By Ismail Omipidan
If you ever think that the health sector is less important an index to determine the economic stance of a state or nation, you may be missing a critical point of what health portends to the overall socio-economic landscape of a territory.
Taking a retrospect into Nigeria’s history, we can safely argue that one of the strong pillars that facilitated the return to military rule in 1983, was the state of the nation’s health sector at the time.
The Late General Sanni Abacha, in his speech announcing the coup, had said: “…health services are in shambles as our hospitals are reduced to mere consulting clinics without drugs, water and equipment…”
37 years later, 21 years of democratic rule in the process, and not less than seven general elections at state and national level, health has been a recurring theme, either as a promissory note to the people, or as a source of lamentations from the people to the government.
Prior to November 2018 in the State of Osun, the health sector of the State could best be described as in a comatose. With dilapidated and ill-equipped health centres across the State, the choices available to citizens were very limited, and this on its own constituted threat to lives.
There were health centres so dilapidated and neglected that monkeys set up family apartments there. There were also instances like the Arowojobe Health Centre that was built in 1965, without toilets; and since then, it’s been farewell to any form of improvements on facility infrastructure.
There had also been complaints of health centres and hospitals being inadequately staffed, medical personnel being underpaid or the centres being underfunded.
However, the emergence of Mr Adegboyega Oyetola as the Governor of State of Osun in November 2018 has altered the narrative of the erstwhile appaling health services in the State.
Governor Oyetola made a commitment to revitalize at least one primary health centre per Ward across the State (and/or build a new one where none existed before). And staying true to his promise, Oyetola has already delivered 258 Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), out of 332. These PHCs are already delivering services to both rural and urban dwellers of the state. The vulnerable are not left out.
Governor Oyetola, through pursuance of this revitalisation mandate, has salvaged public facilities that were formerly in a state of disrepair, and turned what was gradually becoming an animal kingdom into a value-delivering system to the people of Osun.
Notably, the Arowojobe Centre that was almost becoming an historical site, has been rebuilt with all necessary facilities in place.
Also worthy of mention is the revamp of the Ejigbo Hospital, amongst other general hospitals in the State, which did not only serve the needs of the State of Osun in the fight against COVID-19, but also served the needs of other States of the country when the 127 returnees from Ivory Coast (among whom were citizens of other States) were successfully managed at the facility.
Beyond revitalization, the government has also stocked the PHCs with drugs and purchased equipment for better performance.
Attesting to the intervention of the Governor Adegboyega Oyetola-led administration in the Healthcare sector of the State, the Secretary of the Primary Health Centre at Oja Timi, in Ede North Local Government, Rachael Otitoju, during an interview, applauded Governor Oyetola for the renovation of the health centre, adding that it has improved the capacity of the Centre to attend to the medical needs of the people.
In her words, “the renovation has increased the tally of the number of patients we have per day. Before, we had an average of 20 but currently, it’s risen to 90 patients per day. People come to PHCs more because of the quality service we provide now.”
With respect to the welfare of health workers, Governor Oyetola approved the full implementation of the Revised Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and Consolidated Health workers’ Salary Structure (CONHESS) in order to attract medical doctors and other health workers to the State with a view to improving the shortage of health personnel in all government hospitals in the state.
Oyetola’s health sector renewal did not stop there; Osun Health Insurance Scheme (OHIS), Governor Oyetola approved the establishment of OHIS Drug Distribution Centre, which is now supplying medicines and consumables to 16 OHIS-accredited government secondary health facilities across the state in order to put an end to the perennial Out-of-Stock Syndrome of medicines in government secondary healthcare facilities for health insurance enrollees.
Many government workers and self employed as well as unemployed persons are benefitting from the state health insurance scheme, and so far, over 50 surgical operations ranging from hydrocelectomy to caesarian section and even bilateral below-elbow amputation have been done under OHIS.
As a way of including the vulnerable in the scheme, Oyetola released the sum of four hundred and seventy-seven million, nine hundred and twelve thousand, three hundred and ten Naira (N 477,912,310) as premium for the enrollment of vulnerable citizens of Osun into the osun health insurance and scheme.
The State of Osun was one of the States in Nigeria that got an intervention fund from Saving One Million Lives programme, a fund which is warehoused in the Central Bank of Nigeria. Verifiable evidence show that the State of Osun has judiciously used this fund in alignment with the objectives and standards of the Saving One Million Lives programme.
Worthy of mention is implementation of maternal neonatal child care facilitated and sponsored through Saving One Million Lives programme, and an equity grant that provided health services for the poor and the vulnerable.
The commitment of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola-led administration to the strengthening of healthcare system in the State has gone beyond lip service, given the array of verifiable developments that have taken place in the sector.
The Governor has indeed exercised a compassionate disposition to the people of Osun, through giving attention to the healthcare sector of the state.
The attitude of Governor Oyetola proves that public health is an important element of state and national security, and its functionality is a major factor in determining the ability of the government to track, monitor and control disease outbreak. This is aside the determination of the government to undertake necessary actions to protect the people of Osun from actual or potential threats to life.