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Bridging access gap in medical services in local communities

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
18 November 2022   |   2:06 am
Many Nigerians are at risk of dying from diseases and chronic health conditions that can be well treated in the country owing to lack of access to medical care and distance to health facilities.

Many Nigerians are at risk of dying from diseases and chronic health conditions that can be well treated in the country owing to lack of access to medical care and distance to health facilities.

To address this challenge and also save the lives of Nigerians, who live in the hinterland, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Nigeria, and several implementing partners have adopted ECHO model for HIV/TB clinical mentoring and programme support.

The objective is to build health workforce capacity in HIV & AIDS, TB, COVID-19, Cancer, Critical Care, IPC, NCD, Palliative Care, Agriculture, Education and many other areas.

Speaking at the meeting organised by the public health information system in collaboration with CDC in Abuja, the Coordinator, West African ECHO (WARE), Dr. Azuka Nnaji, said that a lot of pressure is put on the health facilities in the cities in Nigeria and Africa in general because patients believe that the expertise is in the cities and many people lose their lives in an attempt to come from villages to the city.

She explained that ECHO was developed to move knowledge instead of people, adding that through ECHO partners, more and more underserved Nigerian citizens are now able to get the right medical care, at the right time, in their local communities.

Nnaji said that the meeting was to bring together various organisations in Nigeria that are using the ECHO platform Hepatitis, HIV, COVID-19 and using ECHO in Agriculture, education and other areas.

She said: “This is the first country meeting with organisations using the ECHO platform. It started in Mexico in 2003 when a doctor lost a patient who was trying to come from the hinterland to the city to get treatment from hepatitis but died on the way. West African Regional ECHO was used to train incident managers in the West African Sub region on COVID-19. It was a sustainable instrument to train them, now that there is a COVID-19 fatigue we are incorporating other diseases of public health concerns including non-communicable diseases. The whole idea is to build the capacity to health workers in the villages so that they will not have to come from the villages to the city to learn. The patients don’t have to come to the cities to be able to see a doctor. Over 500 facilities in Nigeria are connected to the platform. The major objective is to save lives.”

Also speaking, Project lead at the Public Health information Surveillance and Systems (PHIS 3), Prosper Onyekachukwu, stated that over 6000 people have benefitted from the project every week since 2018, adding that the project is helping to build Capacities of Health workers and health facilities that are providing services to patients.

He said: “We train nurses, doctors, pharmacists, counselors on how to provide better services to patients to achieve epidemic control, reduce new infections. We are working towards zero detection. ECHO has been in Nigeria since 2017 and later progressed to Sustaining Positive Impact for the Control of Epidemic in Nigeria (SPiCE ECHO) involving all the 500 CDC supported facilities to showcase coverage into other diseases areas beyond HIV and AIDS to TB and other non-communicable diseases.”

On her part, a Deputy Director at the NCDC, Dr. Fatima Saleh, observed that the Centre is critical stakeholders in the ECHO project, adding that ECHO platform has been used to build capacities of incident managers in the public health emergency operation centre.

She noted that the project would strengthen the healthcare system because skilled workforce is crucial in strengthening any health care system and providing quality health care services.