By Boluwaji Obahopo LOKOJA
A road mishap last year, precisely November 5th,2021 left my wife with a spinal injury. But being in coma that same day did not allowed for early knowledge at the Okene General Hospital, as the medical personnel only dealt with the outside wounds, not until the second day when she regained consciousness that we understands that her body from the waist to her leg has lost complete sensations. We were referred to Federal Medical centre, Lokoja.
Aside the fact that the neurologist was on his annual leave, there was no MRI machine or CT Scanning Machine, which are the necessary equipment to carry out the premiliary test; the development necessitated us leaving for the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital, Abuja – but the story was not different – the teaching hospital has no MRI machine either. Again, we were referred to NISA hospital, Abuja for the test. Few days later, we moved to Alliance Hospital, Garki to carry out the surgery.
It took us thirteen days before the surgery was carried out – by then, the delay has worsen her condition as the broken thoracic has pilled more pressure on the spinal cord. Part of Dr. Atabo’s submission at Alliance Hospital was that, “there would have been a 100 percent recovery rate if she had been operated on within the first three days of the accident.”…but the absence of the MRI machine delayed the process.
Had it also been that the state has the MRI machine as at then, the burden of only me attending to her for three weeks (before and post surgery days) in Abuja would have been shared by family and friends around.
But fast forward to a year later, the Kogi health story has changed as the silent revolution in the health sector embarked upon by Governor Yahaya Bello has yielded positive result. Not only did the state now boast of a reference hospital but the Reference Hospital has state of art facilities including the MRI machine, an Oxygen plant and a CT Scan Machine.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Machine is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. An MRI scanner is a large tube that contains powerful magnets. The medical imaging technique form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body.
The north part of Nigeria, especially the northcentral region has suffered untold infrastructural gap over the years. Before Kogi installed its MRI and Oxygen plant machine in the first week of November at the Reference Hospital Okene, only one Hospital in Ilorin, Kwara state has the MRI machine in the North Central geographical zone.
While succeeding governments since the return of democracy have tried to bring a measure of succor to the state by way of various social interventions, it is on record that such interventions has not particularly made a mark in the life of the people as envisaged. It is therefore gladdening to note that Kogi State is greatly consolidating its gains of development since the declaration of State of Emergency in the health sector by Governor Bello.
It is on this pedestal that one begins to consider the invaluable inputs of the current administration in Kogi State towards creating a new narrative in the health sector.
Governor Bello at inception of office had set out to create a society with access to healthcare services both in terms of demand, geography, and finance. To realize this, the administration launched a roadmap aimed at providing functional and standard Primary Health Centres (PHC) first by revamping the Kogi State Primary Health Care Agency (KGPHCA). The target as would be seen, was to achieve Universal Health Coverage that will ensure qualitative healthcare for all citizens of the state, no matter the terrain where they stay.
The construction, Rehabilitation, and upgrade of over 70 Primary Health Centers (PHC) in the wards, with some still ongoing is note worthy.
Another milestone in constructing a new narrative in social development for the state include but not limited to furnishing and equipping of the PHCs. In this sense, the government facilitated a one hundred percentage (100%) takeoff grant for the agency, followed by the procurement, renovation and furnishing of office building, the approval of fund for the establishment of ICT center.
One of the major concerns of medical activists has been how the common man will be able to afford such first class medical services. But Kogi under Governor Bello planned ahead. The State Government launched a Health Insurance Scheme, known as BelloCare. The Bill establish a Health Insurance Agency. The Bill has not only been signed into Law, the Governor has ensured a fully functional Health Insurance Agency operation under the leadership of an Executive Director, Dr. Adekunle Aledare.
The Helath Insurance Scheme that kicked off with 15,000 beneficiaries, made up of mostly aged and vulnerables has expanded widely. Many politicians such as Senator Smart Adeyemi and some NGOs has keyed into the Health insurance scheme. presently, tens of thousands of Kogi indigenes have become beneficiaries of the scheme. The testimonies especially from pregnant women who ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to afford adequate health care but enjoyed such till delivery day abounds.
The administration has also constructed four standard Specialist hospitals. One at Gegu – to cater for people along Abuja road, putting in mind the high accident rate between Lokoja and Abuja road. Another at Isanlu for the Western zone, one at Ajaokuta for the Central Senatorial district and the Teaching Hospital at Anyigba for the Eastern zone.
Similarly, the administration has also created other quick but solid interventions in the state’s tertiary healthcare sector aimed at ameliorating the pains of accessing tertiary healthcare service delivery, while consolidating on the gains already achieved in earlier interventions.
To ensure stability in service delivery by health workers in the state, Governor Bello approved the CONMES Salary Scale for Medical Doctors, Dental and Veterinary Doctors working in the state to curtail brain drain.
However, and having realized the monumental obligation of providing the requisite workforce to man the world class facilities it had put in place, the administration quickly deployed institutions to build relevant human capacity to man these facilities. This ingenuity allowed for the construction of roads and drainages and edifying structures at the College of Nursing, Obangede, coupled with the complete accreditation of all courses at the Nursing College.
