Sefiya Ahmad writes that the PPP initiative at Garki Hospital is working remarkably well

For a large population of ordinary Nigerians living in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, government hospitals remain the option when considering accessibility, affordability and quality service. They are however often mindful of the costs, waiting time to see a doctor or have their laboratory tests conducted.

Available information indicates that the population in the Federal Capital Territory has grown from 1.5 million in 2007 to 3.4 million, representing an annual increase of 5.67 percent. Estimated increase in 2020 stood at two million. The number of people living in the FCT has doubled in about 20 years, tasking the government’s response in the provision of infrastructure and services. 

To address the shortcomings of the traditional ‘general hospital’, the FCT administration in 2007 gave out Garki Hospital to private managers as a model to test the efficacy of the Public-Private Partnership policy. Fifteen years down the line, the managers of Garki Hospital have made a huge difference.

So many residents were jolted to read in the newspapers last week that the FCTA has given the management of the hospital notice to vacate the facility by April 1, 2022. The immediate implication of this sudden quit notice is that no fewer than 900 health workers, among them 138 doctors, may lose their job suddenly!

Many concerned stakeholders are appealing that the FCTA should examine the track record of the concessionaires rather than rush into issuing a quit notice, when many government hospitals are plagued with lack of requisite healthcare equipment to handle complex health challenges such as knee replacement, IVF, as well as gynecological and laparoscopic surgeries.

It is on record that since 2007 Garki hospital has not shut its doors for a single day and not a single staff has been laid off. Not even during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is clearly evident that the PPP model of which Garki Hospital, Abuja, is the exemplar, provides a clear pathway to upgrading the Nigeria healthcare sector to world best standards, especially at this time when government finances are severely constrained. 

Patients who have attended the hospital recently, will bear witness that the hospital is now fully digitalized. In-patient, the out-patient, the labs, the pharmacy, every department is fully computerized.

Outside the issue of waiting time, the hospital has also stepped up its services to include advanced diagnostic aid, CT scan, advanced MRI with state-of-the- art tools for monitoring, such as fibroid scan among others. For about 10 years, the hospital has safely delivered premature babies weighing less than one kilogramme; and from just basic fertility management to providing low–cost in vitro fertilization since 2014 with high success rates.

In October 2019, the Garki Hospital became the first in sub-Saharan Africa to carry out Sleeve Gastrectomy, a surgical weight-loss procedure performed by inserting small instruments through multiple small incisions in the upper abdomen. By implication, Nigerians should no longer seek medical tourism in view of the feat at Garki Hospital.

The hospital is deliberately pursuing manpower development even as it gains recognition for advanced medical training.  

All medical officers and doctors there receive Advanced Cardiac Life Support Training, being an accredited center for training house officers. The managers of the hospital are also paying attention to manpower development. Newly graduated doctors are taking through post registration training before they become fully registered doctors.

The hospital remains the only centre accredited in the whole of West Africa for Post Fellowship Diploma Training in Assisted Reproductive Technology. Indeed, it also prides itself as the only centre in West Africa to have achieved that feat and it has created opportunities for consultants from other hospitals to train and obtain their diploma from the West African College of Surgeons.

With the success posted by the Nisa Premier-Garki Hospital partnership, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission in 2017 indicated the possibility of replicating the initiative to revive more fledgling healthcare centres in Abuja. The plan entailed a world class case study of the hospital in order to ascertain the factors responsible for its success and possibly deploying and replicating the same arrangement across the country.

Data from Healthy Partnerships in 2010, relying on a World Bank report, declared the Garki Hospital as a model PPP hospital. Here a private provider manages a government structure, and a pattern where patients get higher-quality services than at public hospitals at cheaper rates than other private centres. Resources available to the government are limited while many sectors are in need of intervention; roads, water, sanitation require much more government attention.

The PPP initiative involving Nisa Premier and the FCT in managing a once moribund Garki Hospital has proven to be amazing as a creative solution for policymakers. It is necessary for the government to speedily embrace revitalizing the insufficient health facilities, due to limited resources at its disposal and realities of the populace in need of quality and affordable health services.

Hajia Ahmad writes from Abuja

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