Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Providing free healthcare to Nigerians through medical outreach  

By Paul Adunwoke
03 September 2023   |   3:10 am
Many Nigerians rely on out-of-pocket payment for medical care, and this can be inadequate sometimes due to the high cost of treating some ailments. And with no social insurance policies as an alternative to some of the persons having difficulty paying for medical care through out-of-pocket, such persons rely on free medical outreach or friends and family…

Dr Diego Pulsar (LEFT), Dr Peter Anyaogu, Dr John Pepe, Dr Rodrigo Miquieles, and the Medical Director, Nisa-Garki Hospital, Abuja, Dr Adamu Onu.

Many Nigerians rely on out-of-pocket payment for medical care, and this can be inadequate sometimes due to the high cost of treating some ailments. And with no social insurance policies as an alternative to some of the persons having difficulty paying for medical care through out-of-pocket, such persons rely on free medical outreach or friends and family supports.

This is why some Nigerians have commended the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) over its ongoing 12 days medical outreach which is part of its annual conference this year.

The NBA through the medical outreach would be providing free medical care including surgeries for indigent members of the society at Nisa Garki Hospital, Abuja.

The free medical care, which started six days ago, August 28, expected to run till Friday, September 8, 2023 in Abuja is a collaboration between NBA along with Moses Lake Medical Team, Washington State, United States of America and Kebbi State government. The medical outreach is coordinated by National Welfare Committee of the NBA.

Speaking on the outreach, the Secretary, National Welfare Committee of NBA, Nekabari Annah, stated that the purpose of the medical outreach is to care for indigent people who have health challenges, but unable to fund their medical treatment.

“We know that things are hard and as part of the corporate social responsibility of the NBA to Nigerians, we are offering this medical outreach.
“Usually this medical outreach should have been for lawyers alone and members of their families but we feel the sense of responsibility to other Nigerians and that’s why we are throwing the door open to anybody who have different health challenges and would want to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.

The secretary disclosed that the medical outreach is expected to cover treatments on: hernia, breast mass/lump, appendix, lipoma, Arthritis, hole in the heart, glacoma, fibroids, back pain, dental cases, bone infection among other cases.

Annah also stated that there are no target of patients to be attended to in the course of the outreach.

He said so far days after the outreach started 62 patients with 51 patients in need of surgical assistance have been attended.
He, therefore pleaded with the media to give the programme better publicity so that more Nigerians can come forward to benefit from the outreach.

The spokesperson of Moses Lake medical team, Diebo Puloam, said that the medical personnel on ground are very willing and ready to treat as many patients as can be attended to that needs treatment before the time limit.

“We are very grateful for the warm welcoming given to us by the hospital management, the NBA and from Nigerians,” he added.

The Head of Surgeon, Zanko Galam, who was grateful about the opportunity to serve, believed that the medical outreach is a great opportunity for indigent Nigerians to get treated for free.
He commended the medical experts, especially as they have been paying close attention to the patients.

Moses Lake Medical Team was founded by a Nigerian, Dr Lateef Olaniyan in Moses Lake Washington USA.
Olaniyan, an indigene of Kwara State, holds B.S Pharmacy from Idaho State University Pocatello, Idaho and Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm D) from the University of Florida.

Olaniyan is the owner of Southgate Pharmacy in Moses Lake Washington, opened in 2010 and provides employment for 10 people. He is also the owner of Benton Southgate Pharmacy in Prosser Washington.

Olaniyan is passionate about humanity, because of this he founded the Moses Lake Medical Team in 2008 and registered the organisation as a charity, a nonprofit entity.
Members of Moses Lake Medical Team reside in various parts of the United States, Chile and, South America.

Olaniyan has led the medical team to Nigeria and other countries many times for medical missions
He has not only led Medical Missions to Kwara State, between 2016 and 2019, his team had six different medical outreaches performed in Kebbi State.

In 2008, the medical team came to Specialists Hospital, Ilorin and Pategi General Hospital in Pategi, Kwara State. This was followed by another visit in 2009 to Pategi General Hospital and Lafiagi General Hospital, Kwara State while in 2010, the medical team worked with Lagos State Ministry of Health to perform free medical outreach.

Olaniyan was awarded the Most Outstanding Kwara State Indigene in the world, beating other nominees in a voting that was thrown open to the public.
As at 2019, the Moses Lake Medical Team had treated over 90,000 patients, performed over 1000 surgeries, extracted over 2,000 rotten teeth, provided over 7,000 pairs of glasses, performed over 22,000 lab tests, and 314 physical therapies.

Since they are a medical/dental team, they do not provide food, clothing or monies to the patients and their families, instead, they provide high quality free healthcare, using the most current standard of care and practice guideline.

