JOIN me now as we begin the journey of transforming Nigeria, I will continue to fight for your future because I am one of you; I will continue to fight for improved medical care for all our citizens…”
Those were the words of President Goodluck Jonathan during his swearing in as Nigeria’s fifth democratically elected president at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on May 29 this year. Prior to his election in April, Jonathan had assured his teeming supporters who attended his campaign rallies that if he was elected, he would transform every critical sector of the nation’s economy.
So, with the assurance in mind, many citizens are quite eager to witness some reforms, particularly in the country’s health sector, which, according to observers, had degenerated appreciably over the years.
True to his words, Jonathan packaged his transformation agenda and pledged to initiate some reforms that would ensure excellent healthcare delivery for the citizenry, while addressing problems relating to the brain drain in the health sector.
Unveiling some short-term interventionist plans for the sector, the President initiated the process of revamping Nigeria’s ailing publichealth system. Dr Emmanuel Akem, a physician at the State House Clinic, attested to the innovative changes that had taken place in the health care system since the inauguration of the new administration.
He said that the government’s interventions had improved the service delivery of major health institutions across the country. Akem noted that the Jonathan-administration, as part of its commitment to kick-starting the health sector’s transformation, facilitated the completion of six teaching hospitals under the second phase of the Federal Government/Vamed Engineering Teaching Hospitals Equipment Modernisation project.
The six beneficiary hospitals include Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, UDUTH, Sokoto, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKUTH, Kano and University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, Benin. Others are Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, OAUTH, Ile-Ife, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, Calabar, and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTC, Nnewi. The facilities of the six hospitals have been upgraded with equipment such as Spiral CTs, operating theatres, fluoroscopy machines, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, MRI, machines, Intensive Care Units, ICU, and incubators, among others.
Observers say that the hospitals’ equipment upgrade tends to demonstrate the commitment of the Federal Government toward overhauling the entire health sector.
During his visits to some of the hospitals, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, stressed that the FG/Vamed Engineering project demonstrated the eagerness of the federal administration to look after the welfare of the citizens.
At the inauguration of the UDUTH project in Sokoto, the Minister said: “We are celebrating this project because it demonstrates good government on the part of this administration. Health is a priority of this administration, our well-trained doctors no longer have to leave Nigeria because we now have good medical equipment’’.
Sharing similar sentiments, Prof. Abba Hassan, the Chairman of UDUTH’s Board of Directors, commended the Federal Government for equipping the teaching hospitals with state-of-the-art medical equipment. “These hospitals have all been provided with state-of-the-art equipment; the latest in the country and the best in the world,” Hassan said, adding: “Mr President, we appreciate the support of your government towards achieving these targets”.
The Austrian Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Stefan Scholz, also expressed a similar viewpoint during the inauguration of the UDUTH project in Sokoto. The envoy said that Nigeria’s health care delivery and the living standards of its citizens would be considerably enhanced with the completion of the teaching hospitals’ projects. “This would strengthen an environment that is conducive for recruitment and the retention of medical personnel, while enhancing the power of specialists, highly qualified doctors and skilled staff in medical research,’’ he said.
Observers believe that the re-equipped teaching hospitals will not only improve health care delivery in the country but will also enhance the quality of medical practitioners graduating from the institutions.
Going by the giant strides recorded in the transformation of the health sector, observers maintain that President Jonathan has been striving to keep his campaign promises and implement his transformation agenda as far as health care is concerned.
The President has also given the assurance that his administration will extend the medical equipment programme to other hospitals so as to stem the citizens’ trips to other countries to seek excellent health services. During the inauguration of the AKUTH project, Jonathan said that his government remained committed to the implementation of the hospital equipment upgrade project so as to encourage Nigerian doctors to stay and work at home.
As part of his plans to improve health care delivery, Jonathan pledged to set up six medical centres of excellence across the country, in collaboration with the private sector, to stem capital flights resulting from Nigerians travelling abroad for medical treatment.
“We are working on setting up six zonal centres of excellence, working with the private sector. The centres are not going to be funded by government, the Federal Government is only going to facilitate their establishment and we are collaborating with our medical practitioners working in overseas countries. There are many Nigerian medical doctors, pharmacists, and technologists working in Europe, America and the rest of the World.
“Everyday, Nigeria loses so much money in capital flights as people travel to other countries to treat ailments that we have the capacity to treat just because we lack the equipment, while our experts are abroad. That must stop,” Jonathan said.
Observers as well as medical experts have continued to commend the efforts of Jonathan to transform health care delivery in the country.
Commenting on the health care programmes, Dr Ishaya Pam, the Chief Medical Director, CMD, of Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), said: “They are excellent; absolutely indescribable”.
Prof. Akin Osibogun, the CMD of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, said that the government’s interventionist programme in the health sector reflected a deep sense of commitment on the part of government.
Prof. Abiodun Ilesanmi, the former CMD of University College Hospital, UCH, in Ibadan, stressed that the intervention had gladdened the hearts of the country’s medical practitioners.
From all indications, health care delivery in Nigeria will soon experience a remarkable transformation if the specific programmes of the Jonathan-administration are well implemented.
Observers believe that if the health sector is improved, the citizens’ health will be consequently improved and this will engender the transformation of the other sectors of the Nigerian economy.
Mr. IFEANYI NWOKO, is a staff of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).