By ACHADU GABRIEL
Whether the mentality and craze for medical vacation overseas by Nigerian leaders would end up with improved medical facilities in the county’s health care system still remains a mirage.
Despite government’s laudable current input in regards to pursuing the global best practices and reposition the country’s health sector, little or nothing seems to have changed.
Transfer of technology into the health sector to achieve positive results have being ongoing through greater participation and patronage. Common sense would appreciate that so much might have been done to jettison love for decades of taste for foreign trips under the pretext of medical treatment or vacation.
In realisation of these noble objectives, some hospitals were created and others upgraded to attain specialists status by successive regimes in the country.
Typical of this health institution is the National Ear Care Center (NECC), located in Kaduna, the defunct capital of northern region. Established in 1999 by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the center stands on triple mandate given it.
The all important mandate which is key to human existence include manpower training, treatment of patients in areas of ear, nose and throat (ENT), related diseases, and coordinate research in the field of ENT diseases respectively.
Right from inception when the center commenced operation in Lagos under Prof. Philip Okeowo, as the pioneer Medical Director, a lot of progress has been made towards meeting the centre’s mandate.
Record shows that after initiating the process that led to the success of NECC, through several presentations made to the government, Prof. Okeowo of LUTH, was later replaced by Prof. Babagana M. Ahmed, from University of Maiduguri, as the centre’s second Medical Director.
Under Ahmad’s administration, who served for upwards of eleven years, the centre was relocated from Lagos to Kaduna, and to the present permanent site which is a laudable. While in Kaduna, the centre went through many hurdles in pursuit for office accommodation before it finally got to the present permanent site. Dr. Mohammed Garba Mainasara who oversaw the centre before Dr. A S. Labaran was appointed acting Medical Director by Federal Ministry of health between 2013 and 2014.
The centre grew up from strength to strength, and when ABU teaching hospital Kaduna moved to permanent site in Shika, the centre was moved into the psychiatric wing, located at Independence Way, as permanent site. While at the permanent site, the centre became fully functional and integrated with both the administrative, clinical services and operative theatre departments together.
It was a beginning of the turning point when Dr. Bakari Aminu took over as substantive Medical Director, in July, 2014, at the time the country was spending heavily on medical vacations abroad.
Unlike in the past, when the country had training centers only in Ibadan, Enugu and Lagos, NECC became fully accredited by both West African College of Surgeons and National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria as training institution under the regime. Penultimate year alone, it graduated two new fellows as consultants, and a lot of resident doctors in various stages of training to become consultants.
With the help of Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria and the determination of the past medical directors, the school has also trained over 500 ENT nurses over the years for all teaching hospitals, Federal Medical Centres and state general hospitals across Nigeria.
Some West African countries are already eyeing it, trying to replicate Nigeria’s same programmes in their country. For example, Ghana and Sierra Leone, who have been communicating with Nigeria’s experts.
NECC, has well trained middle level manpower for primary ear care courses which take four weeks programme for community health workers among others. It also has community health officers and extension workers who come from all over the country. Many states have made special arrangements with the school and at all times, send their community health staff for the training, according to records.
Indeed, the programmes have far reaching impact on health care system in Nigeria where deafness is seen as a hidden handicap, and most of Nigeria’s country men and women in villages believe that ENT sickness are not something one should go to hospital about.
Instead, they would go to consult healers and pray over it. As part of the achievements made so far, the centre is adorned, procured and installed with 32 Slides CT Scan Machine with 2014 capital appropriation, it has constructed new school audiology technician programme and renovated its medical store, procured a new solar street light, office furniture for staff, procured utility vehicles, operating theatre instruments, with 2014 capital and completion of CSSD block and laundry with 2015 appropriation.
Indeed, to make the center standardized, a home away from home, construction of a storey building to accommodate audiology, temporary bone lab, consultants offices is in progress, renovation of male and female OPD, is almost at the completion stage.
It is also interesting to note that approval has been granted to the centre by NHlS as a primary provider. The welfare of staff has also been prioritised by the current crop of leadership led by Associate Prof. Bakari Aminu, after the settlement of overtime, uniform allowance arrears and relativity allowance respectively between 2013/14, to 2015, among others. All along, the era of flooding abroad under the guise of medical trip or vacation is ending.