FOLLOWING the well-publicised poor condition of the State House Medical Centre (SHMC), State House Permanent Secretary, Jalal Arabi, has blamed the situation on the non-release of allocated funds by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday, signed by Attah Esa, Deputy Director of Information, he said only 33 percent of capital allocation has been released to the centre.
He said despite that, the centre has continued to provide free medical services to people even beyond the State House while also continuing with its capital projects.
The statement said: “The attention of the Presidency has been drawn to recent media reports suggesting that the State House Medical Centre had received N11.01billion as an appropriation for the period 2015-2017.”
According to the Permanent Secretary, contrary to the above claims, out of the total Capital Appropriation of N2,941,062,044.00 and Recurrent Appropriation of N465,935,358.00 for the period under reference, only the sum of N969,681,821.53 (representing 32.97%) for Capital and N225,575,200.60 (representing 48.41%) for Recurrent was actually released.
Arabi also said it may interest the public to know that there was zero capital allocation for the Medical Centre in 2017, while out of the N331,730,211.00 being a recurrent appropriation for 2017, the actual amount released up to September was N91,370,053.60 (representing only 27.54%).
The Permanent Secretary emphasised that the above figures are verifiable from the Ministries of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.
He observed that during the three-year period under review (indeed two years since no capital allocation for 2017), and despite the shortfalls between budgetary provisions and actual releases, the Medical Centre continued to provide free services to the over 10,000 registered patients annually. In addition, the Centre has continued to execute on-going projects.
Giving further insight into the scope of the Medical Centre’s clientele, Arabi stressed that apart from the Presidency, other beneficiaries of the free services include political appointees, the military, para-military, other security agencies, members of the National Assembly, and the general public.
The statement quoted the Permanent Secretary as saying: “Considering the unrestricted patronage base and free services of the State House Medical Centre, coupled with the funding hiccups and periodic receipts, it may not be far-fetched to notice gaps between demand and supply of medical equipment and consumables at certain stages of the budget circle.”
The SHMC has been in the eye of the storm since it was revealed that despite huge budgetary allocations it has received, it could not meet the basic medical needs of its patients.
President Muhammadu Buhari was criticized by many Nigerians when he first decided to go abroad on medical vacation over his undisclosed aliment rather be treated at the SHMC which was designed to take care of his medical needs, that of members of his family, State House workers as well as members of their families.
It is also a training facility for house officers and other medical personnel.
However, the facility is in a deplorable state with broken down machines and completely lacking in basic hospital supplies such as drugs and other medical materials.
But that has not prevented the hospital management from embarking on capital projects which indeed were provided for in the 2016 budget.
But this has now been criticized by the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari because it has left the facility unable to meet its core obligation of providing health care.
The wife of the president voiced her angst over the poor condition of the centre at a function she organized at the presidential villa on Monday, wondering why the management would be executing capital projects when it could not procure simple drugs for the treatment of patients.
Speaking at the opening of stakeholders meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N), she also revealed that she was recently forced to seek medical treatment for her ailment at a foreign-owned hospital in Abuja because SHMC equipment were out to order.
Aisha regretted the centre’s decision to continue with capital projects whereas there were no basic supplies in the facility and wondered who would make use of such projects.
She, therefore, demanded that the management must account for the huge allocations to be centre.
She said: “Before I commenced my speech I will like to be realistic and say a few words concerning health in Nigeria and health delivery system in Nigeria.
“The Nigeria health sector is in very, very, very poor sorry to say he least. I am happy the CMD of Aso Clinic is here, is here around? Dr. Munir (Dr. Hussain Munir, consultant cardiologist and the chief medical director at state house medical centre) or his representative? Ok, he is around.
“Ok, Dr Munir I’m happy you are here. As you are all aware for the last six months, Nigeria wasn’t stable because of my husband’s ill health. We thank God he is fully recovered now.
“If somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street in Nigeria.
“Few weeks ago I was sick as well, they advised me to take the first flight out to London, I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us.
“If the budget is N100 million, we need to know how the budget is spent. Along the line I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine is working, they said it is not working. They didn’t know I am the one that was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.
“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners in and out 100 percent. What does that mean?
“So, I think is high time for us to do the right thing. If something like this can happen to me no need for me to ask the governors wives what is happening in their states. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government, and this is presidential villa. One of the speakers have already said we have very good policies in Nigeria, in fact we have the best policies in Africa. Yes of course we have but the implementation has been the problem.
“So we need to change our minds set and do the right thing. I’m sure Dr. Munir will not like me saying this but I have to say it out. As the Chief Medical Director, there are a lot of constructions going on in this hospital but there is no single syringe there what does that mean? Who will use the building? We have to be good in reasoning. You are building a new building and there is no equipment, no consumables in the hospital and the construction is still going on.”
Her daughter, Zahra, had recently stoked controversy on the subject when she posted a criticism of the centre’s management on her Instagram account.
Zahra had been quoted as saying on the post: “More than N3billion budgeted for the State House clinic and workers there don’t have the equipment to work with? Why?
“Where is the money going to? Medication only stocked once since the beginning of the year? Why? State House Permanent Secretary please answer.
“Why isn’t there simple Paracetamol, gloves, syringes… Why do patients/staff have to buy what they need in the state house clinic?”
She sparked a reaction from the State House Permanent Secretary, Jalal Arabi, who explained that the centre was offering free medical services and needed to be commercialized.
He also deflected allegations of funds diversion as he maintained that no such thing has happened.
The Permanent Secretary said the SHMC will be repositioned to offer qualitative and efficient services.
According to him, the management will among other things seek the commercialization of the Centre to boost its revenue and augment the appropriation it receives from the government in the quest for a better qualitative service.”
He added: ‘‘The Centre is the only health centre in Abuja where patients are not required to pay any dime before consultation.
‘‘In other government hospitals in Abuja, patients are required to pay for consultation, treatment, laboratory tests and others but that has not been the case with the State House Medical Centre.
‘‘The Centre offers free services, nobody pays a kobo for hospital card, consultations or prescriptions and this has taken a toll on the subvention the Centre receives from the government.
‘‘We have some of the best equipment in the country. For instance, to maintain the MRI and other scan machines, we spend close to N2 million monthly. Yet we do not charge a dime for those who require MRI scans in the clinic.”
Arabi said the proposed reforms will ensure that those eligible to use the Centre are NHIS complaint with their Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) or primary health provider domiciled in the clinic.
He added: ‘‘We have already created a NHIS desk at the clinic where patients will be required to authentic their profile. If their HMOs are registered in other hospitals they will be required to transfer to the Centre.
‘‘This is another way through which we can boost revenue generation at the hospital and this has started yielding results because the stark reality is there is no free lunch anywhere,’’ he said.
In dismissing the allegations of misappropriation and withholding of funds meant for medical supplies in the centre, the Permanent Secretary declared:‘‘I know people will insinuate and give all sorts of reasons because they don’t ask but it will be foolhardy and madness for anybody in his senses to defraud a medical centre of a kobo and toying with people’s lives.
‘‘No sane person will do that, so the truth of the matter is the hospital is being run on subvention and appropriation; if it comes we pile the drugs; but the truth is the drugs are always overwhelmed by the number of people who use the centre, because it is not controlled.’’
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