In this piece, DANJUMA JOSEPH, examines the state of primary, secondary and tertiary health institutions in the Home of Solid Minerals
The assertion that health is wealth, without doubt, is a time-tested fact which underscores the dominant role health plays in the economy of any nation.
In Nigeria, due to the deplorable state of health facilities, huge sums of money are being spent on medical tourism by a privileged few who often times travel outside the country to seek medical care.
Clearly, provision of sound, accessible and affordable health care services to all and sundry, is without any iota of doubt, one of the basic things an average Nigerian requires from the government.
But are Nigerians, especially the less privileged getting the basic health care which according to the structure of health care delivery in the country, is supposed to be provided by the primary health care centres?
In Nasarawa State, Governor Abdullahi Sule, obviously driven by the persuasion that only a healthy population can sire a healthy workforce, has brought real revolution to the health sector.
Empirical evidence which runs across primary, secondary and tertiary health institutions across the state is a testimonial to this assertion.
The governor’s actions through provision of quality health services to the citizens of the state may not be unconnected with his campaign promises to improve the health status of the citizenry.
To fulfil some of these campaign promises and to mark his first hundred days in office, the administration in July 2019 embarked on a state-wide free medical outreach for the treatment of glaucoma and cataract among other illnesses.
At the end of the exercise which cut across the three senatorial zones of the state, over 1000 persons suffering from various eyes related ailments received free eye-surgery.
In addition, over 5,000 eye lenses were also distributed to people.
Speaking during the official flag off in Gudi, the former permanent secretary in the state’s ministry of health, Mallam Ishaku Abari said: “If the eyes are healthy, the whole body will be full of light. On the other hand, if the eyes are unhealthy, the whole body will be full of darkness.
“It is in line with this popular phrase that the state government has decided to kick start the free medical mission, with the free eye care community outreach service as an initiative that targets the poor residents across the state.
“Eye-related problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and refractive errors are the commonest causes of blindness among our people. Efforts to rectify or correct and take care of these diseases should be commended by all.”
According to him, the careful selection of the care of the eyes, as the first component of the outreach programme of the government is not a misplaced priority.
Determined to reposition the health sector, the Abdullahi Sule administration embarked on the expansion of the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Lafia, to facilitate the seamless transition to a Teaching Hospital.
With the support provided by the government, the additional structures provided in the hospital have been furnished and put to use.
Also, a massive renovation of the old patients wards and administrative office was carried out in DASH, to ensure the provision of quality health care services to the people of the state.
Similarly, the specialised hospitals in Akwanga and Nasarawa area councils were equipped with modern state of the art facilities, handed over to the hospitals management board and are now fully operational.
In the same vein, the newly constructed School of Nursing and Midwifery has been furnished and fully equipped.
Following certification by the Nursing Council, the School of Nursing and Midwifery along Shendam Road Lafia, have fully moved to the new site and resumed full academic activities.
Closely followed by this was the completion and commissioning of a multi-billion naira health facility, which is named as “The Nasarawa State Infectious Disease, Diagnosis and Research Centre in Lafia”, which is considered to be one of the signature legacies of the Sule administration.
The centre is equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities and has a provision of a Biosafety levels II and III laboratories, an isolation ward, an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), an administrative structure and a conference hall.
The facility, described by health experts as the best in West Africa, is a world class comprehensive centre that can take care of infectious diseases, both known and unknown.
Speaking during the commissioning of the centre by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Abdullahi Sule explained that the challenges the state and the entire country went through during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic forced him to complete the research centre.
He said the state can boast of a world class infectious disease, diagnosis and research centre, that will not only encourage medical tourism but also effective enough to increase the life expectancy of not only the people of the state but Nigerians.
He further explained that, before now, the diagnosis of several infectious diseases, such as Lassa Fever, Yellow Fever, measles, Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, as well as the current Covid-19 pandemic, was conducted outside the State.
“With the establishment of the centre and its full operation, the perennial diagnosis and management challenges of infectious diseases previously experienced will become a thing of the past and treatments of such ailments will be greatly enhanced” Sule said.
The governor further explained that as the name implies, the centre will also serve as a research hub, crucible for innovations and operational research that will provoke policy initiation.
“The centre will conduct clinical trials for vaccines, drugs and other products in compliance with ethical standards, as well as support trainings in public health and researches at all levels.
“It will also provide scientific guidance for the local production of vaccines, diagnostic kits, sera, anti-sera and other related health products. I am happy to state that the centre is one of the best diagnostic centres in the country.”
He commended the Federal Government for the support and provision of equipment, as well as other critical facilities which hastened the readiness of the Infectious Disease and Research Centre (NASIDARC) in Lafia, the state capital.
For his part, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbanjo described it as a landmark achievement.
Osinbanjo said: “There is no question at all that anywhere in the world, this type of achievement deserves to be celebrated.
“But if you have the vision, you will most likely attract money. Nassarawa State is not by any means the wealthiest state in the country. In fact, if you look at what Nassarawa State earns and what is allocated, it certainly does not come anywhere near the top one third. But with vision, the state has proven that vision is even more important than money.”
Among the governor’s efforts in the area of health care services was the flagging off of the state health insurance scheme with 700 persons benefiting from the comprehensive basic healthcare as well as 15 surgeries conducted free of charge.
The governor equally flagged off the second phase of the free medical outreach earlier started by his administration in its first 100 days, with the distribution of identity cards to over 1200 beneficiaries.
He flagged off the twin events at Awe, the headquarters of Awe local government area of the state recently with pump and pageantry.
While recalling that over 5200 persons benefited from the first exercise, which treated glaucoma, carried out cataract surgery and distributed free eye glasses, the governor said the second phase is further demonstration of the commitment of his administration to improve healthcare services in the state.
He maintained that the free medical outreach will be a continuous exercise until every nook and cranny of the state is covered.
The governor reiterated the resolve of his administration to continue to initiate policies and programmes, aimed at strengthening the healthcare sector for effective service delivery, adding that the state government will provide more healthcare services to guarantee the wellbeing of the people.
He used the opportunity to highlight some of the key interventions by his administration in the health sector to include among others, embarking on a five-year Hepatitis B elimination plan, in addition to providing support for disease control for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV AIDS, malnutrition and immunization.
He equally urged the people of the state to comply with all existing protocol aimed at curtailing further spread of the coronavirus pandemic currently ravaging the world.
The governor then called on the people of Awe and environs, to come out en masse, in order to benefit from the exercise, which will be conducted by qualified medical practitioners.
Earlier, both the representatives of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Mrs Nnena Eze and that of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Ebong, commended the governor on his commitment towards delivering quality healthcare to the people.
The two agencies assured Sule of their continued support towards all his activities in the health sector.