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Rehabilitation therapists seek policy on disability

By Chioma Obinna & Amarachi Adiele

THE Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board of Nigeria, MRTB, has called for the establishment of a one – stop National Medical Rehabilitation Centre in the six- geopolitical zones of the country that would bring all professionals involved in rehabilitation of disabilities together to ensure prompt access to health and guarantee better outcomes for persons with disability.

PRESS CONFERENCE: From left; Senior Lecturer/ Consultant Ergonomics Physiotherapist, Mr. Udoka Okafor, the Registrar and CEO, MRTB, Mrs. Akanle Olufunke and a Consultant Audiologist, Mr. Barnabas Vangerwua during a press conference in Lagos to announce first ever international conference for Medical Rehabilitation Professionals rlast week in Lagos.

The therapists are also seeking government’s commitment towards formulating remedial actions to make care of persons living with disability better in Nigeria even as they called for the formulation of a disability policy and bill for its inclusion in the National health Policy.

To this end, MRTB is organising first ever International Conference for Medical Rehabilitation Professionals with the theme: “Medical Rehabilitation Services in Community and Primary Health Care in Nigeria and Sub-Sahara Africa” aimed at optimising rehabilitation services in Nigeria.

At a press conference in Lagos on the forthcoming International Conference, the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, MRTB, Mrs. Akanle Olufunke lamented that only 4,000 medical rehabilitation therapists are serving 170 million Nigerians.

Akanle noted the need to pay attention to disabilities as the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Disability Action Plan 2014-2021 that declared disability as a global public health and human right issue.

She said the all encompassing rehabilitation Centre  is expected to house professionals such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, Chiropractic and Osteopathic Medicine, audiology, prosthetics and orthotics amongst others. He said persons living with any form of physical or congenital conditions encounter widespread barriers in accessing healthcare and related services, with worse health outcomes than people living without disabilities.

“Persons living with disabilities require close monitoring, frequent consultations and visitations as part of the rehabilitation procedure, but there are an array of challenges that hinder the availability and accessibility of patients to the needed health services, irrespective of their health-seeking behaviour.”

On his part, Senior Lecturer/ Consultant Ergonomics Physiotherapist, Mr. Udoka Okafor explained that due to lack of rehabilitation centres in the country, the conference billed to hold September20-22, 2017 in Lagos, aimed to optimize rehabilitation services in the country.

The conference seeks to establish a multi-disciplinary relationship with all the medical rehabilitation professionals in Africa and across the globe for the exchange of knowledge and experience and in the partnership to collectively push for a common front which is the quest for a community based rehabilitation policy formulation and to include this platform in the national health policy.

On his part, a Consultant Audiologist, Mr. Barnabas Vangerwua who raised alarm on the increasing cases of communication problems among Nigerians, particularly due to high incidence of stroke patients said it has become very difficult for these victims to access services  in rural and urban areas. He said government should harness the resources and information and draw out a plan that would be able to take care of stroke and other communication disorders.

He said people with language deficits, such as stammering, if not arrested early, becomes difficult for the person to cope in the society.

“Nigeria is a signatory to universal newborn screening of the WHO programme. It is imperative that a policy have to be on ground so that all children born into the hospitals must be assessed before they are taken home and continue with routine assessment.”

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