By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate yesterday summoned the minister of health, Isaac Adewole, to appear before it to explain why most of the teaching hospitals in Nigeria are in bad shape, just as it also mandated 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.
This followed a motion by Sen. David Umaru(APC-Niger) at plenary on Wednesday.
To this end, the senate enjoined the Federal Government to immediately adopt short and long term measures that will holistically address the challenges.
Equally, the Senate called on the federal government to adopt a policy on subsidising medical expenses of patients with terminal ailments such as cancer and kidney failure.
Presenting the motion, Sen. Umaru, said recent reports of poor quality and high cost of services in the hospitals was worrisome.
He said according to reports, teaching hospitals across the country were burdened with widespread cases of poor electricity supply, obsolete medical equipment and decayed infrastructure among others.
Umaru 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.
“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 the due to the absence of the requisite medical equipment for such services within their vicinity, “he said.
Contributing, Sen. Matthew Uroghide(PDP-Edo), commended Umaru for sponsoring the motion.
He said to tackle the problems faced by the hospitals, it was important to note that they 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 said.
The lawmaker said among other things, measures should be put in place to provide extra funding for the hospitals, to meet with their challenges.
Sen. Ajayi Borofice called for the creation of a directorate to attend to teaching hospitals rather than assigning them to individual directors in the Ministry of Health.
Sen. Emmanuel Paulker(PDP-Bayelsa) said the poor health services provided by the hospitals called for urgent attention.
He stressed that unless something urgent was done, the doctors churned out of the hospitals would perform poorly.
He called on the minister of health to do something urgent to arrest the situation.
We need to pay particular attention to our health sector. The person
that heads the I st is a prof of health and he shld know better. We lack maintenance culture.
Sen. Sani said the money allocated for overhead cost for most of the teaching hospitals was often below cost of running them.
He lamented that the situation had so deteriorated that in some cases, “patients are forced to buy even syringes.”
Sani called on relevant authorities to consider requests made by joint health workers union highlighted about the state of the teaching hospitals.
He said “since the senate is headed by a medical doc we should do something to save the teaching hospitals.
Sen. Magnus Abe 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.
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 called for the health sector to be fixed to curtail the number of Nigerians who go on health tourism.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki said there was a need for urgent intervention.
“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 tale a look at this matter as soon as possible,” he said.