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How to keep healthy this Yuletide, by Ogirima


Michael Ogirima Ozovehe

Michael Ogirima Ozovehe

Dr. Mike Ozovehe Ogirima, president, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), spoke with JOHN AKUBO in Lokoja on the implications of rising environmental pollution in the country, how to keep healthy this Yuletide and beat harmattan-related diseases among other issues. Excerpts.

The Yuletide is here. What is your advice to Nigerians on what they should or not eat?
Due to economic recession I don’t think people will go affluent to the extent of consuming anything. I advise Nigerians to spend less on anything that is wasteful, any food that is injurious to health; excessive consumption of alcohol is not advisable, smoking is not advisable. These are things that can inflict injuries to our system. Of course I would not pray for the economic recession to persist but we know that purchasing power of Nigerians have greatly reduced so we don’t expect a lot of celebration during this Yuletide session.

The Hartman season is here with the associated ailments like measles, meningitis and conjunctivitis. How do Nigerians guard themselves against these diseases?
You cannot avoid the diseases, this is their season. The thing is that government should give immunisation. There are vaccines that prevent some of the diseases like cerebrospinal meningitis, are very rampant in the dry hot season especially in the far north; immunization goes against that. It shouldn’t be occasional immunisation. This should be a routine immunisation to prevent this seasonal immunisation. Of course, early reportage especially from our community and local government. Local government should employ doctors, experienced health personnel who can detect these things at the early stage of epidemics. Once detected there should be proper channel of reporting so that community treatment can be initiated.

We are looking at the recent WHO report that indicated that four Nigerian cities are among the top 10 most polluted cities in the world. Do you agree with this and what are the health implications of the rising pollution in Nigeria?
Of course the World Health Organisation has their agencies scattered all over the world and such agencies have different foci that is they have different areas of concentration. If an agency that assess the level of pollution all over the world has come out with such data that there are four cities in Nigeria that ranks among the most polluted cities in the world it is as good as they are saying the obvious.

The effect of pollution anywhere boils down to the fact that it will add to the poor health indices we are having. Pollution is when you have contamination of the air and the environment. The air we breath we have those pollutants In the air and that means they can cause diseases like respiratory tract diseases, cough especially and those people who are asthmatic tent to have more attacks if air is polluted and therefore because of this respiratory tract diseases infections are also added may have a lot of morbidity and mortalities from the diseases which will add to the already precarious health indices that we are having in the country.

The epileptic power situation more people go for the alternative the use of generators the fumes of which have caused more damages in recent times what is your take?
Of course such alternative energy source have added a lot of pollutants to the air. You heard of recent in Nigeria where some families were lost because of the pollutions from petrol generators, so these are additional hazards causing more health pollutions. Carbon monoxide in an enclosed environment, which is a common gas that is emitted from all these generators because of the incomplete combustion of the generators, can cause a lot of damage to the blood and that can kill instantly.

What must be done to ameliorate the causes of these pollutants?
We should have bodies that are empowered to set up control to prevent these pollution and where in the environment pollutions exists they must trace the source of the pollution so the industries must be regulated to set up minimum emission of the pollutants, there should be a body like that. I know National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is a national agency charged with the regulation of our environment. Government should enforce strict penalties for desultory either individuals or corporate bodies.

The ministry of health recently confirmed to journalist that almost all cancer treatment machines, linear accelerators, are broken down and most patients are stranded. What is NMA doing considering the rise in cases of cancer in the country?
Well the minister is right, that is the stack reality that is facing us. One of the best ways of treating cancer is to irradiate it, if we don’t have a functioning center it becomes more difficult. We use to have one in Zaria, one in Abuja and in Ibadan three of them. The machines are broken down. As a professional association charged with the custody of citizens health we have been shouting that Government should fix those machines back and they should make sure they have a system where the maintenance of those machines are carried out regularly and if subsidy is also put in, in the costing of these services those subsidy should be realistic. People should pay for services rendered or you provide a subsidy so that if a machine is purchased there should be backup machines so that as soon as one is broken down the backup should take over not waiting until everything has broken down. There is a timeline in the treatment of cancer as patients are suffering; we must have a robust mechanism that these machines should be made to continuously function.

Most Nigerians are breaking down with mental disorders as a result of the economic recession, what is your outlook?
The way forward is for people to take their health very seriously as prevention is better than cure. Regularly people should check their Blood Pressure (BP) and not only that they should check their blood sugar if they are above the age of 30 to 35 so that the earlier these diseases are detected the better so that they are put on treatment. Of course economic recession has worsened it as people who are labelled hypertensive cannot even afford to pay for their drugs, they can’t even find the drugs to buy because most of the drugs are manufactured outside the country and they need foreign exchange to import them.

So my advice is for people to take issues of their health seriously, they should go for preventive measures. Early screening is recommended and as soon as they are detected there would be drugs to treat them, they should not wait until the problem is out of hand before they seek for advice.

What is the position of the NMA on the recent death of three National Youth Service Corps NYSC members?
This is the first time Corps members would die in camp, my take there is that the doctors that attended to them did their best. They referred them out camp, they didn’t delay their referral, and they referred them promptly. The next step the association is taking is to ensure each camp must be well linked with a senior supervising non-corps doctor, specialist for each camp. We will advice NYSC to engage the services of specialists that would be attached to each camps theses specialists are consultants in their own field so that wherever we have such problem these specialists are call in immediately.

Most of the corps doctors manning clinics in the camps are fresh doctors, fresh graduates from houseman ship, that is the one year mandatory post graduation internship period, it is after they finished that they moved to NYSC so we advice that if these doctors are not well versed in all the fields of medicine they should engage the services of specialist within the environment of the camp to supervise these clinics in all the camps. As soon as that is done it will checkmate a lot of the regular referrals that we may witness in our camps.

Why are you in Lokoja?
NMA is in Lokoja because we have a quarterly National executive council meeting and Kogi State NMA is hosting the national body and Lokoja being the capital of the State is naturally the center to host us. Of course it is traditional that anywhere we go for our national executive council meeting our presence is known. Gone are the days when doctors will go on strike, we have said it is time to give back to the society all the skills we have. We arrange free medical services; the consultations are free, materials we bring (the medical consumables) and we complement all these services with the government in place.

Here in Kogi State for the first time we have three simultaneous outreach stations, it used to be just one in any State we are meeting. But in Kogi State reading the political equation of the State we were advised and we have decided to stage the medical mission in each of the three senatorial districts and right now I have my team in Agassa, Okene Local Government, for the central. Ifeolukotun, which is in the West and Iyano Ibaji, which is in the east. We deliberately chose remote areas to have first hand information of the people’s plight so that we alas an association can now advocate for better health services in these areas.

For Nigerians we want them to continue to pray for doctors because they are also human beings. We are not enough; the ratio of doctor to patients is too high. I went Ifeolukotun yesterday, it was only one doctor serving that community, when would that doctor have peace, when is the doctor having his own weekend? When is he going to have recreational activities? These are the questions for Nigerians to help us ask the Government.

In this article:
Dr. Mike Ozovehe Ogirima
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