The National Assembly is in the news again, this time over allegations of drugs and equipment diversion in its staff hospital. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH, in this piece, captures the ugly situation.
What do arms of government’s hospitals have in common these last few weeks- drugs diversion, scarcity of drugs and lots of scandals.
Two months ago, the State House clinic was trending as allegations of scarcity of drugs hit the hospital. The State House clinic caters for the president and his family and staff of the Villa and also their families. The wife of the president, Aisha Buhari at an event called out the permanent secretary of the State House and the Managing Director of the hospital over lack of drugs in the hospital.
This time around, the National Assembly clinic is in the limelight albeit for the wrong reasons.
It is instructive to note that the health sector in Nigeria is in a camotose state. In successive years, there has been no improvement in the health sector in the country. Most of the hospitals have turned to mere consulting clinics. Lack of access to quality healthcare, coupled with the prevalence of quack doctors and poorly equipped hospitals, fake drugs and substandard products are bane of the health sector in Nigeria.
It is sad to note that Nigeria is loosing their experienced health workers to developed countries as a result of neglect of the health sector, mismanagement of resources, lack of priority, lack of respect for human lives by the leaders, low wages, poor motivation, persistent shortage of basic medical supplies, poor working conditions, outdated equipment, lack of efficient and effective coordination, limited career opportunities and above all, economic reasons, are among the most important factors responsible for this brain drain.
Suffice to say the huge budgetary allocation to the legislature was expected to translate to world class services and equipment in the National Assembly hospital .
The National Assembly clinic caters for lawmakers, their aides and families.
N125 billion was allocated to the National Assembly in the 2017 budget.
In the breakdown of the National Assembly 2017 budget, Senate and the House of Representatives are to receive N14,919,065013, 31,398,765,886 and 49,052,743,983.
Other appropriations under the National Assembly are as follows: legislative aides, 9,602,095,928; NASS Service Commission, 2,415,712,873; PAC-Senate, N118,970,215; N142,764,258; General Services, N12,584,672,079; NASS Legislative Institute, 4,373,813,596; and Service Wide Vote, 391,396,169.
It is worth emphasising that the National Assembly clinic in its present state cannot cater for Legislative aides talk less of the principal officers of the National Assembly.
LEADERSHIP checks reveal that the hospital has recorded malfeasance, including scarcity of drugs, disappearance of medical items which are allegedly diverted to private pharmacies.
Despite the budgetary allocation to the hospital, the clinic is gradually becoming a shadow of itself.
A staff who spoke on condition of anonymity narrated the level of stress she had undergone, as a result of lack of doctors and equipment to work with it.
She said, “Doctors are hardly enough. But even if they are, there will be no equipment to work with. It is either the ones available have broken down after months of acquisition and usage with myriad of outstanding promises of fixing or changing them or that the machines are not available. That is the case at this clinic”, she disclosed.
When asked about the quality of drugs in the clinic, she said “ Am sure, you can always get paracetamol and other routine drugs. But anything outside that will take the patient to the outside the clinic where he will be advised to buy the drugs”.
Checks also revealed a disheartening picture of a hospital, which is expected to solve the immediate medical needs of the “Distinguished” Senators and “Honourable” members as well as a host of other staff of the Assembly, is now simply referred to as a first aid centre for some of the NASS staff who have been a victims of inadequate health service at the clinic.
Also user of the clinic said , “ a thorough look at what constitute a hospital for the Legislative Arm of the Federal government reveals a deliberate detachment of some offices at the basement on left flank of the Complex, just before the Senate.
“Even though it is partitioned and made so compact to accommodate all the units of the clinic, it is still not enough let alone providing offices for the Heads of Unit. That is to tell you, what someone who is seriously sick will go through to get treated.
“For instance, the Office of the Head of Pharmaceutical Service is located in the Senate new Building, miles away from the “White House” where the clinic is itself located. Again, the clinic does not admit patients at the National Assembly. Admission is only done at Area 11, the extension of the clinic which operates in a rented 3 -bed room apartment. You can see for yourself that, it is not advisable for any one to go through all of that.
“Then the Laboratory Centre of the Clinic is situated miles away entirely from the whole Assembly Complex to another wing called “annex.”
This means that whatever tests recommended by the Doctors, one simply needs to taxi to the place. But unfortunately, there are no taxis. We therefore, walk on foot, meandering through the buildings, doing a lot of stairs climbing or lifting becomes the only option available to get to the Lab Section. And then, one is told on arrival to the clinic that all the tests ticked for cannot not be done”, he lamented.
Another anonymous source lamented “ There are no drugs available in the clinic not talk of having test done. The only one available is for Malaria Parasite (MP). If one is lucky, then Genotype and Blood Group follow.
Other tests such as H. Piloris, Hepatitis and a few important ones are hardly conducted.
No kits, at least, for some time now. The kits have remained unavailable, and we can’t talk, because there are a lot of cover up with a lot of things going on in that clinic, but we can’t talk because of our job.
“In a situation where a patient becomes angry and in an attempt to pacify such patient, he or she will be advised to pay some money for the test to be conducted outside. it is not mandatory but strictly optional.
“This is because no one pays a dime in the clinic. At least, that is the situation for now. May be that could be the reason why some prescribed drugs are hardly available.”“The worst of all, is that you can get drugs base on your personal relationship or your level in the office. Those staff that know one or two persons there , don’t face what others go through, because they personally bring drugs for them to avoid problems. This may also explain why serious screening are done before a staff can be attended to in the clinic.
“The annoying part is that the staff at the clinic, including cleaners are part of all kind of malpractices in that place, because they do not have choice. Any attempt to go against them, is to risk your job” the source said
In his reaction, the Director Medical Services, Bashri Hamza, said “You know anything that has to do with this kind of response involves the Chief Executive, the Clerk to the National Assembly, I don’t know if people have been directed to the appropriate quarter.
“Well in this clinic, there are different departments, not just one. Let me say this, I don’t think you were given complete information about who the head of the clinic is and who you are to see.
“I head a section of the clinic that is medical services. We have secretary health services. Secretary heath services is the one who heads the complete clinic
“Secretary Health services is the one who can speak on this matter, whereas, there are directors, about 4 to 5.
On her part, the Director/ Secretary Health Services, Dr Eme Moma Efretuei told newsmen that the rules in civil service do not permit her to respond.
According to Dr Efretuei, “You know in civil service, this is not allowed. You don’t expect me to respond when I have my boss. The Clerk is in position to respond to you, unless there is clearance from him, I cannot say anything “ she stressed.