The Moses Lake Medical Team is funded through private contributions and donations of individuals and organisations, acting as a conduit between those with health resources and those with health needs.
Currently, Olaniyan is working with Seattle KSANG to supply a container of medical equipment to various healthcare facilities in Kwara State. Just recently, he participated in, and facilitated providing scholarships to 10 University of Ilorin students, compliment of Seattle KSANG. He has been a member of KSANG (Seattle Chapter) since 2014.

He also remodeled five classrooms at St. Paul’s School, Omu Aran; equipped seven classrooms with desks and benches, sunk boreholes Omu Aran and provided 500 backpacks with school supplies to primary school students amongst other things he has been doing silently over the years.

Before this present medical outreach by NBA, its immediate past president, Mr. Olumide Akpata took the welfare of lawyers a notch higher with a partnership agreement between the association, the NNPC Health Management Organisation and Garki Hospital, Abuja, which resulted in enrolling a thousand lawyers in the National Health Insurance Scheme.

The package covers group, individual and Family Social Health Insurance Programme (GIFSHIP), in a pilot phase which Akpata described as a game changer in caring for the well-being of lawyers and their families across the country.

The NHIS-GIFSHIP is a Health Insurance Scheme for lawyers conceptualised by the then Akpata-led NBA Executive through the innovation and industry of the Welfare Committee chaired by Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN.

At the inaugural ceremony in Abuja the former President Akpata described the event as epochal, signaling the beginning of other welfare packages for lawyers even as he recalled efforts in the past to provide insurance cover for lawyers.

“This has been a long journey for us. Today we official received the ID cards from the NHIS for 1000 members who were enrolled into the pilot scheme. It is a shared moment because for me it signals the beginning of many good things.
“I personally encourage Nigerians to embrace health insurance because there is no way we can have adequate and quality healthcare by paying out of pocket.”

He said while members were willing to support colleagues who fell sick, the cost of care for ailments as kidney dialysis and orthopedic surgery is astronomical.
He cited the case of a lawyer who required N7m for hip replacement.
“Presently he cannot walk anymore; he cannot practice his profession. So we’ve been telling our members that you don’t need to wait until you find yourself in that situation.
“That is why we said let us enroll, let us look for the best and the most affordable health insurance provider”, he explained.

He praised his colleagues who did the spade work on the health insurance scheme, working with the NHIS to agree on a pilot phase, beginning with 1,000 members across the country.
The Medical Director at Garki Hospital, Dr Adamu Onu, was excited by the development. “This is truly an epochal event, because the truth is that we cannot take our healthcare to the next level without considering health financing and health financing cannot thrive by paying out of pocket.

“Unfortunately, over the years the health insurance coverage has not been as wide as it should be. So, the fact that the NBA is coming on board is very significant. Their coming on board is to make it known to the public that yes this is a scheme that can work,” he noted.

Onu described health insurance as the future of healthcare in Nigeria. “I think people need to realise that if we want a health system like they have in United kingdom (UK), Canada and other developed countries, we need to have a well-developed health financing mechanism.

“Go to Europe and see how advanced their systems are, It’s not people paying money out of their pockets the way we do in Nigeria,” he argued.

He said Garki Hospital embraced the vision a long time ago as one of the few hospitals in the country running the health insurance scheme.

“Two-thirds of the patients that uses this hospital are on health insurance, so out of pocket patients are actually a minority and even the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has acknowledged that and regard us as a model hospital for NHIS in Nigeria.

Indeed, Onu used the opportunity to identify areas of improvement for Nigeria’s health insurance scheme as proper documentation of beneficiaries and their records as well as standardisation to streamline areas of insurance coverage.

Garki Hospital, accredited by the NHIS in 2008, currently has one of the largest number of NHIS enrollees in the FCT and the only PPP that accepts secondary referrals from other facilities. The hospital is also the only facility that carries out specialised surgery under the NHIS scheme.

The hospital has over 187,000 patients registered on Electronic Medical Record application, 33,906 NHIS enrollees spread across 55 Health Maintenance Organisations (HMO).
Under the FCT Health Service Scheme, the hospital attends to 8139 enrollees from three HMOs, its Private Health Insurance Scheme has 1831 enrollees spread across 35 organisations and it offers corporate services to 10,502 persons from 16 registered organisations.

Onu said the scheme is working smoothly because the hospital ensures open and transparent billing system and ensures that no patient waits for more than 30 minutes before seeing a doctor.

Executive Secretary NHIS, Prof. Mohammed Nasir Sambo on a visit to the hospital, praised the PPP model operating at the hospital which he said has manifested in efficient management of human and material resources.

He promised to partner with the hospital on its cost-effective method for delivering healthcare services.