Fashola pledges support for increased surgical capacity in West Africa

By: Chioma Umeha

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Monday pledged to support any initiative aimed at  increasing middle management surgical capacity across West Africa saying such increase in trained middle management surgeons would help check capital flight as a result of people seeking treatment  abroad from the sub-region. Governor Fashola, who spoke when he hosted Council Members of the West African College of Surgeons during their courtesy visit at the Lagos House, Alausa, said  the objective of such initiative would be to keep the people within the sub-region whenever there was a need for any surgical intervention. 

Addressing the Council Members led by the College President, Professor Herve Yangni- Angate, he restated his support to every initiative by the College to improve health services in the country. The governor said: “I believe that the objective which you have so clearly articulated is to keep our people, at the very worst, within the sub-region whenever there is a need for any surgical intervention. I believe it is realizable in a very short term. “We welcome the initiative to increase middle management surgical capacity across the sub-region and whatever support that we can give in terms of the expeditious consideration of the processes as you have requested be sure that I will give them as soon as I become aware of what needs to be done and where the processes lie,” Fashola said. 

Gov. Babatunde Fashola
 Pointing out that the Lagos State Government has invested much in the health sector to achieve the same objective, he declared, “So we see you as worthy partners. We have built all the hospitals, almost, built all the health facilities. But, truth be told, hospitals don’t treat. It is very good health workers who do. So we welcome that”. Governor Fashola also pledged to take healthcare to the grassroots in the state. His words: “Some of the things we have done here at the local level are aimed at re-awakening the primary healthcare system. We are committed to ensuring that at least every one of our 57 local governments has a 24-hour functional primary healthcare system. We just opened the sixth one last week”, the governor said. He said the objective was to reduce pressure on doctors in secondary and tertiary health institutions by categorizing the health challenges that could be taken directly to secondary and tertiary hospitals and those to be treated at the primary healthcare level. “Sometimes you hear that doctors see 50 to 60 patients a day, that is because all the patients go to one place. If we can deal with malaria, deal with tuberculosis, HIV Screening, antenatal care, regular checkups, simple surgeries, cuts and bruises at the local level; I think we would have really reduced the pressure”, the Governor said. He added: “Once we stabilize, we are now going to make access to secondary facilities dependent on referrals. So, if they don’t refer you, then you must go back and start from the bottom of the ladder except, of course, emergencies and life-threatening situations”. 

Governor Fashola disclosed the plan of his administration to open up the idle capacity existing in the private sector through the use of health insurance. He explained that with the introduction of health insurance, the capacity of the people to pay for treatments would increase, leading to a growth in the sector. “In that way, I think, doctors and health practitioners across board will ultimately be the beneficiaries of this, because I reckon that there is a lot of idle capacity there, and it is because people can’t pay. But if you put insurance as a boost, it will help people to pay for treatments”, the Governor said. Describing the initiative as “a serious business for us in Lagos healthcare”, the Governor declared, “We think that opportunities for employment, economic prosperity for our health workers is enormous”, adding, however, that such prosperity was going to come on the basis of skill development and competition. 

He explained further: “Rather than uniform wages, surgeons who can perform more complex surgeries deserve to be paid more, and they will be paid on the basis of their skills, they are professionals marketing very specialized skills”. Responding to the request for land by the Council members to build a College for the training of middle management surgeons, Governor Fashola disclosed that his administration has initiated a policy that would create what he called a medical village in the state. Explaining that the policy was initiated in response to the expression of interest by many Nigerian doctors abroad who have indicated their intention to come back home, but who insist that they want to open their own medical shops, clinics and hospitals, the Governor said. He added that the medical village would be a place where the different medical segments would practice in a cluster of interdependency. 

Earlier, in his opening remarks, the College President, Professor Yangni-Angate, paid glowing tribute to Governor Fashola for the tremendous achievements of his administration in the last six years, saying, it was an indication of his care for the citizens of the state. The President, who said Fashola, was the first governor of the state to grant the College Council the request for a courtesy visit and a place where the College will build facilities for training of surgeons to help address the manpower shortage in the health sector within the sub-region. Yangni-Angate added that it would also enable the college address the problem of accommodation. He later presented a book on the history of the 50-year-old institution to the governor. 

Also present at the occasion were the Deputy Governor, Hon.(Mrs.) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Secretary to the State Government, Dr. (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule, Head of Service, Mrs. Oluseyi Williams, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris and his Information and Strategy, Special Duties and Physical Planning and Urban Development counterparts, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba and Dr. Wale Ahmed. Others are Special Adviser Public Health, Dr. (Mrs.) Yewande Adesina, Professor (Mrs.) Subomi Ogedengbe, College Registrar Dr. Adedayo Adewunmi and a Past General Secretary and Council Member, Professor Clement Emeka Nwawolo among others.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 26,  2013.


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