Kebbi free medical outreach is bearing fruit, says Commissioner
In this interview with AHMADU BABA IDRIS in Birnin Kebbi, shortly after the fifth free medical outreach at Kalgo Hospital, Commissioner for Health, Alhaji Umar Usman Kambaza, highlights some of the achievements recorded in the sector by his ministry
What has the ministry achieved since your assumption of duty?
The Kebbi State Government, under the leadership of Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, has recorded tremendous achievements through the ministry, which are tangible and have direct bearing on the lives of the people of the state.
The governor has invited different professional teams of medical personnel from different countries and within Nigeria for about five times now on what is called free medical outreached.
The first time exercise was held at Sir Yahya Memorial Hospital in Birnin Kebbi and Zuru, where doctors conducted surgeries and treated different illnesses, such as optical, dental and other medications for thousands of people freely. Medicines were also given free to patients.
The second, third, fourth and fifth round of the outreach was held at Kebbi Medical Centre, Kalgo, where thousands of people across the 21 councils of the state and outside the state benefited.
In addition, the governor give financial support to various councils to enable them transport their patients to and fro Kalgo, as well as for their feeding, which some patients testified to.
Seeing the positive impact and impressive response the initiative has had on health of the people, accompany by goodwill prayers from the masses for his leadership and divine protection for him, the governor staged another round of the outreach by inviting yet another team of medical doctors to the state for the exercise, which has just been rounded up at Kebbi Medical Centre, Kalgo, for the duration of three weeks.
These doctors from within and outside Nigeria conducted free services on the people, such as free consulting, free laboratory tests, free X-rays, ultra sounds, surgery, dental, optical and other services free of charge.
Consultation, surgical and medical treatment cards were also given free.
How many patients benefited from the exercise?
During the recent and previous exercises, we were able to conduct medical surgeries and assorted physio and chemotherapies free of charge, running into over 400,000 cases, including those that came from neighbouring states and countries.
The exercise had no embargo. For the records, a total of 500,000 patients from 21 councils and beyond were seen, from which 70,563 prescriptions were made and filled (based on American way of prescription filling) and about 3,890 surgeries were carried out.
Surgeries entail expensive drugs and outpatients seen at the outreach centre must have collected two or more prescribed drugs.
The outreach was an important and challenging task, which was completed successfully. Throughout the programme, we ensured speed and transparency in drug counseling and dispensation, based on certified prescription presentation to the pharmacy.
How were you able to tackle the challenges, especially in the area of coordination?
It was miraculous; we very much appreciate the efforts of the governor, whose commitment to our needs in coordinating the health personnel who came for the outreach from different countries to make the exercise a huge success.
He did it out of passion and is committed to the welfare of the people. It was not easy, but he tasked us, which made us to work 24-hours daily towards the success of the programme, for which we are very grateful.
Indeed, the governor and his wife, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, made us proud, because they worked vigorously to ensure the success of the outreach.
They also ensured, through the various MDAs/Local Government that patients who safely and freely arrived at the venue, got free treatment, accommodation, feeding, and free transport back to their destinations. They also made provisions for adequate security at the venue.
The governor’s efforts are very commendable and we extend our gratitude to the security agents and journalists for their efforts in ensuring orderliness and proper publicity, respectively, during the exercises.
All these could not have been achieved without the support of donor agencies. What is the relationship between the state government and donors and how is their presence in the state?
The presence of the donor agencies, in terms of partnership, such as WHO, UNICEF, USAID, and others, is very commendable and impressive. They give us technical support and apply commodities to the state. We have paid all our counterpart funds, which enabled us to achieve what we have achieved.
The state has done a lot in maternal mortality, immunisation, treatment of leprosy, malaria, measles and other killer diseases with the support of donor agencies in collaboration with the state government.
Which other areas has your ministry recorded remarkable achievements?
We have recorded many achievements, especially in primary health care delivery system, because of the concern for malaria.
Recently, the governor directed the ministry to come up with a blueprint on the fight and elimination of malaria in the state, which we have done. We have distributed mosquito nets to various households, with support from our supporting partners.
Unfortunately, some people either do not sleep in the nets or just misuse them. We are, therefore, appealing and advising the people to not just collect the nets, but to utilise them.
Presently, we have distributed about 2.6 million mosquito nets across the state supported by the USAID.
How is the issue of nutrition?
