Wednesday, May 31, 2023

FEATURE: Sokoto’s Health Infrastructure Roadmap, by Ibraheem Yahaya

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Since hosting the nation’s health policymakers for the fifty-eighth National Council on Health in 2016, Sokoto state has been a thriving space of health reforms and improved health facilities. The inauguration of a multi-billion Naira Sokoto State Advanced Medical Diagnostic Centre in Farfaru marked the end of an eventful 2021 for Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and the project emphasizes the administration’s dedication to revamping health infrastructure and services across the state.

The diagnostics centre was set up to intervene in providing first-rate medical services in the state and boasts of cutting-edge medical equipment and technologies to rival some of the best across the world. For a nation heavily dependent on medical tourism to some of the most expensive destinations in the world, the wisdom of availing top-class and affordable medical services and facilities is a wise and timely investment, especially now that the pandemic has taught policymakers of developing countries hard lessons on relying on foreign hospitals.

With units that cater for diverse needs from radiology down through dental care to cardiology, the center benefits from high-end equipment like Panscope Magnetic Image Resonance (MRI 0.3 tesla), GE 16 Slice CT Scanner, fluoroscopy machine, EEG machine, along with Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) workstation, complete ophthalmology, hematology, microbiology, histopathology, and chemical pathology equipment, among others.

This ambitious project has driven the passion for the actualization of the record-breaking Sokoto State University Teaching Hospital. In late 2020, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State formally laid the foundation for the widely lauded project for which a sum of 10 billion has been set aside by the state government. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Muhammed Ali Inname, had previously introduced the project, and underlined that the driving objective of embarking on the mega project was to build a world-class teaching hospital, one based on the application of advanced technology and highly-skilled manpower to provide excellent services and train generations of doctors and health personnel. The aim, Dr. Inname, further asserted was to project Nigeria and the West African region as a thriving hub for medical tourism.

Outstandingly, the Sokoto State University Teaching Hospital is designed to function as the largest in West Africa and boasts of impressive 1060-bed space. The hospital is linked to three 150-bed capacity new premier hospitals situated in each of the senatorial districts in the state, which are in Binji, Sabon Birni, and Tambuwal, and would serve as an accessible hub for referring patients from the rural areas. The hospitals serve the rural demographics previously at the mercy of primary health care centers or the distant urban hospitals.

The organization and categorization of health services in the state has eased delegation of responsibilities and effectiveness of the reforms championed by the state. On assuming power, for instance, Governor Tambuwal established Sokoto State Contributory Healthcare Management Agency, SOCHEMA to drive efficiency in the health sector. Such organizational direction or focus guides the implementations of proposed or studied solutions.

While there is Sokoto State Drugs and Medical Supplies Management Agency (SDMA) spearheading availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality of essential drugs in the state to ensure the attainment of Universal Health Coverage and facilitate drugs supply system, there’s also Sokoto State Eye Care Programme, which oversees eye care solutions, and have conducted surgeries on patients in rural communities of Sokoto State. The programme has undertaken surgeries to correct the eyesight of 2,443 cataract patients, along with 3,219 related eye surgeries. The programme has also led to the screening of a total of 59,853 people from various communities across the State.

The inspiring accomplishment in the TB Control Programme, which has shown the state’s commitment to preventing communicable diseases, the Ministry of Health has led interventions like the annual medical outreaches to address tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV/AIDs, and leprosy. This wouldn’t have been possible without the training and retraining of LGAs DSNOs and their assistants on regular surveillance and outbreak response management analysis system (SORMAS), which was done in collaboration with the National Centre for Disease Control Sokoto. The other notable interventions in the state include sustained supply of albendazole drugs to health care facilities and schools for the treatment of worms, annual procurement, and distribution of malaria drugs, and annual fumigation for the control of malaria.

Sokoto state has been a place of hope for Noma patients, who’ve undergone constructive surgeries, and so have been vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) patients. Maryam Abacha Women and Child Hospital was established to treat VVF cases, and they have been drastically reduced due to intensive public enlightenment on the causes of the health problem. The State’s efforts to combat VVF have been ranked as the first in the country and commended by the Federal Ministry of Health for the validity, reliability, timeliness, precision, completeness, and integrity of data management of the programme.

With 860 health facilities across the state, which keep on getting rehabilitated, expanded, and equipped with advanced technologies, it’s easy to see how the state stood out even the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in the first quarter of 2020. The state prioritized the welfare of health workers and doubled their hazard allowances ad interim.

Governor Tambuwal’s passion for health is palpable, and there couldn’t have been the best test of the state’s health infrastructure as much as the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, which has over-stretched health facilities all over the world. With initiatives like the Healthcare Under One Roof and Contributory Health Scheme, Sokoto’s path to building and sustaining model health infrastructure and services is a legacy with applauding.

Yahaya is a public affairs analyst and wrote from Gwarinpa, Abuja.


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