Improving Healthcare Delivery

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Ugo Aliogo and Hamid Ayodeji report on the efforts by a private sector company to improve healthcare delivery in the country

According to a study by Christian Aid (CA) Nigeria is characterised by mixed public and private financing in healthcare delivery of care. Greater quality and access calls for further thinking on the role of the private sector in health systems and a broader systems perspective on how public and private sectors can work together to address the challenges of affordability, quality, and availability of care.

The study explained that many formal sector employees currently have employee financed or subsidised private health insurance, but this access rarely reaches the poorest and most marginalised communities and populations, who tend to work in the informal sector.

It further stated that the private sector contribution to health care in Nigeria is often mired with weak oversight management, where roles and responsibilities are not well stated and the underlying benefit to the poor has not been effectively actualised.

According to the study: “Our involvement in community health work has always included an element of advocacy in improving health systems, included also in Christian Aid’s corporate strategy, Partnership for Change, which states that “we believe business interventions must be effectively regulated and form part of an integrated national strategy in the provision of quality and equitable services.

In line with its efforts to increase private involvement in healthcare delivery and reduce medical tourism, the Lagoon Hospitals recently unveiled a new set of equipment as well as new medical services.

The Chief Medical Director, Lagoon Hospitals, Dr. Jimi Coker, during his opening remarks at the event said in order to utilise the latest technology, the hospital thought it was vital to make significant investments in its critical care unit – urology, neurosurgery and renal services – at its Ikoyi office.

According to him, the choice to invest in the new technologies was born out of the need to fill the gaps within the countries health care sector.

Coker explained, “Some of the latest equipment unveiled include the Holmium Laser machine and accessories for the minimally invasive treatment of kidney and ureteric stones, along with latest equipment in the treatment of an enlarged prostrate condition like the bipolar prostate resectoscope, which is the first of its kind in Nigeria.

“This is a strategic decision by our hospital with the aim to reduce medical tourism.
“Our Kinevo 900 advanced operating neurosurgical microscope, also first of its kind in Nigeria, enables minimally invasive treatment of brain aneurysm and tumours along with spinal surgeries.

“Following the relocation of our specialist services from Apapa to Ikoyi, we have expanded our critical care unit to 12 beds, which will provide multidisciplinary care for critically ill patients leveraging on the services of experienced intensive care physicians, surgeons, nurses, physiotherapists.

“To compliment these acute services, we have also established a dialysis unit for the treatment of kidney failure. These services will be carried out by skilled clinicians with several decades of international and local experience.”

Also speaking at the event, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Titilayo Goncalves, expressed hope that the establishment of the facility was a step in the right direction, adding that it is geared towards reducing medical tourism “and making significant investment in latest medical technology so as to offer first class health care services.”

The Lagos State Governor further commended the hospital for putting in place the world class critical care and advanced urology services which would provide health services such as, Holmium laser for advance care of the kidney and bladder along with keyhole equipment for the management of prostrate problems, Kinevo 900 operating microscope for Neurovascular surgery, minimally invasive surgery for skull base lesions, dialysis center and an expanded intensive care unit fully kitted.

Sanwo-olu, maintained that the present administration would not relent in giving maximum support to the private sector especially in the area of technological advancement in order to add value to the health sector.
“The Lagos state health insurance scheme has been launched, and it is N40, 000 yearly for a family of six; speaking of which, it is compulsory for everybody. As a result of this initiative you can access basic health care in a wide range of facilities.

“And Lagoon happens to be one of the HMOs that have been choosing to be part of this; thus I assure you that quality health care is coming to Lagos.

“The health care is what we call a basic programme thus it is going to be a case by case programme. The state also intervenes when we have patients who cannot afford treatments, therefore kidney treatments is not on the health insurance programme

“If you take a survey of most of the hard working doctors in England and United States they are Nigerians who have been doing very well. Most importantly equipment has been one of the limiting factors.

“With the equipment and skills locally in fact, we are hoping that Nigeria would become a centre for medical tourism due to the fact that Lagoon Hospital is now a centre for medical tourism.

“The way we can help kidney patients in Nigeria is to provide affordable services, and this would be achieved through insurance. There are a number of insurance schemes for public and private clients. The plan is that those patients who have the insurance would be able to have access. As far as I am concerned the Lagos state insurance scheme is going to be compulsory so that those who qualify would be able to access that along with the HMOs, the companies can also make use of our services.”