By Gabriel Olawale
Provost, College of Medicine, University of Lagos and Consultant Paediatrician, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Prof. Afolabi Lesi has identified dearth of medical expertise, high cost of accessing healthcare and ignorance as major challenges in the management of people living with Cerebral Palsy, CP, in the country.
Speaking during Benola’s 4th anniversary and the 1st annual symposium on Cerebral Palsy, Lesi, who is also the Secretary-General of the West African College of Physicians, observed that despite fact that management of CP involves multi-disciplinary approaches, the manpower required is insufficient and disproportionately distributed across the country.
“Out of 40,000 doctors in Nigeria, 500 are paediatricians; 4,000 physiotherapists of which only 2,600 are active; 15 are neuro-physiotherapists in Lagos, Ibadan has five, Kano and Maiduguri have one each.
“Out of 37 occupational therapists, only 17 are active and out of 54 speech therapists, only 24 are active,” he stated.
Lesi regretted that some of these specialists are mainly resided in the big cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja and less so in the rural areas where their services are most required.
Speaking on the topic, “Disability Management in a Depressed Economy: Cerebral Palsy As A Case Study,” Lesi identified cost of care as another big challenge for survival of children living with disability as expenditure is mostly out-of-pocket by family and individuals. In worst cases, families may neglect and abandon the individual who often ends up begging or dying from the neglect.
“In developed countries the bulk of the burden is borne by government with provision of grants to the families and individuals. This is in addition to safety nets for potential loss of income and support.
“What about the cost of some of these neuro-developmental problems in Nigeria? One person with CP per year in the average public hospital spends a minimum of N141,060 per year as against N891,060.
“Annually, in public hospitals, people living with CP will make a minimum of six consultation visits for N6,000 as against N60,000 in some of the private hospitals.
“Three sessions of physiotherapy per week at the rate of N24,000 as against N720,000 in private setting. Medications like Baclofen, Epilim on a yearly basis, will cost N111,060.
“Looking at the social environment of children with cerebral palsy in Nigeria, we noted that among those who presented to the hospital, the parents had basic education and were largely unskilled.”
The Founder/CEO Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative, Air Vice Marshall Femi Gbadebo (Rtd), explained that Benola as a not for profit organisation, is committed to change and progress for persons living with CP.
“We strive for their inclusion into society in order to ensure that they and those who care for them live the best possible life under the peculiar circumstances in which they find themselves. “Ours is an initiative focused on professionally networking families, friends, health care professionals, care givers