Public health workers in states across the country have explained why some of the primary and health facilities are poorly funded: It is because state governors and their immediate families do not visit the hospitals for their medical needs.
And even in states where the governors have built state of the art facilities, equipped medical personnel and drugs, the first families still opt to seek medication attention in foreign lands.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend, some health officials recalled how during the period borders were closed and most countries were locked down due to the outbreak of COVID-19, top government officials, who could not make it to private hospitals, home and abroad, found themselves forced to use state-owned facilities.
According to health officials, once upon a time, first ladies in states like Sen. Zainab Kure, were delivered of their babies in state hospitals. Those days, they lamented, are long gone
In most of the states, however, government officials, especially state governors and families, rarely step their feet in public hospitals.
Like other states, there is low patronage of government hospitals by government officials in Osun State.
However, the two teaching hospitals, the Obafeml Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife and its complex located in Ilesa and the Osun State University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo owned by Federal and state government respectively witness low patronage from government officials.
Investigation revealed insufficient number of medical workers and specialists are largely responsible for the low patronage of government officials in primary health care facilities and other higher government hospitals across the state.
A nurse at the maternity department of the State Hospital, Asubiaro, Osogbo, said the department seldom receives patronage by high-ranking government officials.
Medical workers who spoke on condition of anonymity said the medical facilities on ground and the fear of the unavailability of consultants in the case of emergency may be responsible for the low patronage.
But at the Obafeml Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, the hospital plays host to patients irrespective of their social, academic, political or financial status because of the human and material resources on ground in the hospital.
According to Dr. A. Osuji, a cardiologist, who spoke with our correspondent, said the brain drain syndrome currently affecting the health sector in the country is also prevalent at OAUTH, Ile-Ife, and personnel in the hospital are often overwhelmed by the influx of patients.
He urged the federal government to urgently address the mass exodus of health workers to foreign lands in search for green pasture adding that Nigeria is blessed with capable hands in all health departments but for the brain drain syndrome.
No Governor, Deputy Patronises Public Hospitals In Kano
Some medical health workers at some major public health facilities in Kano State have decried the unwillingness of government officials to patronise government hospitals in their respective states.
Our correspondent who was at the Murtala Muhammad Specialists Hospital, Muhammad Abdullahi Wase Hospital at Nassarwa quarters, on a fact finding mission reported that most of those patronising the facilities are the down-trodden mases and lower cadre civil servants in the state.
“No governor, deputy or any member of their families come here. They only patronise private hospitals in Abuja or overseas,” one respondent said.
A junior worker in one of the hospitals said he could count the number of days he had seen the governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, at the hospital premises for the over two decades he had spent in the service.
“Whenever you see them, they are here to supervise ongoing projects they are interested in or responding to general outcry by the people aired in the local radio stations over the poor services rendered in the hospitals, “ he said.
Another respondent told this reporter that the lack of patronage by top government officials is a source of concern to the general public; hence, there is the need for prompt intervention by the state Assembly to come up with laws to compel patronage .
‘Rivers Officials Don’t Patronise Govt Hospitals’
Rivers State government officials, including the governor, the deputy governor and other top government officials in the state do not patronise government-owned hospitals in the state.
Also on the list of those who shun government hospitals are permanent secretaries, directors and other top civil servants in the state.
Major government hospitals in the state include the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH), all located in Port Harcourt metropolis.
There are also zonal hospitals located in the three senatorial districts of the state as well as over 14 functional general hospitals located in every nook and cranny of the state.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt, a worker at the RSUTH, who pleaded for anonymity, said despite the fact that hospital is fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, most top government officials in the state prefer to travel abroad for medical treatment.
She said: “As you know, this teaching is fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has continued to bring in more equipment.
“But our top government officials in Rivers State prefer to travel overseas for medical treatment. Those who don’t have money to travel abroad go to private hospitals in Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.”
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, a health official, who also pleaded for anonymity, said top government officials and civil servants don’t believe that they can get the best from government hospitals.
He said: “This is a teaching hospital that trains a majority of the medical doctors in Nigeria and even some that have travelled abroad but our leaders don’t think they can get the best here.
“Yet when they travel abroad for treatment, most of the medical doctors that attend to them at those foreign hospitals were trained in this teaching hospital.”
Patronage Of A’Ibom Hospitals By Govt Officials Low
Checks by our correspondent in some public hospitals, including the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) and the Ibom Specialist Hospital (ISH) in Akwa ibom state, revealed that patronage by these categories of high-ranking public officials was zero.
It was gathered that the only time some high-profile officials including commissioners, permanent secretaries, the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, a former military governor and other senior officials of government patronised the hospital was at the thick of the Covid-19 lockdown when many of them were forced to be isolated there.
Speaking to our correspondent on condition of anonimity, a senior medical staff at ISH, said: “I can tell you we don’t entertain such people as governor, deputy governor or a federal minister here, maybe because they have their personal physicians and there’s a well equipped clinic at Government House for them.
