How Gov Bago is Quietly Transforming Niger Health Sector

Laleye Dipo writes on the transformation of the health sector in Niger State under the administration of Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago

One area Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago has been silently transforming under his New Niger State Agenda is the Health Sector.
The Governor no doubt inherited a beleaguered and almost comatose Health sector with medical and non medical staff low in spirits which affected their performance and efficiency. The situation even resulted in the exodus of medical staff especially doctors, nurses and Pharmacists to other states and private health institutions across the country.
For instance as at June 2023 only three opticians were left in the Eye Clinic of the General Hospital in Minna, resulting in eye patients from within and outside the state capital waiting for days before they could see the opticians. Though the situation has improved a little in the last couple of months following the intervention of the Government with the employment of a Consultant and one or two additional opticians, it has however not reached the acceptable level because people still stay for hours and even days before they can see these experts.
In the last one year, more consultants have been engaged for critical areas of the General hospitals in Minna, Bida, Suleja and Kontagora though some of them are recruited on contract basis. To find permanent solution to the shortage of staff facing the health institutions across the state, the Governor recently directed the immediate recruitment of 1000 medical staff. In fact a Computer Based Test CBT had been carried out for the applicants while physical/ oral interviews is to be conducted shortly after which those recruited will be deployed to critical areas of the health facilities in the state.
In order to forestall the exodus of health professionals especially doctors the government has signed an “Engagement bond” with medical students at the clinical stages of their courses in institutions within and outside the country. This policy will apart from catching them young retain them in the employment of the state government after their Programmes. 60 of such students have signed the bond leading to their being placed on Grade level 10 in the Civil Service and the government paying their school fees. The target is to ” Engage ” 120 medical students before the end of the term of the administration.
The State Head of Service Alhaji Abubakar Salisu speaking on the novel idea said: “It is important to catch them young because most of the old hands are gradually exiting the service leaving a vacuum to be filled”.
He told the “Engaged” Students and by extension other students of the state origin studying professional courses that: “it is better to serve your people and receive blessings than to go where no one will recognize and appreciate you”.
It is believed that this policy if properly pursued and sustained will in the nearest future close the deficit gap the state has in the recruitment of medical personnels in the civil service.
To take health care delivery system to the ordinary man the Ministry of Health which for long had stood as an entity has now been split into two autonomous ministries- The Ministry of Primary Health Care and the Ministry of Basic Health.
This development has provided the opportunity for health care delivery services to reach people at the grassroot mainly through the Ministry of Primary Health Care.
The revival of the Drug revolving fund through the establishment of the Drug Management Agency has brought succor to patients and their relations who have had to patronise fake pharmaceutical shops across the state. Apart from having opportunity to get quality drugs patients now have them at affordable prices despite the claim that some government officials are cutting corners by diverting some of the essential drugs to private stores where they are again being sold at exorbitant prices.
At the inception of the administration in 2023 May, the governor took a bold step by converting the moribund Shiroro hotel to a Specialist Hospital for the Medical School of the IBB University.The decision not to construct the Specialist Hospital in Lapai was resisted by the indigines who felt such a project should be located within the campus of the university, the Governor however stood his ground and the job initially awarded at over N18bn but has now been reviewed upwards as a result of the rising cost of building materials is expected to be completed in December this year to the admiration of all.
Governor Bago while flagging off this project expressed the hope that it would be completed on time to bring various benefits, including job creation, improved healthcare, and skill transfer to the people of the state apart from serving the medical students of the IBB University Lapai.
Subject to availability of funds the government also has plans to convert the old secretariat and Judiciary complexes into a School of Midwifery and Health Technology.
The Suleja General hospital before this government came on board was an eye saw, in fact it only existed in name because of its level of infrastructural decay, acute shortage of manpower and gross abscence of equipment which pushed the people of Suleja to Abuja to seek medical care. This has changed for the better.
Since government alone cannot provide the health needs of the people the administration has also been partnering non governmental organisations to provide some of the health needs of the people.Such partnership is in the area of family planning where married women are encouraged to adopt family planning as a way to improve their health and also encourage them to space their children.
In one of such partnership with DISC one of the Society for Family Health organisation the government has been able to increase the number of women that have embraced family planning in 10 local governments areas of the state by about 50%>
The Commissioner for Primary Health Care Dr Ibrahim Dangana assured that governments involvement in family planning campaign “is not government objective to control population” adding that the “government is only advocating for families to procreate responsibly
“The essence of family planning is to allow women to space their children and this does not prevent them from having as many children as they desire to have”
Dangana stressed in defence of government involvement in the campaign.
With the steps being taken it is expected that the health sector especially the general hospitals and basic health centres across the state will witness rapid transformation under the present administration.

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