Dr Azeez Adeduntan is the Commissioner for Health in Oyo state, in this interview with SADE OGUNTOLA, he speaks on the perceived rot in the health sector, government’s efforts, health insurance scheme, plans and upcoming projects aimed at ensuring that all public health institutions in the state move up to international standards, among other issues. Excerpts:
When you were sworn in as the State Commissioner for health, you had a facility tour of hospitals in the state, what did you find and what was your impression of the situation of these hospitals?
My impression is that we still have a long way. The facilities are nothing to write home about but by the Grace of God, we are going to correct it. I came from the United States about a month ago on an assignment for the Ministry of Health and with the full support of the governor, to see how we can turn around all these facilities. Early in the New Year, new equipments are going to come to all these hospitals, including hospital instruments, consumables, medications, and materials. And I assure you that most of our institutions will soon become very viable and be able to offer services to all our patients.
Sir, you said they are in deplorable state, what did you see?
When I said they were in deplorable states, I mean the facilities are nothing to write home about. Some of the buildings were not habitable. But we are already renovating some of them. If you go to Oyo, we have a maternal centre now that was donated to us by MTN for children and women. If you go to Ogbomoso, it is the same thing. But to cut the long story short, yes the facilities are not the best but the government is trying its best at this point in time and I am sure by this time next year, some of those deplorable situations that I saw would have been corrected.
I am very passionate about the Ring Road State Hospital; I was a house officer there and I knew how it was before. That is why we are going to turn it around. Yes, you are right that its security is not good; you are right that the level of functionality of the hospital is not the best but that is one hospital that if it remains one second for me as the commissioner of health, I will like to turn around because it is an interface between the primary health care and the teaching hospital.
As part of efforts to turn these hospitals around, we are launching an endowment fund also early in the new-year to be able to get money to revitalise our hospitals.
What are the most important things that we need at Ring Road State Hospital? We need security of life and property because of violation by hoodlums. The operating rooms and the wards need to be revitalised and above all, adequate staffing and adequate remuneration is very important. But with the governor’s support, on ring road hospital by this time next year, we will be signing a different tune.
Inadequate nursing staff is a problem in some hospitals like Adeoyo maternity hospital, what do you intend to do about this?
We are already recruiting staffs for the hospital. You know that due to aging and staff attrition, people were leaving civil service. The state hospital management board that is charged with the responsibility of recruitment is doing its best to ensure that we increase our nursing staff to cater for the needs of everybody that goes to our hospitals, not just Adeoyo Maternity Hospital alone. The economy situation is affecting Oyo state like other states in Nigeria but the governor is doing his best to make sure that all employees are happy.
Oyo state recently signed into law a bill on state Insurance Health scheme, how can people in the private sector benefit from this scheme?
It is meant for all Nigerians irrespective of the sector they belong. Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) would be involved and anybody can buy into the health insurance regardless of their race, tribe or religion. When it is fully launched in the New Year, people that are interested can enroll. Initially, the government would be subsidising the amount enrollees will be paying but as the scheme grows, it would be independent of the government. Government cannot continue to fund everything; we are bringing PPP into our services.
When is the state’s cardiovascular centre becoming functional and why the centre?
Since I assumed office as health commissioner, I have received a lot of letters seeking for assistance to travel abroad for medical care; some to Pakistan, India and US for treatment of even small ailments that can be easily treated in Nigeria.
Small ailments like what?
They include heart and kidney problems. Some ask for support to travel to India to correct their poor vision. Government has been spending a lot of money on this to assist staff and members of the public.
About how much is spent on this?
Since, I came in June, 2016, what we have approved to assist people cannot be less than N200 million to access treatment outside the country. Children are also in the group. That is what we want to stop by renovating the Ring Road State Hospital. Oyo state must have a functional tertiary hospital that we can refer our patients to, UCH is a federal institution. Moreover, the most common cause of sudden death in Nigeria today is heart attack, usually caused by high blood pressure. Many Nigerians don’t go for regular medical checkups. So the whole idea of putting up the cardiovascular centre at the Ring road state hospital is to ensure that our people need not die from problems like this. Pakistanis, Egyptians or Indians are not better than Nigerians. What makes the difference is just the quality of leadership. And we have a governor who is very much in support of health because he knows that health is wealth.
For the centre, we need money but already we have trained personnel that could be deployed to the centre. Also, there are Nigerians ready to come back home to help us with the centre. No doubt, in Nigeria, we have issues of security of life and property. In securing Ring Road Hospital, a police station to cater for security is being built. The place is to be fenced off. We need to generate electricity there so that people need not sleep in the dark. But I assure you that even if Dr Adeduntan does not do any other thing, Ring Road state hospital will be and must be revitalised because that is our best hospital in Oyo state.