Why investment in public hospitals matters

INVESTMENT in public hospitals matters. The sorry state of the decrepit structures, obsolete and non-functional equipment, and offensive odour emitting from the mortuary of the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH) due to lack of maintenance, spoke volumes of several years of neglect. Lack of funding, inadequate training and poor remunerations for the medical personnel also accounted largely for the sharp decline. The unsavoury development, to a large extent, adversely affected the morale boosting of the personnel who had relapsed into a slough of despondency, culminating in brain-drain of capable hands abroad in search of greener pastures. Apart from the poor pay, the quality of life of the medical workers and their family members were nothing to write home about. The bulk of the blame could be laid on the doorsteps of previous administration which had paid lip service on the welfare of the staff and also, when it couldn’t fill the vacant positions, on account of increasing wage bill and absence of subventions. Though staff wages were paid regularly, it was regrettable that the poor funding of the institution was identified as the major problem, because the capital budget that should have been released to upgrade the facilities were not forthcoming. The entire rot was a systemic failure.

A week after he took over the mantle of leadership as the fifth democratically elected governor of Ogun State and paid an unscheduled visit to the hospital, Prince Dapo Abiodun, had expressed shock at what he described as “the deplorable condition” of the state-owned health institution. As it were then, when the current administration came on board on May 29, 2019, the institution seemed to have become a shadow of its old self and almost a death trap. While taking cognizance of the dream of the founding fathers of the institution towards providing excellent healthcare to the people, with a strong emphasis on emergency services with modern equipment, Abiodun, when he visited the OOUTH, Sagamu, on Sunday, June 9, 2019, had expressed disappointment and displeasure over the deplorable state, saying, “the hospital was unfit to churn out qualified and competent medical personnel, considering the institution’s poor condition which required urgent attention. This new administration attaches a high importance to the health sector and we cannot fold our arms, while the only teaching hospital in the state continues to degenerate. I don’t see how this place can produce good doctors; we shall go back to the drawing board.

During the inauguration of the committee, the governor charged members to assess the operational modalities of the hospital and to suggest ways on how to improve the standard, in line with acceptable universal standard for medical training, research and tertiary healthcare services. Also, he charged the committee to determine the state of facilities of the various units and departments and make recommendations to the state on the steps necessary to ensure sustainable operations in the institution and determine quick wins and palliative actions to stem further degeneration of the institution and facilities. Other terms include reviewing all Third Party arrangements in the institution, including the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) agreement and other services, providing arrangements and determine their level of compliance at the time of that engagement and with the efficacy, but more especially suitability for the intent of the state government; reviewing and recommending programmes and strategies to ensure that the operations of the hospital is self-sustaining and financially independent; as well as reviews that will be critical to the long-term sustainability of the image and productivity of the institution.

Thus, it could be recalled that his visit to the 35-year-old institution was informed by his earlier meeting with the health management authority, following a report that he got about the deplorable condition of the hospital, being the only teaching hospital owned by the state government.  However, the rest is now history as the hospital has worn a new look.  The initial Administrative nine-man committee chaired by Dr Yemi Onabowale, Chief Medical Director (CMD), Reddington Hospital, Lagos, to look into both the remote and immediate causes of the challenges facing the hospital and in line with its interim recommendations had submitted its report. And without delay, the Governor had swiftly approved the immediate recruitment of well over 220 medical personnel, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists, nutritionists/dieticians among others, to fill in all the manpower shortage.

During a visit to ascertain the level of decay of the facilities, especially at the entrance of the Daniel Akintonde Modular Theatre which was inaugurated on September 15, 1995, it was found that the wall had caved in and almost giving ways for reptiles. The brain CT scan, echo cardiography machine, MRI, mobile x-ray machines, peak flow meter, spirometry, dialysis machines, C-arm for orthopaedic cases, operating tables, among others were all dysfunctional. By and large, in the last one year, the current administration has changed the face of the hitherto sorry site of the institution. With the full implementation of the recommendations of the Onabowale’s committee, it was gathered that, between September and December 2020, the management of the institution got an approval of the state government, through a newspaper advertisement, for the recruitment of 80 medical doctors, 50 nurses, 50 health attendants, 12 consultants, 10 laboratory scientists, 2 physiotherapists, 2 dietitians/nutritionists, a score of clerical officers, accountants, messengers and other Administrative officers to breathe life into the newly refurbished and equipped hospital.

Similarly, the management is empowered to fill in vacant positions in the event that any of the medical staff leaves or resigns his or her appointment in order to bridge the gap.

Aside a donated Eye centre and a stand-alone prostrate cancer care centre being constructed by a business mogul, Chief Adebutu Kensington and Rotary Club District 911, respectively, the government has not shirked from its responsibilities in the provision of structural projects to enhance an efficient and effective healthcare service delivery. The first project undertaken was the exterior painting of the hospital walls in a bid to give the institution a facelift. The isolation ward has also received a boost, now rebuilt to a modern standard from a four-bed room to 18-bed room, including two-bedded Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Four private rooms, six-bedded rooms for the male and another six-bedded rooms for the female wards have been built to add up to the existing ones. It is no longer news that two ventilators, four anaesthesia machines, a mobile x-ray, a dialysis machine and 28 modern-bed paediatrics have been procured for an effective and efficient service delivery.

The Ogun State Ministry of Health, on its part, is also not left out in the assigned task. It has embarked on the renovation of the dialysis units, the repair and servicing of the refrigerators and the expansion of the theatre rooms.

Notwithstanding, the recent approval for the commencement of the refurbishment of the institution is a good step in a right direction. The expected turnaround of the hospital would include the refurbishing and renovation of the accident and emergency wards and replacement of beds and as well, the painting of the in-and-out patient wards.

While receiving the Chairman of the Governing Board of the institution, Dr Kunle Hassan, in his Okemosan, Abeokuta office, a fortnight ago, Abiodun noted that the administration is committed towards digitizing the hospital’s records, so as to ensure that data capturing and management is made easy.

He further charged the Governing Board to ensure that their report translates into a visible difference that can be segmented into immediate term objectives, visible immediate and visible medium-term goals.

According to him, “I have reassured the Board members, that they have the full support of this administration so that they can achieve their set objectives. I can see that the board is determined to become more efficient and effective. It means that they would endure that the hospital derives value from every job spent in that hospital”, the governor said.

  • Ezekiel writes in from Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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