By SOLA OGUNDIPE & CHIOMA OBINNA
A Memo to stop public servants from traveling abroad at the expense of the Federal government for the treatment of ailments that can be satisfactorily tackled in Nigeria, is to be presented to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, this year just as President Goodluck Jonathan, is billed to flag off a stroke awareness campaign in Abuja, as part of measures to tackle the rising burden of stroke, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases in the country.
Disclosing this during the presentation of his score card to the press, Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, said the Federal Ministry of Health is already compiling a list of health facilities that can handle specific ailments that Nigerians often go abroad to obtain treatment.
Chukwu, who observed that although the list is not exhaustive, and was being regularly updated, however, assured that the memo, which was being carefully composed, would become effective this year.
His words: “It is correct to say the Federal government will not sponsor any case that can be satisfactorily handled in Nigeria. We are still at the level of the top management committee of the health ministry. It is a long process, we do not want to send a half-baked memo to the FEC, so it has to be well thought out and we have to carry people along.
Sponsorship of public servants
“It is not enough for the Minister of Health to ask the President-in-Council that we should no longer sponsor public servants for cases that can be handled in Nigeria. We should know where these cases can be handled here.
“The first thing we did was to spend the whole of last year to compile the list of hospitals that can handle specific ailments people often go abroad for treatment. We are compiling the cases that people may need to go outside the country to obtain treatment, we have compiled a substantial list but it can never be exhaustive because existing hospitals are introducing new treatments.
“For instance, this year, the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, reintroduced open heart surgery, and carried out a number of surgeries and would continue from now on. But last year when we did the compilation, UNTH had stopped open heart surgery, but now they have reintroduced it, the top management committee considered it and included it, we just need to keep updating,” he argued.
Further, Chukwu said the next stage would be for the ministry to share its findings with the Head of Service. “If he looks at it and decide what is extant, we just need to make sure when the FEC approves, it would not be going against what is extant. It would be done this year. I assure you.”
On the flagging off of the hypertension and stroke campaign by President Jonathan, Chukwu said he (President) as part of measures to tackle the burden of stroke, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases in the country, Mr. President will personally show Nigerians the need to reduce the risk factors for hypertension and stroke.
“He will take his blood pressure, weight and height as well as other tests. Federal government will begin to subsidise treatment of stroke, as there is provision in this year’s budget because tests for stroke alone can be up to N15,000.
“Government also plans to do training for doctors for the higher indicators of stroke beyond taking the blood pressure, or measuring weight and height so that people can be encouraged to go to hospital for screening and be encouraged they do not have risk factor for stroke.