Ibecame interested in developments in the health sector under the Jonathan administration when the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Oyo State in October last year successfully carried out the first open heart surgery in the hospital, the first ever in its over 60 years history. The feat was carried out by surgeons in the hospital in conjunction with a team of surgeons from Delaware, United States. The four-hour surgery corrected a leaking heart valve in a 19-year-old secondary school leaver.
The big question that followed was: When did UCH acquire the equipment and manpower for this kind of complex surgery? It all started about three years ago when the Jonathan administration embarked on massive refurbishment/modernization of federal health institutions across the country as part of its transformation agenda. The UCH, just like many federal health institutions benefited in terms of world class equipment. The hospital also benefited in terms of the training and re-training of its manpower overseas. The Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Professor Temitope Alonge confirmed that the federal government had given the UCH a mandate to improve on the training of doctors as a way of enhancing more access to adequate healthcare in Nigeria. The open heart operation was a justification of the mandate given to the hospital by the federal government.
The hospital has since carried out six more open heart surgeries in the last three months. An elated Alonge stated that the UCH was moved to embark on the exercise as a way of alleviating the hardship being experienced by Nigerians with heart-related challenges. In line with its mission of providing world class manpower in federal health institutions, the Federal Ministry of Health re-introduced the overseas component of the Residency Training Programme and overseas refresher courses for young consultants and other health professionals in different specialties across the country. The UCH has equally benefited greatly from this.
Just like UCH, virtually all federal health institutions across the country are now wearing a new look.
The rehabilitation and equipping of Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital have been completed. Work on Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital and the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital have reached significant stages of completion. The two National Trauma Centres at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital and the National Hospital Abuja are nearing completion. The government in collaboration with the Chinese Government has also completed and equipped the permanent site of the Federal Staff Hospital in Abuja. Modernization of UCTH, Calabar and NAUTH, Nnewi are at advanced stages, while the Federal Medical Centre, Abakaliki has been upgraded to the status of a Teaching Hospital.
In less than three years, there is already a long list of health facilities completed in federal health institutions across the nation. A new male and female medical wards, laboratory block, child and adolescent building, medical library and Occupational Therapy Complex were completed at the Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Kaduna. At the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Calabar, a new medical block was completed while its Occupational Therapy Unit was rehabilitated.
At the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, projects completed includes an Intensive Care Centre, laboratory block, male and female surgical wards and assorted medical theatre equipment. The Accident and Emergency Unit of the Federal Medical Centre, Gombe has been expanded and equipped while a Sickel Cell Centre and a male Oncology ward were constructed in the hospital. A new Respiratory Intensive Care Unit (Avian Flu and other viral diseases) has been provided for the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital.
A large quantity of equipment meant for federal health centres that have been at the ports for years have all been cleared and released for installation in many federal health institutions to ensure improvement in service delivery in the hospitals. The Centre of Excellence for Heart Disease at the University of Enugu Teaching Hospital has been refurbished. The centre has now resumed open heart surgery after 8 years. Many Nigerians will be surprised to know that total knee and hip replacement can now be carried out at the national orthopedic hospitals in Enugu and Igbobi, Lagos as well as FMC Yenagoa and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital. The modernization and refurbishment of these health facilities for total knee and hip replacement happened in the last three years. Six special sickle cell treatment cetnres have been established at FMC Gombe, FMC Keffi, Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, FMC Ebute-Metta, FMC Birnin Kebbi and FMC Yenagoa.
It is interesting to note that about three years ago, federal tertiary health institutions were still using conventional syringes because auto-disable syringes were not available in federal health institutions. The change to auto-disable syringes was recently effected by the current health management team of the federal government.
In the area of proactive health policies, the current government has also done very well. One of such policies is the National Oral Health Policy and the appointment of Senator David Mark as National champion alongside several eminent personalities as state ambassadors on oral health. Other health policies being meticulously implemented are the National Pharmaco-vigilance Policy, National Drug Distribution Policy and Guidelines, Neglected Tropical Diseases Master Plan and the Human Resources Information System.
This is also the first time any administration will battle the dreaded polio with so much commitment. Within three years, the Jonathan administration spent N4.7 billion on polio eradication activities. A Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication was also constituted while a new robust polio eradication emergency plan was developed with an accountability framework. Our dear country is already reaping the reward. Last year, no case of vaccine-derived wild polio virus (WPV) or WPV type 3 were recorded anywhere in the country. Massive investment in Guinea Worm eradication in the last three years is yielding result. Nigeria was recently certified as a Guinea Worm -free country following recommendation from an International Certification team.
Two weeks ago, the World Health Organisation followed this up, by officially certififying Nigeria as a Guinea Worm-Free Country. A WHO certificate of clean bill of health has since been presented to President Jonathan. An elated Jonathan declared after receiving the certificate: ?This is a milestone attainment which coincided with the period our country is marking its centenary. This achievement further attested to government?s efforts at ensuring that the country was rid of all kinds of endemic diseases. The certification by WHO is a global recognition of how far we have come and the success of the work that has been done to rid our nation of this scourge. Eradication of guinea worm disease that has long plagued many parts of our country has placed interminable burden on our citizens. As a government, we have been working very hard and today we have received the good news.?Jonathan also said a lot had been achieved on wild polio eradication.
He affirmed that his administration would double its efforts to also attain the status of a wild polio-free nation.
?Just as we have fought the incidence of guinea worm and succeeded, so are we committed in our fight against HIV and AIDS and many endemic diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and, of course, polio. While polio is yet to be eliminated in our country, we have seen the impressive results in the control of wild polio virus type three transmissions. We are hopeful that transmission of wild polio will be interrupted this year, at least before the end of the year,? the president declared after receiving the WHO Guinea Worm-Free Country certificate.
In the last three years, the administration has been encouraging the private health sector, leading to the upsurge in the number of private health facilities providing world-class services in the areas of cancer screening, endoscopic services and laser surgery, general medical check-up and diagnostics. Such private spe...t hospitals now abound in several states of Nigeria. An elated health minister, Prof. C. O. Onyebuchi Chukwu recently remarked during the commissioning of one of such private spe...t centres that with the successes recorded in the health sector in the last three years, ?Nigerians should stop going abroad for treatment for ailments that would ordinary be treated at home? adding that Nigeria now has the expertise as well as first class facilities.
Chukwu added: ?The development in the health sector which encourages public-private partnership is in line with the present administration?s transformation agenda. Government is determined to encourage Nigerians in the Diaspora to fully participate in the health sector. Government has also put in place measures to encourage drug manufacturing in the country. This will provide jobs and the economy will be better for it. Medical equipment imported to the country are duty free which is an incentive to people to come and invest in Nigeria. Government?s collaboration with the private sector is beginning to pay off. With the first class facilities in the country now, Nigerians don?t have business going abroad to access healthcare given what we have in the country.?
Indeed, unlike previous administrations, this administration seems to have recognised that improved health facilities in the country are critical to the achievement of our national vision of being one of the twenty foremost industrialised nations by the year 2020. It is heart-warming to know that Jonathan has not just made health one of his priorities, but has matched every word with action. In line with this, the National Strategic Health Development Plan (2010-2015) approved by the Federal Executive Council in December 2010 is being meticulously implemented. No doubt, things are shaping up in the Nigerian health sector.