The Senate has summoned the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, for briefing on the current state of healthcare facilities and services in teaching hospitals.
The minister’s summon was one of the resolutions made after a deliberation on a motion titled ‘Alarming report on poor quality of services in Nigerian Teaching Hospitals.’ The motion was sponsored by David Umaru (Niger East).
Leading the motion, Mr Umaru lamented the widespread cases of poor electricity supply, obsolete medical equipment, decayed infrastructure and other factors which, he said, have made it extremely difficult for Nigerian teaching hospitals to provide tertiary healthcare to patients with complex ailments such as cancer, kidney failure etc.
He made reference to a report by Daily Trust Newspaper depicting poor healthcare facilities in the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Usman Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH), University of Maidugun’ Teaching Hospital (UMTH), Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano (AKTH) and University of Uyo Teaching Hospital.
The lawmaker explained that most teaching hospitals in Nigeria have been overstretched, “forcing patients to sleep on bare floors, plastic mats and other unhygienic conditions that put them at the risk of contracting other ailments.”
Gbenga Ashafa, in his contribution, blamed the poor healthcare facilities on lack of funding.
He said most of the hospitals are only entitled to budgets provided for them and thus they lack funds to meet up with maintenance requirements.
The lawmaker expressed worry that patients with terminal illness like cancer and kidney failure are now compelled to travel long distances to access chemotherapy and dialysis “at very high cosy due to absence of the requisite medical equipment for such services within their vicinity.”
Ajayi Borrofice (APC, Ondo), called for the establishment of a Teaching Hospital Commission which he said will help coordinate the services of teaching hospitals across the country.
Magnus Abe urged the federal government to look at the structures of the hospitals. He said chief medical directors “are not given opportunities to do the jobs they were appointed to do you because their activities are being dictated by people in higher authorities.”
For this reason, he called for the autonomy of the institutions. “We need to recognise the ones that can work well and the ones that cannot work should be removed. We need to stop this unnecessary bureaucracy and corruption in the system,” he said.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the minister needs to appear before the Senate as quickly as possible.
“We need to address this issue where you have patients lying on the floor and waiting for hours to be attended to.
“And it all come down, as we rightly said, to corruption. It means the funds are not being used for what they are allocated for, the funds will be used for something else.
“We also need to strengthen the Auditor-General’s office. Until we begin to oversee monies being sent to MDAs, we’ll continue to have these issues.
“How inadequate can funding be that there is no light, patients are lying on the floor and meanwhile, they are getting funding and allocation every year. And they are also getting revenue,” he said.
This is not the first time health workers have raised alarm on the declining quality of services in Nigerian Teaching Hospitals amidst cases of overcrowding and lack of adequate funding and personnel necessary for optimal performance.
JOHESU, a body of all health workers, except doctors, has been asking the government to increase their pay and improve their members’ working conditions, among other demands since 2014.
This has led to pockets of strikes, over the period.
Last year, Nigeria’s health sector suffered one of its biggest blow when JOHESU members downed tools over similar demands, specifically in April 17.
The strike, which lasted six weeks, caused many deaths and left millions without care. Patients passed through untold pain and their relatives grumbled as both federal, state and local government health institutions were brought to their knees.
The strike was, however, suspended on May 31.
The union said it took the decision to halt the strike because of the sympathy it had for the suffering Nigerian masses and also to pave way for further negotiations.
In January, the health workers again, threatened to resume their suspended strike if the issues in dispute were not resolved.