Ex-minister faults policy makers’ foreign medical trips and urges politicians to prioritize healthcare

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By Charles Ozioma

Former Minister of Health, Prof. Adenike Grange, has condemned frequent overseas medical trips by policymakers and politicians in the country even as she urged them to prioritize healthcare delivery and ensure a brighter future for the sector.  Adenike at the 11th Annual Conference of Society for Quality Health Care in Nigeria (SQHN) in Lagos, which was held online, said: “We have to look for a way of getting policymakers to become patient because as long as they keep on going outside for treatment, they will not be fully committed to addressing the issues in Nigeria’s medical and health system. In essence, policymakers need to prioritize health in the country.” The theme of the virtual conference was “The Future of Healthcare in Nigeria.” 

SQHN, a not-for-profit organization founded by the late Prof. Adeyemo Elebute, commenced operations in 2003 with the mission to lead, advocate and facilitate the continuous improvement of quality and safety in healthcare in Nigeria through Accreditation, Education, Collaboration and Training. The 2021 SQHN Conference aimed to highlight existing challenges within the health sector and proffer useful solutions for improvement. Discussions during the conference covered: Strategies for improving healthcare quality and patient safety at a national scale in Nigeria, governance and the role of leadership use of data and technology for improvement, human resource management for quality care and change management.

The Conference Keynote Speaker, Prof. Joseph Ana, Lead Senior Fellow African Centre for Clinical Research and Patient Safety gave a detailed presentation that highlighted the need for focusing on the patients, supporting the healthcare workers and elevation of healthcare as a social service rather than a primary revenue source. He emphasized that the lack of basic necessities such as water, electricity and equipment in health facilities are negatively impacting patient safety. Ana advocated for the national implementation of the 12 Pillars of Clinical Governance which promotes patient and family involvement in care, clinical audits, systematic quality programs and accreditation amongst others as solutions to address national healthcare problems.

Ana, who is also a former Cross River Commissioner for Health and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), Calabar, appreciated medical practitioners in Nigeria for the good they are doing, especially in the face of COVID-19. He paid tribute to medical personnel that lost their lives during the Ebola pandemic crisis. 

Ana, who is also a consultant in clinical governance, associated the many problems of healthcare with infrastructural decay, lack of water and power supply, poverty, health illiteracy, cholera, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, pneumonia, emerging epidemics and COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ana, however, lamented that government seems to treat health as a primary revenue source, not as a social service that is ‘no deposit, no treatment policy even at the point of death.’ Ana said that to achieve a bright future for healthcare in Nigeria, the missing piece in the jigsaw is the political will at the highest levels of government.

The President of the Society, Dr. Wole Abiodun-Wright, in his opening remarks, spoke about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country and globally. He added that the Society was able to adapt by converting most of her programs such as training and workshops from physical to virtual mode of delivery. He further highlighted the effort that the Society has put in to develop health facility standards, which were approved by the International Society for Quality in Healthcare in 2020. 

SQHN is a not for profit organisation, registered in May 2006 and accredited by the International Society for Quality in Health (ISQUA) Dublin, Northern Ireland, in February 2020. It is the first health care facilities accreditation organisation to be incorporated in Nigeria and possibly West Africa. It also plans to lead and facilitate the continuous improvement of quality and safety in healthcare in Nigeria through education, training, collaboration and accreditation.

Executive manager of the Society, Vivian Akwuaka, facilitated the virtual 11th annual conference session. She told the audience that membership of SQHN is free and open to anyone. 

The event had a panel discussion that was anchored by the secretary of SQHN, Dr. Abayomi Sule, who is also healthcare thought leader, management specialist with a background in medicine. One of the panellists, Mrs. Chika Odioemene, spoke on workforce and knowledge management. Odioemene, who is also, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Utopian healthcare organisation, emphasised the need to have a comprehensive framework for the health sector. She called on the government to prioritise patient satisfaction. 

Another panellist who spoke at the occasion, Dr. Adetona Adesoji, stressed the lack of performance indicators, saying, “so many things we do in the health sector, the key performance indicator are not being identified.” 

Adesoji, who is a general pathologist with a special interest in gynae-pathology, pleaded with the government to coherently identify these key performance indicators. 

Another panellist, Dr. Emmanuel Aiyenigba, who is the Director and Improvement Advisor at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (HI), stressed said the importance of using data to tell stories. He said, “there are existing platforms /channels we can use to diffuse health knowledge to the people.” 

Dr. Adebowale Odunlana, who was also a panelist, said: “We need to focus our digital solutions to our patients where we can get feedback from patients via their own porter. Also not forgetting internal management in the hospital. The alumni of University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates assured that internal good management avoids the problem of collecting relevant information about incident reporting from the possible patient.”

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