“The only time we played host to other categories of political officers, senior civil servants, and others was during the Covid period when plenty of them were isolated here, and the facilities were overstretched, forcing Governor Udom Emmanuel to construct the bigger and more sophisticated health facility with isolation centre at Ekpene Ukim, in Uruan Local Government Area.
“During that period of the Covid emergency, we were able to treat some of them; others with complicated issues were flown out, while others with more severe issues like the former military governor, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd), and a former Commissioner and later chairman of the PDP in the state, Mr. Udo Ekpenyong, sadly died. So, we don’t normally have them here, “ he explained.
At the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), it was the same story as our correspondent gathered that even some patients dread to go there because of what they described as the lackadaisical attitude of medical staff in attending to patients.
At Mercy Hospital, Abak Local Government Area, Sifon Akpan, a nursing officer explained that the “bulk of those we treat here are the low profile local residents, including old people, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children. We rarely have senior politicians come here for treatment, except older politicians who have retired and become senior citizens.”
However, Dr. Ekanem Abang, who spoke with our correspondent, blamed the low patronage of public hospitals by politicians to poor facilities, scarcity of drugs and shortage of health specialists. He urged government to prioritize health by establishing functional hospitals for the people.
Sen. Zainab Kure Was Delivered Of A Baby In Govt Hospital
In Niger State, the patronage of government hospitals by high-profile government officials is not much but when they do it is for minor ailments and the hospital managements give such class of people expeditious treatment.
LEADERSHIP Weekend’s findings revealed that because of the specialists in government hospitals in the state, some of the high ranking officials consult the government hospitals for primary services and go for further treatment abroad for more serious ailments or surgeries.
It was learnt that the doctors in the government hospitals serve as a means to get referral authorisation for further medical services within or abroad.
“Even among those you listed, not all of them are privileged , not all commissioners and permanent secretaries can afford expensive treatment for their families in private hospitals or abroad, “ a source hinted.
When contacted , the state government hospital officials declined comment but one of the workers who chose to speak anonymously said, “For my years in service, only during the late Governor Abdulkadir Kure that the family of the governor attended public hospitals
“You know, then even the governor’s wife was delivered of a baby in the General Hospital, Minna, but again you may not know whether they get such services delivered to the governor or deputy as well as some powerful people in government at their homes.”
Governor, Deputy, Bishops Patronise Public Hospitals In Anambra
In Anambra State, top government officials, including governors, deputy governors, commissioners and other top political office-holders access medical services in public hospitals more than privately-owned health institutions.
For instance, just last month, the state governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo’s father was said to have been on admission for one week in Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku-Awka, during which he was successfully treated before he was discharged.
Also, Soludo’s wife, Nonye, was said to have been to the teaching hospital to access medical services.
A former commissioner for information and culture, Chief Maja Umeh, was also on admission in the teaching hospital for one month before he was recently discharged after being treated successfully.
The chief medical director (CMD) of COCOUTH, Dr. Joe Akabuike, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend on phone, stated that apart from Governor Soludo’s father, his wife and Umeh, the teaching hospital has been receiving several other top officials of the state government, including commissioners, special advisers, and top clerics, like bishops.
He stated that the preference for public hospitals by high-profile people in the state is because of the quality of facilities and services in the hospital which no private hospital in the state has.
“The capacity of our hospital (COCOUTH) is only ccomparable to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, Nnewi. No private hospital in the state can match our capacity in terms of providing quality medical services.
“We have more than 63 medical consultants in the hospital, and the quality of the equipments we have in the hospital is just excellent; you can access world class medical services in the hospital”, Akabuike stated.
He stated that the reason members of the public were not aware of the high patronage of the teaching hospital by top government officials was because they normally go to the private wards to access treatment and other medical consultancies.
Akabuike stated that when he was a commissioner for health in the state, he pushed for a policy that would make the private wards also attractive to the not very rich people, adding that the policy would have created opportunity for more people to access medical services in the hospital using the wards.
A senior medical personnel at the private ward told LEADERSHIP Weekend that even the wife of the immediate past state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, Ebelechukwu, had accessed medical services in the hospital twice.
“And when his father was on admission here, the governor, His Excellency, Professor Soludo and his wife (Nonye) were coming to see him every day. He (Soludo’s father) was in the private ward for one week and he was successfully treated before he was discharged”, the senior medical personnel stated.
No Past Or Present Governor, Deputy Ever Seen At Public Hospital In Jigawa
In Jigawa State there are only two tertiary hospitals, Rashid Shakoni Specialist Hospital, Dutse and Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kudu which are mostly managed by visiting doctors.
The are general hospitals at almost all the twenty-seven local government areas of the state and at least one primary health facility in each political ward of the state.
There are adequate structures but there is acute shortage of qualified manpower to manage the facilities.
With regards to the visiting those facilities by top government official, only rare occasions are they seen accessing the facilities.
Despite the introduction of Health Insurance Scheme, only newly appointed directors or permanent secretaries are rarely seen there.