From 2017 – 2022, the state government initiated and supported the Exclusive Breastfeeding campaign so much that Kogi recorded 35 percent success rate – 3 percent more than the national success rate in exclusive breastfeeding.
The state also recorded huge success in the overall immunization coverage as released by UNICEF last week.
The state and UNICEF has also developed a health work plan launched in August 2022 that will cater for the health policies of the state in the next four years, with other capacity building for state health workers in order to achieved the universal health coverage.
Another worthy point is the planned setting aside of support fund for poor and vulnerable citizens under informal sector programme. Accordingly, the State intends to continue to provide sustainable alternative source of fund to the state Health Insurance Agency through capitation and fee-for-service for continuous health financing strategic purchases of service delivery across the state.
The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was reduced due to the proactive steps taken by the governor. Despite the lockdowns and its effects on equipment and reagents importation, Kogi state established its own diagnostic centre. The state had already proactively procured equipment such as ventilators, ICU beds, a commercial oxygen plant had been installed and functioning in addition to the prepositioning of drugs, Infection Prevention and Control supplies chiefly because of efforts at ensuring availability of needed medical facilities.
But the major achievement no doubt, is the newly built and equipped Kogi Reference Hospital, Okene. It is a first class Medical Institution that will re-write the story of medical practice and access to medical facilities in Nigeria. The hospital will radically change the face of healthcare delivery in Kogi and Nigeria, as many will now have access to excellent medical facilities and services.
According to the state Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, the Bello administration desire was to “End medical tourism abroad. What Nigerians travel abroad to access medically are available at the Reference Hospital, Okene. This will also help reduce capital flights abroad.
“The Reference Hospital, Okene will serve as Teaching Hospital to the newly established Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara. It will ensure that our Medical Students from the school are top notch. We also want to use the state-of-the-art hospital to drastically reduce maternal mortality rate. According to the Governor, women are not supposed to lose their lives in the process of giving birth to lives. With the health policies of the Governor, we have been able to drag the rate down. With this hospital, we can drag it down further.”
The interesting part about the Reference hospital is the fact that it has its own Oxygen Plant. The capacity of the plant is such that can permanently solve the problem of inadequate oxygen in the entire North Central and some parts of Nigeria because the location, Okene is bordered by Edo and Ondo State. Many of the states around Kogi will depend on the Oxygen Plant at the Reference Hospital, Okene.
As a result, other states in North Central could now heave a sigh of relief as they access the medical services provided by the Governor Bello led administration.
The successful installation of the 1.5 Teslar MRI machine, the Oxygen plant and CT scanning machine to carry out advanced investigations such as CT renal and coronary angiography and CT colonoscopy at the reference hospital as ended all speculations about Bello’s intent for the state health sector.
Also, the traffic to the medical facilities in the FCT will come down drastically now that same facilities are readily available in Kogi State. People living in some West African countries will find Kogi State closer. The Kogi State Reference Hospital will address health needs, economic needs and also ensure national, sub-regional and regional integration.
Bello’s health touch in Kogi State has made the Centre for Peace and Justice in Africa recommended him for Nobel price for his “groundbreaking feat in healthcare”.
The Nobel Prizes are awarded “to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”.
The Executive Director of the centre, Dr. Ifure Ifure, said Bello has bucked the trend with health infrastructures uncommon in Africa.
Ifure listed the Reference Hospital Okene (RHO), Maimunat and Usman Yahaya Foundation Hospital, a community-based hospital in Ankpa and remodeling and re-equipping of 21 existing Primary Health Care Centres (one per Local Government) with solar-powered boreholes and electrification as part of the governor’s footprints.
He added that the Diagnostic Center in Lokoja, Prince Abubakar Audu University Teaching Hospital, Ultra-modern General Hospital Badoko, in Ajaokuta, Ultra-Modern General hospital in Gegu Beki and Ultra-modern Clinical Center Isanlu, in Yagba are others worthy of mentioning.
”In particular, the Reference Hospital is one of a kind. It is no longer news that Governor Bello built this state-of-the-art facility in Kogi to end the trend of medical tourism. But he didn’t stop there. The governor has continued to cram the hospital with world-class equipment.
“For example, the 1.5T MRI Scanners designed by GE Health is the first to be installed in Africa. The device examines organs, tissues and the skeletal system, producing high-resolution images of the inside of the body that help diagnose a variety of problems. Our findings reveal that the MRI scanner installed in Kogi is the second in the world manufactured and installed by GE and first in Africa. This is an absolute phenomenon considering the state’s low internally generated revenue.
”Governor Bello is reputed as the best governor in security. This has somewhat overshadowed his achievements in other critical areas such as healthcare. With Bello Cares initiative, citizens now enjoy free medical care in the state – the first of its kind in the country. Pregnant women, children under the age of five, people with disabilities and persons above the age of 65 are currently enjoying free healthcare services.
”We are, therefore, using this medium to recommend Governor Bello for this international recognition to motivate other African leaders to invest more in healthcare. This will also lead to better lives for Africans.”
Governor Yahaya Bello has stir a revolution in the health sector. It is glory times for health in Kogi state. Bello plans to holistically change the face of healthcare in the state has yielded positive result.
One can now say confidently: “If you want adequate Medical care, think and come to Kogi.”