Within a space of one week, three corps members died in quick succession at the NYSC orientation camps around the country. ADETOLA BADEMOSI and NAZA OKOLI moved into some of the camps to report on the state of their medical facilities.
THE scary news came in quick succession. The early days of December brought the sad news from the National Youth Service Corps orientation camps – news that most parents of corps members dread to hear. A corps member, Udeme Monday, on December 1, reportedly died of diarrhoea at the Batch ‘B’ National Youth Service Corps orientation camp in Zamfara State. Monday, a First Class degree graduate of the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, studied Petroleum Engineering.
Immediately after Monday’s demise came the news of the death of 26-year-old Ifedolapo Oladepo, another First Class Transport Management graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, at the Kano State orientation camp of the NYSC.
Yet again tragic news came from the Bayelsa State Orientation Camp of the NYSC at Kaiama, Kolokuma-Opokuma Local Government Area of the state, of 27-year-old Miss Elechi Chiyerom, a graduate of the Ignatius Azuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. She died five days after arriving at the camp.
Since the reported deaths voices have been raised calling for the scrapping of the scheme. The call had gained currency in the past among those who believed that the scheme had outlived its usefulness. Among those who have called for the scrapping of the scheme in recent times was Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group.
In view of the sad development, Sunday tribune visited most of the orientation camps of the NYSC across the country for a verification of the state of its facilities, especially medical facilities.
Most orientation camps in the states are not cited in the state capitals. In fact, they are far away in most cases. Understandably, this is strategic as distractions may occur if the corps members stay in the state capitals. Furthermore, as against staying for a whole month for orientation was years back, these days, the orientation camps only open for two weeks.
Things not too good here
For example, the Ondo State NYSC orientation camp is at Ikare-Akoko, some tens of kilometres from Akure, the state capital.
Sunday Tribune investigation at the camp revealed that no serious cases could be handled at the health centre situated there. A corps member referred to it as a dispensary room. “The inadequate provision of standard health facility is affecting corps members who need serious medical attention. The truth is that the health centre is not set up for serious medical conditions; rather, it is more of a dispensary room.
“It is a clinic where there is no electricity supply. It becomes a major problem when some drugs and injections need to be stored in the refrigerator. So how are such drugs and injections preserved?, a worried corps member queried.
Sunday Tribune investigations within the camp also revealed that when corps members arrived at the camps, no medical tests were conducted on them, not even after they had completed their profile registration.
There were just four staffers attending to about 2,100 corps members. in the Ondo State NYSC camp. Situations in other camps across the country were not different. The drugs at the health centres are also nothing to write home about.
Another source said the NYSC authorities only provide malaria drugs and even administer the available drugs in minimal dosages just to maximise their usage. This is just as it was discovered that there are more serious health issues prevalent among corps members in the camp. Some, had asthma, diabetes and even psychological problems. “The structure is not accommodating enough. The doctor’s office is small, while patients often stay outside waiting for the doctor’s directive to come inside when the need arises.
“The environment is usually noisy and rowdy, which isn’t good for patients. So, the Federal Government needs to pay more attention to the health facilities or else, corps members will continue to face the same health problems in orientation camps. The government also needs to further improve every other area of infrastructure, most especially medical facilities,” another corps member told Sunday Tribune.
Things are better in Abuja but…
At the Abuja NYSC camp at Kubwa, corps members were much occupied with activities. A majority of them, who spoke on the facilities available in the camp, said they could be improved upon, especially the camp clinic. They said it was a far cry from the type expected of a camp in the federal capital. They, however, said available drugs were not enough to go round the large number of corps members currently undergoing their orientation exercise there.
Taiwo, a 2015 Batch B ex-corps member, however, told Sunday Tribune that the situation was better in the FCT NYSC camp compared to other camps in the country.
He said although serving corps doctors were often used as medical officers, corps members are promptly attended to. He said the corps doctors are not directly saddled with treatments of their fellow corps members, but are supervised by a more experienced camp doctor.
“But they need to be trained as they are not directly allowed to treat more serious cases. The few times I visited the place, they only asked what the problem was and gave you drugs. We even receive free drugs. I have received free vitamin C, paracetamol and so on. Their facilities are fair, but there are rooms for improvement,” the corps member said.
When contacted, the FCT NYSC Head of Public Relations, Lucie Laha, denied any situation as regard poor health service delivery in the camp.
She said it was inappropriate for anyone or corps member to come up with such claims, adding that the FCT camp had enough qualified and certified medical practitioners.
“I have 66 medical practitioners who are certified and 44 certified pharmacists. I also have 17 nurses; I have all sorts of medical personnel, including laboratory scientists for less than 3,000 corps members.
“FCDA has also given us nurses to complement the 17 that I have on camp, so, what else do they want? We have a partnership with Kubwa General Hospital. Any case we cannot manage on camp, we treat it there. We also have a functional ambulance. We have Red Cross on camp.
“Except for the sake of complaining, we have more than enough. Take 66 doctors to 2, 500 corps members. You see the ratio. I am not a mathematician, but it is by far higher than the WHO approved ratio,” she said.
On whether corps members are requested to tender their medical report on resumption at camps, the Director of Press Unit, NYSC headquarters, Mrs Abosede Aderibigbe, told Sunday Tribune that not only were Corps members requested to bring along doctors’ reports of any ailment they have, were also always advised to upload such on their portal during registration.
She said although some corps members, most times bring in fake medical reports, “the doctors in camp have a way of detecting, because they will ask you questions.”
Conditions satisfactory in Lagos
The Lagos NYSC orientation camp along Ipaja Road, has a similar story with that of Abuja. It is one of the largest and most sought-after camps in the country. This is not surprising because Lagos is a thriving and bubbling commercial city and most corps member would give anything to be posted there. The camp sits on a massive expanse of land, complete with a neatly tarred parade ground.
Many of the corps members who spoke anonymously with Sunday Tribune described the living conditions at the camp as satisfactory.
“The camp has been good,” a corps member who graduated from the University of Port Harcourt, told Sunday Tribune via telephone, Friday evening.
“We were well fed. The environment is neat. From what I have heard, the camp is probably the best in the country. There is beef in our food and nobody has been complaining. I’m not saying it is excellent, but it’s good,” the corps member stated.
Asked if he has visited the camp clinic, he answered in the affirmative: “Yes, two times. I had cough and I was given some tablets and syrup and Vitamin C.”
Adeniyi Olaniyi just completed his service year in Abia State. According to him, while in camp for the three week orientation at Umuna Bende, the sorry state of the camp clinic informed his decision not to patronise it.
“On most camps, NYSC relied on ad hoc staff for almost everything. The LGI (Local Government Inspectors) and ZI (Zonal Inspector) only come to camps when corpers are posted to the states because most of the NYSC state secretariats are understaffed, hence the drafting of medical graduates into full-time medical jobs, “I bought drugs from stores inside the Mammy Market,” he said.
He was not the only one who preferred self-prescription, as most of the corps members did not entrust their health into the hands of their colleagues.Niyi blamed the situation on the shortage of qualified hands on camps.
“The four members that died back then happened outside of the camp. We couldn’t blame them because the camp did not have much drugs. In fact, Flagyl and Tetracyline were the only drugs we had at the clinics. Again, the in-house doctors were ‘corpers’ like us. No ‘corper’ felt safe in the hands of another ‘corper’ as his or her doctor. Things will not change if there is no review of how camps are run and their fundings monitored,” he said.