L-R: Special Adviser to the Governor on Primary Health Care, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga; Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Prof. Wale Oke; and Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris, during an inspection tour of health facilities in Lagos recently

While stakeholders have continued to clamour for increased funding for the health sector as part of efforts to reduce medical tourism, Lagos State is taking the bull by the horns with the recent procurement of health equipments worth N2.5 billion. Martins Ifijeh writes

It is no longer news that Nigeria loses about N200 billion to medical tourism abroad every year, with many Nigerians preferring to access healthcare in countries like Germany, India, United States, or even co African countries like South Africa where they are sure to get quality healthcare.

What seems to worry stakeholders is that the country has continued to place less priority on stopping healthcare abroad through the abysmally poor health allocations in the entire annual budgets (whether from the federal or state governments).

Nigeria’s current health allocation for the entire country is below four per cent of the entire budget even though the 2001 Abuja Declaration where African leaders agreed that all African countries should allocate at least 15 per cent of their entire budget to the health sector; an approach that has continued to hamper the drive to reduce medical vacation abroad.

But as part of efforts to tackle this, Lagos State Government has taken the bull by the horns with the injection of over N2.5 billion into procurement of health equipments for qualitative healthcare in the State General Hospitals and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); with the aim to reduce medical tourism in the state, and by extension help save money for the country which ordinarily would have been spent abroad on treatment.

Revealing this recently during a media chat to end the year, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris, said the N2.5 billion was spent on equipments which include General Out-Patient Department (OPD) equipment, Anaesthetic equipment, Theatre equipment and Laboratory equipment.

According to him: “these huge investments in infrastructural upgrade and procurement of equipment in the health sector will help foster an enabling environment for the implementation and take-off of the much awaited Lagos State Health Scheme (LSHS) which will ensure that residents have unfettered access to qualitative care.

“With these in place, residents of the State are readily offered the opportunity of making choices of health care delivery within a wide range of well renovated and fully equipped hospitals. The scheme will reduce out of pocket expenses on medical care, promote access to qualitative health care, reduce incidence of chronic diseases as citizenry will be encouraged to present earlier as financial barrier to positive health seeking behaviors would have been removed,” the commissioner said.

Idris stated that the infrastructural development projects embarked upon by the Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration in the health sector include the construction of Helipad at LASUTH, Purchase of 20 Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) ambulances, purchase of 26 transport ambulances, power generators and mobile x-ray machines for all the secondary and tertiary health facilities.

According to him, other infrastructural upgrade embarked on included the installation of additional mortuary refrigerators at Ikorodu and Mainland Hospital Mortuaries, completion of the renovation and upgrading of Epe General Hospital which involves renovation of theatre complex, X-ray, Laboratory, Pharmacy, Out-patient Department and Accident and Emergency unit.

The commissioner added that renovation works were also carried out in phases in several General Hospitals within the State with phase one involving Apapa General Hospital, Epe General Hospital and Mainland General Hospital.
“Phase two included renovation works at Orile-Agege, Agbowa, Gbagada and Ikorodu General Hospitals and Lagos Island Maternity Hospital while Phase three included renovation works at LASUTH, Badagry, Alimosho and Surulere General Hospitals, Accident and Emergency Centre at the Toll Gate, Ijede Health Centre and KetuEjinrin Health Centre”, he said.

Idris noted that the effect of infrastructural development in the health sector by the state, aside from enhancing the efficiency of the health workforce and increasing the scope and quality of service delivered at the health facilities was geared towards ensuring that Lagos State emerged as a prime global destination for persons in quest of qualitative medical care.

“The huge investment in the health sector by this administration is triggered by the noble goal that every Lagosian enjoys unfettered access to qualitative healthcare without significant geographical, financial, cultural or political barriers. The basis for sustained investments in health by this administration is borne out of the conviction that in the pursuit of the public good, individual health needs are also met and secured.

“These modest contributions can be viewed from the perspective of the positive impact which the health of Lagosians has on the overall development of population groups in the State and national economy,” the commissioner said.

While appealing to health workers to put the equipment and facilities to good use and ensure that they are well maintained, protected and preserved to serve the purpose of which they were procured for, Idris assured residents that the year 2018 will be a better year in terms of improved healthcare delivery.

The commissioner stated that several welfare issues with doctors under the employ of the state government has been addressed while those not addressed are being looked into.

“We have made a proposal to increase the numbers of beneficiaries of various health related training programmes both on attitude and clinical services. The Service Charter is being beefed up to complement the roles of Health Service Commission while the services of different Civil Society Groups have been engaged to provide information and feedback to government on the conduct of our hospital workers,” he said.