Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s administration has, in its first year in office, built a virile primary health care system and put in place modern medical infrastructure, realising that it is the bedrock on which qualitative health system can be achieved
When the Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led administration took over the rein of affairs in Ogun State, the health sector was, to say the least, in comatose, requiring urgent surgery, both in terms of equipment, infrastructure and critical personnel. Realising the importance of a healthy citizenry to the overall development of a state, and to redress the situation, Amosun immediately set up the Transitional Policy Committee on Health. This committee’s recommendations are now being implemented and the results are already visible.
The impact of the government’s programmes in the health sector reverberates across the three senatorial districts in the state. Amosun, in his first year, has completed the renovation of 47 primary health care centres across the senatorial districts. And to give support to these health centres, he immediately renovated three dilapidated buildings – the medical, surgical and children’s ward in the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, OOUTH, and also employed 153 medical personnel in the hospital to address the manpower challenge, which had bedevilled the institution in recent years.
In the area of drugs and medical supplies, a massive turnaround now exists. Prior to this time, the facilities at the Central Drug Store, Oke-Ilewo, was an eyesore, as it was more of a dump. Now, the store has been cleared of the dump and renovated. The Central Drug Store is responsible for the central procurement and storage of drugs from where both the public and private institutions can buy quality drugs at affordable prices. Through the health ministry, the administration has a drug therapeutic committee, which is an essential component of modern health service. This is because it helps to guide state drug policy, advice on the rational use of drugs and improve drug safety in the state.
As part of the new wind blowing through the health sector, the administration has, in just one year, restructured the moribund emergency services system in the sector. For example, the operation of ambulance service has been separated from its coordination. Equally, four Advanced Life Support, ALS, ambulances have been bought to reinforce the depleted fleet inherited by Amosun’s administration. To drive this service, health workers, who will be trained specially and dedicated to the ambulance service training and re-training in advanced life support skills, are rearing to go; this is in partnership with Critical Rescue International, CRI.
The administration has taken time to conduct a rigorous evaluation of the health sector, followed by a detailed planning process to develop a road map which will see it through the next three years. The implementation, which has also started, is centred on the ‘three Ps’ drawn from the Five Cardinal Programmes of Amosun. The state’s Strategic Health Development Plan and the Economic Master Plan have three overarching policy priorities of People, Prevention, and Proven Intervention.
The first ‘P’, that is, People, refers to the various essential groups responsible for health care delivery; these are the human resources. According to Dr. Olaokun Soyinka, Commissioner for Health, it is a priority for the state to increase the number of its health care workers and their quality too. This accounts for why 470 staff comprising of local government health personnel and school health workers from state and local governments were trained on schistosomiasis; 20 medical laboratory technicians were trained on the diagnosis of malaria at the National Institute of Medical Research, Lagos, and will also undergo, regularly, refresher training so that they can also be training others on return. Also, 39 health personnel drawn from different fields have participated in a three-day health retreat on Integrated Supportive Supervision Scheme at Covenant University Guest House, Ota. The retreat was organised for top management staff and conducted in partnership with SUNMAP, a Department of International Development, DFID’s supported organisation.
To improve on the interpersonal conduct of health workers and patients, 186 officials have since benefitted from a training tailored in this direction. They were drawn from 11 local government areas of the state including Ibiade, Ogun Waterside, Abeokuta South, Remo North, Odogbolu, Ado-Odo/Ota, Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu East, Ipokia, Yewa South, and Yewa North; 30 medical personnel have also taken part in the training on cancer screening and detection/cancer awareness.
The second ‘P’ is Prevention. Amosun and his team have focused on shifting more towards preventive medicine, using modern health promotion practices, thus reducing the overall burden on the health system by increasing the level of health literacy, deploying knowledge as vaccine against ill health. Soyinka rightly noted this when he said: “One of the big challenge in health care is to practice effective health education; you need to move from curative to preventive health care and it is very difficult to get health messages across to people who do not understand the basics of how the human body works or how infections occur; people who still believe in traditional approach to health.
I am not rubbishing this system, but when people don’t have confidence or understand very simple proven medical solution and they go for the unproven, then you need to redress that balance and make them know that there is no need to pray and fast not to have polio, but get immunised and then use your prayer and fasting for something else.” This is by way of implementing health education of students, teachers, parents, and the entire community on healthy practices such as proper hand washing, skin care, oral care, hygiene, environmental cleanliness, among others. Besides, the administration has produced and distributed information and communication materials like leaflets, banners, T-shirts, and face caps for sensitisation of the public on epidemic prone diseases such as cholera and Lassa fever. In this regard, the state’s electronic mass communication platform plays a vital role, while the grassroots mobilisation in the 20 local government areas, with the provision of communication gadgets in the 236 wards has helped tremendously.
The third ‘P’ is Proven Intervention. This refers to a recognised need to adopt best practices, proven effective interventions in the administration’s quest to revive the healthcare sector. Here, the responsibility is to pilot new and untested ideas before rolling them out; it presupposes fostering a culture of research to support a proof.
The government of Amosun has also intervened in various areas in the overall interest of the people’s health. For instance, in the area of disease control, the government co-participated in the deworming exercise in both public and private primary schools across three local government areas, and subsequently expanded it to the entire state. Over 850,000 students benefited from the programme. Similarly, between February and March 2012, over several thousands of children, aged under five, benefited from the National Immunisation Plus Days, NIPDS, programme. To curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, and effectively mange the stigma that is associated with it, Amosun in his first year in office, has built 35 HIV/AIDS counselling and testing centres, while another 31 Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, PMTCT, sites were created to cater for people living with HIV/AIDS, while also providing them with free drugs. Still, the state has paid N15 million for the State Action Committee on AIDS, SACA, so as to become credit effective for the World Bank loan. And to reduce the prevalence of the HIV/AIDS scourge, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice have concluded work on the bill to effect the transformation of Ogun SACA to a full-fledged agency; while it has also ensured the capacity building of various stakeholders in the area of prevention, monitoring and evaluation, treatment and care and support, and the training of 186 interpersonal conductors to help in the area of prevention of HIV/AIDS.
For children suffering from schistosomiasis and helminthes, the Amosun administration has given them a new ray of hope with the procurement of praziquantel and mebendazole. The governor has also introduced free maternal and child health services in the state, and also a community-based Health Insurance Scheme, including distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide Nets, LLINs, to pregnant women attending ante-natal clinics at first booking and children under five years, among several others.
To ensure compliance with standard and eradicate substandard drugs, the Ogun State Pharmaceutical Inspection Committee, has also been able to ensure good practice of pharmacy in the state, as substandard drugs worth over N618,215 were seized from operators of illegal pharmacy in the state. It has also led to the regularisation of firms in the business.
Despite all these efforts, the Amosun administration realises that it cannot address all the challenges in the sector without support. This has made the government to partner with some non-governmental organisations, NGOs, to deliver health care to the people. Amosun’s government has also collaborated with the Rotary Club International and Indo Eye Care Foundation to donate 500 artificial limbs and perform free eye surgery, with a similar thing done in partnership with Tulsi Chanrai Foundation and Purechem Industries at the State Hospital, Ijebu-Ode. Equally, the Ministry of Health has signed an agreement with the MTN Foundation for the provision of a mobile clinic, which will be used as pilot for the provision of outreach health services to under-served rural population, while also in the process of wooing back to the state some donor agencies like the United Nations. Already, the dividend of this is showing as the state has been chosen as one of the states to benefit from a major maternal and child health initiative.
The giant stride of Governor Amosun’s administration in the health sector is certainly changing the face of health care delivery in the state, in just one year in office.