As Health Minister appears before Senate in plenary


The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, will appear before the Senate in plenary this morning. Taiye Odewale examines the issues at stake.

The summon

Professor Isaac Adewole’s summoning for appearance before the Senate in plenary today was sequel to a motion moved by Senator David Umaru (APC Niger-east), debated and adopted by the Senate penultimate Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

Senator Umaru in the motion titled: “Alarming report on poor quality of services in Nigerian teaching hospitals”, laid bare, the deterioration in infrastructural facilities, equipment and manpower in most of the teaching hospitals across the country.

Umaru who chairs the senate’s Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, argued in the motion that recent reports of poor quality and high cost of services in the hospitals was worrisome.

According to him, the reports revealed that teaching hospitals across the country were burdened with widespread cases of poor electricity supply, obsolete medical equipment and decayed infrastructure among others.

He stressed that the challenges had made it difficult for the hospitals to provide tertiary healthcare for patients with complex ailments such as cancer and kidney failure.

He noted that the teaching hospitals by their mandate were expected to train current and future medical personnel besides providing services on complex health matters.

Rot in health sector

His words:” Several stakeholders in the health sector have recently raised alarm on declining quality of services in the hospitals amidst cases of overcrowding and lack of adequate funding and personnel.

“It is not news that most teaching hospitals in the country had been overstretched, forcing patients to sleep on bare floors, mats and other unhygienic conditions that put them at risk of contracting other ailments.

“It is worrisome that patients with terminal illnesses such as cancer and kidney failure are now compelled to travel long distances to access chemotherapy and dialysis at very high cost. This is due to the absence of the requisite medical equipment for such services within their vicinity”. 

He, accordingly in his prayers, sought for summoning of the health minister Professor Adewole for appearance before the senate in plenary, to explain reasons behind the pathetic conditions of the tertiary health institutions in the country and possible way out, which the senate adopted.

Other prayers sought by Umaru in the motion and adopted by the senate were that the upper legislative chamber should mandate its committee on health to conduct an emergency investigative hearing on the state of healthcare services in teaching hospitals and report back within a week.

It is also to urge the federal government to immediately adopt short and long term measures that will holistically address the challenges.

Call on the federal government to adopt a policy on subsidising medical expenses of patients with terminal ailments such as cancer and kidney failure.

In his contributions to debate on the motion, Senator Matthew Uroghide (PDP Edo-south), commended Umaru for sponsoring the motion which according to him, had drawn the attention of the Senate to the failing mandates of the teaching hospitals.

The teaching hospitals, he explained, were established for research purposes; train medical doctors and attend to complex health challenges. He expressed disappointment over the deteriorating state of the hospitals, adding that it was a far cry from what it used to be. “The facts in the motion are under stated, given the fact that there is neglect and no funding.

“Tetfund has been able to provide alternatives funds to schools but the fund is not extended to teaching hospitals, which should not be,” he lamented.

Directorate for teaching hospitals?

He, therefore, suggested that among other things, measures should be put in place by relevant authorities, to provide extra funding for the hospitals in putting them in proper shape for the required efficient and effective health care services delivery.

In his own contribution, Senator Ajayi Borofice (APC Ondo North), called for the creation of a directorate to attend to teaching hospitals rather than assigning them to individual directors in the ministry of health.

Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa-central), said the poor health services being provided by the hospitals called for urgent attention.

He stressed that unless something urgent was done, the medical doctors being churned out from the hospitals on yearly basis, would perform poorly. The federal government and in particular, the minister of health, need to do something very urgently in arresting the situation.

“We need to pay particular attention to our health sector. The person heading the sector is a professor of medicine who should know better by crying out before now”, he said.

Senator Shehu Sani (PRP Kaduna-central) in his own contribution, lamented that  the money allocated for overhead cost for most of the teaching hospitals was often below cost of running them.

He lamented further that situations in the so called teaching hospitals, had so deteriorated to the pathetic stage of patients buying   syringes to be used on them by nurses and medical doctors. He called on relevant authorities to consider requests made by joint health workers union about the state of the teaching hospitals.

“Since the Senate is headed by a medical doctor, we should do something to save the teaching hospitals”, he submitted.

Pointedly, Senator Magnus Abe (APC Rivers South-east) in his own contribution said it was important for the health minister to visit the senate for a robust discussion on the challenges and the need to change the existing structure of the hospitals.

Structural lapses

He stressed that the present structure where chief medical directors were answerable to directors in the ministry of health was bound to fail. “Why should a CMD answer to a director? The reason that provision is put there I guess, is to impose people on the teaching hospitals.

“There should be autonomy for the teaching hospitals. Let us stop unnecessary bureaucracy that is destroying our institutions”, he suggested.

According to him, the health sector must be fixed to curtail the number of avoidable deaths happening on daily basis and heavy traffic of Nigerians embarking on medical tourism abroad.

Concurring to submissions made by the senators, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, said there was need for urgent intervention in the sector.

“It gives us great concern. No matter how inadequate funding for health is, it is a big shame that patients sleep on the floor. It is the issue of corruption. We need to strengthen the Office of the Auditor General to check corrupt practices in the MDAs.

“How inadequate can funding be that there is no electricity when these hospitals generate revenue and have government allocations.

“We need to take a look at this matter as soon as possible,” which incidentally will be happening today with the appearance of the Health Minister before the Senate in plenary.

An announcement to that effect was made by Saraki on Thursday last week at the close of Senate plenary for the day by urging all Senators to be present.

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