BY SOLA OGUNDIPE
CARE of the newborn which is globally recognised as the most vital aspect of child survival has not received enough attention in Nigeria over the decades. Statistics do not lie. Within the first 28 days of life, that is, the neonatal period, about 700 babies (around 30 every hour) die every day in Nigeria, mostly due to preventable causes such as intrapartum-related injury. This is the highest number of newborn deaths in Africa, and the second highest in the world.
Over the years, it has been discovered that challenges of child care and survival in Nigeria are both technical and operational, spanning health system deficiencies to issues relating to the development and implementation of the right policies and strategies to scale up programmes.
Such has been the situation for so many years, but indicators from recent developments could be a pointer to the fact that things are about to change for the better. By all means, a revitalisation of maternal, newborn, and child health is desirable in the country.
Newborn health continues to be a sensitive indicator of national development. Hence, there is a need to adopt focused strategies which are evidence-based and reflect best practices for the accelerated reduction of neonatal morbidity and mortality in Nigeria.
Findings reveal that there has actually been a fast reduction in under-five mortality compared to neonatal mortality, however, close observers argue that urgent reorientation is still desirable, if indeed, Nigeria hopes to attain the Millennium Development Goal 4 for child survival.
In several ways, this set the stage for an epoch-making event that took place last week on the occasion of the handing-over of the Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre, OTNPC, Ijebu Ode, to the College of Medicine of the University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital, UCH.
Among other objectives, the OTNPC has strived to provide world-class preventive, curative and rehabilitative health care services to children and women at all levels of health care delivery; pioneer new research in the prevention and treatment of childhood diseases, provide appropriate and relevant education for child and maternal health practitioners and contribute nationally and internationally as a leader in the provision of body of evidence for informing health policies, planning and implementation among others.
So, in more ways than one, the handing over is an agreement to take the institution to the higher level of Otunba Balogun’s vision of building an institution which in addition to clinical treatment of children and their nursing mothers, will also be a referral institution that would be involved in the research into and teaching of all diseases that afflict children and cause premature death.
“ I am always enthused by the notion that no children born in Nigeria shall die prematurely of both preventable or curable diseases.
On hand to formally receive the Centre from the Founder were the Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Provost of the College of Medicine of the University, Prof. Olusegun Akinyinka, and the Chief Medical Director, UCH, Prof. Temitope Alonge.
According to the Founder, “This epoch-making landmark of this my often quoted dream and vision to establish an international Centre of Excellence, for teaching, research into and general healthcare of children with a total commitment to the very best in all activities related to the survival of infants or children.
It is my own way of giving back to God,humanity and the children of this world in general and this Nation in particular, in appreciation of what the good Lord has done for me.
I am happy that this climax and also epoch making event is between us and the University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital because it was the University College Hospital in Ibadan that inured me into devoting the remaining part of my life towards the survival of children and their nursing mothers.”
According to the Otunba, just before he turned 60, a distinguished Nigerian paediatrician and former Minister of Health, the late Prof. Olikoye Ransome Kuti asked him if he would be interested in building an hospital like “The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children” in London that will be a referral institution and will devote itself not only to the healthcare and welfare of children, but also would be involved in the research into and teaching about all the diseases that afflict our children.
“You can therefore appreciate my joy in being able to invite not only the UCH, but also the University of Ibadan itself to take over from where I have taken it.
“Today, I am very pleased that we have reached that stage, due to the professional efforts of Prof. Adenike Grange and members of her team in taking the institution to the level that would attract not only the University College Hospital but the University of Ibadan, College of Medicine.
It is therefore my wish that these two related institutions would succeed in taking the institution to the level of international acclaim that we have succeeded in building a referral institution of international recognition that would be involved both in research into, teaching, as well as clinical treatment of all the diseases of both children and their nursing mothers who may be brought to this place.
He assured the University of Ibadan and the UCH who have taken up the management of continued subsidy until it becomes self sustaining. “I thank them for agreeing that the name of the institution should remain as it is, but I would encourage them to expand the services beyond just children.”
Giving a rundown of the current status of the institution, Prof. Adenike Grange, the current Provost & Chief Executive Officer, said OTNPC incorporating the National Institute of Child Health Care, is the first, purpose – built private children’s’ hospital designed to be at the very apex of the nation’s Child Health System.
“It should become a catalyst to the nation’s drive towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as they relate to Infant and Child Survival. The Centre was envisaged, by the Founder, to become a referral Tertiary Centre of Excellence for Teaching, Research and Delivery of Health Services for children.
The Centre shall be a testimony of service to humanity and the children of this world in general and those of this nation in particular. Our mission is to make the center an International Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning, Research and Health Care Service delivery for children, with a total commitment to the very best in all activities related to the survival of infants and children and by extension to their mothers.”
According to Grange, in line with its concept as a Centre for research and training, the OTNPC will be very suitable for the outreach training of medical students and residents of the University of Ibadan and UCH respectively. “The Center has a huge potential for developing its facilities for Biomedical and .Operational Research
On funding, she highlighted that funds for building the Center came from the treasury of the Founder himself over a period of 15 years. “The Founder has been financing the Center to the best of his capability. This is augmented by Internally Generated Revenue which has increased to a monthly value of about N4 million.
“The concept of this state-of-the-art Paediatric Centre is laudable and much needed at this time of our development in this country.
I am convinced that when fully operational at the level of the defined standards, it will provide the much needed specialist care in selected Paediatric sub-specialties for children nationally and some primary and secondary care locally. It promises to make substantial contributions in response to the capacity building needs of the Health Sector towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals 4, 5 and 6.”