any centre in this country where HIV patients are receiving drugs provided for, by the Federal government of Nigeria. Virtually all HIV  treatments that are taking place in this country are as a result of PEPFAR funds.

PEPFAR fund is from the united state of America. Which means that, if there is no PEPFAR fund over 90 per cent of HIV patients will die of HIV patients will die without care. So these are the challenges. These are indices to actually access the health indices of any country. Unfortunately we are doing very badly.”


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