You are aware of the importance of nutrition in human life and children, so Kebbi is leaving no stone unturned in the advocacy on the value of nutrition to ensure the kind of food taken. There is no doubt that the state is the pride of the nation in the cultivation of many proteinous foodstuffs.
The ministry has many programmes of enlightenment campaign on nutrition, as most of the people, although have the foodstuffs, such as beans, groundnut, etc, but do not know modern ways of processing them.
We are doing a lot in educating the people on how to process and consume these foodstuffs properly. Recently, we opened two nutrition campaign offices in Shanga and Ngaski councils, with professionals to advise and educate women on how to process the foodstuffs.
What is the situation with the issue of exclusive breastfeeding of babies from zero to six months old?
I think people should know that even before now, our grandmothers used to advise us to continue giving babies pure, exclusive breast milk without giving them water for six months.
Investigations show that feeding the baby purely on breast milk for the six months of life is the best feeding step for the child. About 80 percent of the breast milk constituent is water, so the baby does not need extra water, as this can interfere with the child’s ability to suck breast adequately and get the nutrients in breast milk.
The breast milk contains many immune activating enzymes and nutrients that can resist some infant diseases.
We, therefore, advise the nursing mothers to adhere to breastfeeding exclusively in the first six months of the babies’ lives and the cooperation of the husband is also important.
How far has the ministry gone on the issue of saving one million lives in the state?
The programme was done and it was successful. In the first place, Saving One Million Lives (SOML) started in Kebbi ahead of most states of the federation.
The work plan developed was based on the challenges identified on the recent SMART survey and interventions were geared towards addressing them. The Integrated Supportive Supervision for Saving One Million Lives programme, which was held between June 15, 2017 and June 16, last year, was successfully concluded in the all councils of the state.
A review meeting was summoned to identify the challenges and bottlenecks, so as to serve as the baseline data on which interventions could be justified.
Based on the assessment conducted at the beginning of the programme, a meeting was summoned to address the incumbent challenges and to review the work plan to suit how to overcome the constraints and uplift the indices per programme.
While the Saving One Million Lives encourages innovation and learning in the private and public sectors, the ISS result necessitated the institutionalisation of the ‘Performance-Based Financing’ in some selected health facilities as pilot programme.
Although the UNICEF-EUMNCH has made a provision in this year’s budget to scale up the financing, it is imperative to note that the innovation is already yielding results, as preliminary report from the ongoing ISS has it that the primary health centres (PHCs), where it has been introduced, have changed for the better.
Therefore, the SOML was assessed on May 24, last year and the assessment team discovered that apart from the late take-off, the programme was involved in a lot of problems, including putting the structures together and still far from achieving PHCUOR.
The overall score was 18 percent, just above Zamfara State in the northwest.
A second Performance Management Assessment (PMA) was conducted in October last year, where the SMOL score was 100 percent, which is an indication that the minimum criteria of the Key Performance Management Indicators, as in PAD, were therefore achieved.
The above experience led us to explore possible ways of averting the death of these vulnerable people, expectant mothers and babies. The preventive step has to do with the involvement of the Federal Ministry of Health, which came out with the SOML programme.
The programme, therefore, is to checkmate the aforementioned mortality, through effective overturn.
First of all, the programme is to, amongst others, create awareness among expectant mothers for them to be visiting health care delivery institution for antenatal care, at least three to four times before delivery.
There, they could be given professional advice and drugs free of charge, as well as mosquito to prevent malaria attacks that can cause miscarriage.
The programme has begun in earnest, in three councils. The women from the surrounding villages are given free transport fares to and fro the health centres.
We earmarked from N10, 000 to N15, 000 for visiting expectant mothers from first visit to time of delivery. After delivery, the mother is advised to continue to visit the centres to assess the child’s growth, as well as on how to handle the child and to bring the child for routine immunisation against the child killer diseases.
Another programme was introduced for all the 225 political wards. We want to have at least one functional PHC in every ward, fully equipped, where pregnant women can attend antenatal and deliver safely on time.
We make arrangement for two drivers to convey women in labour to the centres for delivery. The vehicles pick the women from their homes to the nearest health centres and these services are free.
We have proposed 14 general hospitals that would be renovated, starting with Argungu General Hospital, then Kamba General Hospital.
This administration has renovated and constructed more hospitals across the state. The governor has absorbed over 40 medical students who study outside the country, as well as some nurses and midwives into the public service and also constructed clinics and renovated hospital in Argungu, Bunza Yauri and Zuru, etc.