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LAGOS AND EQUITABLE HEALTHCARE SERVICES

Rasak Musbau

Health is a fundamental right that needs to be nurtured and supported for economic growth and development. This is why Governments all over the world have been under increasing pressure to improve provision for health care services, while seeking to employ scarce resources effectively.

In Nigeria, when it comes to matters of health, Lagos is listed among States in the “high end” class because of the high number and variety of general and specialist health facilities on offer. Statistics from the Healthcare Facilities Monitoring and Accreditation Agency, HEFAMAA, shows that in Lagos, there are 26 registered General Hospitals, 256 public healthcare centers, 2, 886 private hospitals or specialist clinics and laboratories or diagnostic centers in addition to an estimated 160 tradomedical centers.

Despite the high number of the health facilities, the talk about crowded emergency wards, lack of empathy from health workers and having to wait endlessly before getting a shared room in hospitals were common complaints. Those are problems that can be explained from the perspective of Lagos being a victim of its success as in adding to the State’s status as a mega city of more than 23 million people, it daily receives influx of people across the Federation seeking qualitative health care services.

It is, therefore, not a surprise that in the governance matrix of Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, healthcare is prioritized as it is understood to be a factor in the quest of the government to make life easier and Lagosians happier.

Just as in other sectors which have made the journey thus far a glorious beginning in the fulfillment of an electoral mandate which took off on May 29, 2015, the Ambode administration has recorded some impressive performance in the health sector.

Things are certainly looking up for Lagosians when it comes to health matters. Gone are the days when a State or Federal medical institution situated in Lagos would wear the toga of abject neglect or gets bogged down by lack of medical manpower. These days, the level of preparedness, service and attention to detail at public health facilities is quite commendable.

Most of the existing General Hospitals in Lagos were constructed in the70s and 80s. Ambode recognizes, and rightly so, that turn around in the health facilities requires infrastructural upgrade. This is what informs massive investment in the area of renovation/upgrading of Primary Health Centres as well as Secondary Health Facilities across the state. This has equally been augmented with better conditions of service for the staff.

In order to reduce patients waiting time to the barest minimum and go paperless, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH and Lagos State University College of Medicine, LASUCOM commenced a pilot implementation of Electronic Health Records System (HER) in partnership with software Business Solution Consulting Nigeria at the Family Medicine and Physiotherapy Departments.

Also the acquisition of BTL-5000 electrotherapy machine under the current administration has empowered the Physiotherapy department at the hospitals with the ability to determine the extent of nerve injuries and possible prognosis by conducting Strength Duration Curves. Also, better treatment outcome in patients with nerve injuries has been achieved due to its efficacy.

Among recent attainments of the state government in secondary health facilities was the Commissioning of the Accident and Emergency Centre in Ikorodu General Hospital, Commissioning of Agbala Paediatric Health centre, Ikorodu, Procurement and installation of 22 generators for the State General Hospitals and LASUTH, Purchase of 26 Ambulances for State General Hospitals and LASUTH and Procurement of 26 units Mobile X – ray Machines for State General Hospital and LASUTH.

Industrial harmony is also a key achievement of the Ambode Administration in the health sector. The contentious issue of casualisation of workers in the state has been eradicated as medical doctors who were employed some years ago as casual staffs have had their employment regularized while same was extended to those in the state civil service.

But then, the truth is that free health care is difficult to sustain due to funding. Yet, it has been enunciated that the pursuit of better health should not await an improved economy; rather measures to improve health will themselves contribute to economic growth. It is in this wise that the Lagos State Government has planned to fully incorporate health insurance scheme into its health care financing. The Lagos State Health Scheme signed into Law in May 2015, no doubt, became necessary due to the State’s population and the pressing need to ensure all and sundry are captured in the State’s health care system.

The essence of this scheme is to ensure every citizen has access to equitable health, thereby contributing to the improvement of health conditions of Lagosians. According to the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris,   the scheme takes care of a family 6 with a total of N40, 000(Forty Thousand Naira). Dr Idris further added that gradual contribution through health insurance will provide sufficient financial protection so that no household is overburdened or impoverished in the process of seeking health care.

Generally in Lagos, the holistic approach to healthcare delivery is the norm. There are efforts geared towards minimizing the current trend of Nigerians traveling overseas in search of medical treatment to drive the concept of medical tourism. It is now on record that Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) has carried out a second kidney transplant in June 2016. The first was on 11th November 2015. This was done by entirely LASUTH team of Urologists and Nephrologists. The third Lagos State Government sponsored Cochlear Implant Surgeries were carried out on eight (8) deaf patients in LASUTH without foreign Doctors’ support in June 2015. The first successful Bone Bridge Surgery in West Africa was carried out in the hospital in December 2015. Again, LASUTH received awards as Tertiary Healthcare Provider of the year from the Global Health Project in 2016, and the World Quality Award 2016 in the Gold category by the Business Initiative Directions (BID).

In another move to ensure every citizen has access to equitable health, the state government recently gave approval to the States Health Service Commission for the employment of 874 critical workforce, and the commission is in the process of implementing that.

Going forward, with the sum of five billion, four hundred and forty seven thousands naira (N51, 447 BN) already earmarked for the health sector in the Y2017 budget, the State government’s capacity to  protect, promote and restore the health of Lagosians and facilitate unfettered access to quality healthcare services, will certainly be further enhanced.

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