A legal backing to establish the Federal Teaching Hospital in Lafia sponsored by Senator Tanko Al-Makura is progressing in the Senate as MOHAMMED YANGIDA writes on benefits of the hospital, if established.
A bill seeking for the establishment of Federal University Teaching Hospital Lafia in Nasarawa state initiated and sponsored by Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura has already scaled through first and second readings in the Senate.
Al-Makura, who is a former governor of the state, but current senator representing Nasarawa South Senatorial District, explained that the state government had already laid a solid foundation and made adequate arrangements for the smooth take-off of the hospital in Lafia. He therefore solicited the maximum support of the lawmakers and the federal government towards the tertiary facility in the state.
He said apart from enhancing research, teaching and learning, the institution when established, would complement the primary and secondary health facilities as a referral centre in the state.
“As representative of the people, I have a duty and responsibility to look deeply into what would add value to the life of my people. And the first thing I think they need at this point is to have a tertiary institution that would give them the support they desire when it comes to issue of healthcare system.”
He said, “When I came on board as governor of Nasarawa state way back in 2011, my preoccupation was to ensure the implementation of what I called the pyramid model of healthcare services to provide wide-based primary healthcare and as we go up, we need to increase the quality until we get to the apex which is the teaching hospital.
“I was aware that Nasarawa state needed a teaching hospital, but you cannot have it on the platter of gold; we have to work for it; that is why when the Federal University of Lafia came, I supported, hosted it and gave them all the leverages to be able to establish properly. For that reason, I also requested one thing that could be for me because a state cannot easily establish teaching hospital because its capital-intensive nature. Besides, there are legal frame works that have to be fulfilled before such thing can come on board. I have prepared for a day like this.”
Al-Makura explained that since 2011 to date, he has been working tirelessly to provide those inputs and infrastructure critical to the teaching hospital of which he said at the moment, he provided with a full-fledged specialist hospital though with different functions.
He explained further that between 2012 and 2019 when he left office, he built a brand new teaching hospitals of 160 bed-capacity with all the necessary structures worth N1.5bn and handed it over to the university as part of the state government’s efforts towards the establishment of the teaching hospital.
The senator said he also built special Infectious Diseases Diagnostic and Research Development Centre, one of the biggest disease control centres in West Africa which have been approved by NCDC.
“All we need is the fiat to call this a teaching hospital and everything would be added to it; so, that is why I went to the Senate to ensure that the bill for the establishment of a teaching hospital is initiated.
“Huge resources had been committed in the establishment of the centre for better diagnosis of viral infections. The centre would conduct clinical trials for vaccines, drugs and other products in compliance with ethical standards and also support training in public health and research at all levels.
“The facility is also providing scientific guidance for local production of vaccines, diagnostic kits, sera, anti-sera and other related health products. It also has a provision of a biosafety levels II and III laboratories, a molecular laborator, an isolation ward, an emergency operation centre (EOC), and administrative structure and a conference room.”
Speaking in defence of the bill, Senator Al-Makura said the teaching hospital, when established, would bring succour not only the people of the state, but also to those in the surrounding North- central states and FCT.
He insisted that the people of Lafia and its environs live in danger without any teaching hospital, saying its unacceptable for residents to travel 200kms just to assess tertiary healthcare services.
“If you look at the location of Lafia, you will see that people within Lafia would travel up to 200Km before they can assess tertiary or referral health services and that is not acceptable in the 21st century,” he said.
He maintained that the tertiary healthcare institution is needed in Lafia axis in view of the prevailing population explosion.
“If you look at the population explosion within the vicinity of Lafia at the moment, it is about four to five million, half of which are the people from the FCT. I can say without any doubt that Nasarawa state hosts more than three million people who have nothing to do in Nasarawa but work in Abuja.
“With this kind of population and with a gap of referral tertiary healthcare centre, I think the life of people is in danger. I know the number of citizens we have lost in transit to access special medical services
Stakeholders corroborate Al-Makura.
On his part, the vice chancellor, Federal University of Lafia, Prof Shehu Abdul-Rahman, commended Al-Makura for sponsoring the bill. He equally appreciated all other stakeholders who supported the bill during its public hearing before the Senate committee on Health recently in Abuja.
He noted that the establishment of the teaching hospital has become imperative for the effective training of students in its College of Medicine, established with approval from the National Universities Commission (NUC).
“The establishment of the teaching hospital in Lafia is also important because in the North-central, the only teaching hospital closest to Lafia is in Jos which is over 200 kilometres away.
“In view of this, Nasarawa state government made huge efforts to support the university by building and donating structures for the commencement of the college as well as land for its expansion.
“The state government also offered the use of Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) Lafia for the immediate take-off of the teaching hospital for students already in the College of Medicine,” Abdul-Rahman said.
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He maintained that apart from training doctors and other health workers to make up for the shortfall in the state, the teaching hospital would also serve to improve healthcare service delivery.
Also, the chief medical director, Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Dr Ikrama Hassan, said in taking over the specialist hospital as a teaching hospital, the federal government would only spend small amount to upgrade facilities unlike other places where it needs to build from the scratch.
Hassan said DASH had received accreditation in five major departments of medicine, adding that making it a teaching hospital would avail more opportunity for all categories of personnel to be trained internally, just as it has the necessary equipment, manpower and structures for a teaching hospital.
He said the teaching hospital would also improve health service delivery as some areas of specialty often referred to facilities outside the state would be domesticated.
The CMD said the state-of-the-art research centre built by the state government in Lafia was an added advantage for the teaching hospital to embark on research into emerging peculiar health challenges in the state and region in order to proffer solutions.
In his contribution, the Emir of Lafia and president Nasarawa State Council of Chiefs, Sidi Bage, appreciated Al-Makura for laying a solid foundation for the takeoff of the teaching hospital in Lafia, saying this is another opportunity for the people to have the benefit of training.
The Emir explained that the teaching hospital would serve as impetus for the School of Medicine and train more doctors, decongest other public and private hospitals in the state.
“If we come nearer home, we are to look at our children in Nasarawa state. So far, there is commitment by the university itself that 50 percent of the intake into the medical collage is reserved for Nasarawa state.”