By Tajudeen Kareem
The recent observations of Mr. Bill Gates, the American billionaire-philanthropist is not lost on policy makers and managers in Nigeria’s health sector. After considering several policy options, the Federal Government, last April, unveiled the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP. The 140-page package seeks to address three broad areas of the economy: growth, investing in people and building a globally competitive economy by 2020.
While the nation grapples with inadequate critical infrastructure, Mr. Gates, like many other informed commentators, believes that the most enduring investment should be in human capital development. Indeed, investment in education and healthcare are tangible and critical to producing competent, able and informed citizenry to manage the gains of economic growth.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo posits that the primary plank of the ERGP is ‘Investing in People’. That is why the government is expanding the reach and quality of healthcare through the National Health Insurance Scheme. That is also why government is striving to guarantee basic education for all citizens by upgrading and modernising the quality of primary and secondary education.
Nigeria’s health care policy is premised on strengthening the nation’s health system to deliver an effective, efficient, accessible, affordable and comprehensive healthcare to all Nigerians. The main thrust is to transform tertiary health institutions into centers where health service innovations are generated and plowed back to benefit other sectors of the society.
For more than two decades, the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, UITH, has provided total quality healthcare that guarantees satisfaction to patients, staff and students. During the inauguration of new management boards for health institutions and agencies, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole emphasised the need for health institutions to have the desired impact on the lives of citizens.
“It is the expectation of this administration that
each governing board will put measures in place that will strengthen the resource base of your agencies and institutions, increase internally generated revenue and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of these resources in line with financial regulation”, the minister said.
Two weeks after inauguration, the 14-member UITH board led by Olorogun O’tega Emerhor held its first meeting in Ilorin where members got first-hand briefings on the status of the hospital. Activities were business-like as concrete targets were outlined to improve on the cutting-edge feats recorded by the 38-year old institution.
The acting Chief Medical Director of UITH, Prof. Mikhail Buhari promised to run an hospital “that is able to deliver quality patient-friendly, affordable healthcare services by high performing and motivated staff, using cutting-edge technology in the face of dwindling resources”.
He listed the challenges facing the institution as scarce financial resources, ageing infrastructures and equipment, frequent industrial unrests, with consequent reduction in client confidence and patronage, fund constraint limiting much-needed expansion and innovation.
Prof. Buhari also unfolded a four-point intervention strategy built on strong systems for governance, performance measurement and management, capacity building, financial management, accountability and value for money principles.
“A hospital is a microcosm community that operates like a small city, presenting the same issues with stronger dynamics due to the human interaction factor. Our primary focus will be how to nurture an highly-motivated, well-trained and high performing personnel. The overall objective is to facilitate optimal patient outcomes,” he explained.
Specifically, he promised to deploy his experience in labour matters and conflict resolution to:
*Improve training and expansion through restructuring of the Residency training programme to increase available specialised personnel, including continuous professional education for all categories of health workers;
*Institute strong performance monitoring and management and disciplinary system in line with the civil service rules;
*Give prompt attention to staff promotions and welfare issues;
* Provide a conducive work environment and appropriate work tools;
*Hold regular meetings with staff and ensure open-door policy to address problems promptly;
*Facilitate good inter-personal relationships in the hospital and hold regular pre-emptive engagements with unions to reduce work stoppages and strikes.
The board members also created time to visit the Emir of Ilorin and the Kwara State Governor. The emir, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari described the newly constituted management board of the hospital as a formidable team even as he pledged his royal support while receiving members of the board at his palace in Ilorin. The board, he noted, parades individuals who have made their mark either in the public or the private sector.
“We expect good performance from a good team composed of tested professionals. We are itors.
happy that our own son, Prof. Mikhail Buhari is the acting chief medical director, we assure you of our support”, the royal father told his visitors.
Earlier, the chairman of the board, Olorogun Emerhor said members were in the palace to pay homage on the emir and solicit royal blessing for their tenure. He reiterated the determination of the hospital to discharge its mandate on research, teaching and healing the sick diligently. He also promised that the new board will position the teaching hospital as one of the best in the country in pursuance of government’s determination to minimize medical tourism.
At the Government House, Ilorin, the Chairman told Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed that the board is poised to make UITH a reference point in healthcare research, training and delivery by working as a team. He also praised the efforts of the State Government in improving healthcare facilities in the state even as he listed the challenges facing the teaching hospital.
Specifically, the chairman asked the Governor to intervene and stop the encroachment on UITH land, help find solution to inadequate water supply; provide internal roads, solar street light and a waiver or discount on tax liabilities of the hospital. He also urged the Governor to consider the restoration of counterpart funding to the hospital.
Governor Ahmed described the UITH board as a formidable team and urged Olorogun Emerhor to bring his experience in the private sector to bear on the performance of the hospital. He also emphasized the importance of healthcare and education in human capital development even as he bemoaned the inadequate finance in these critical sectors.
“In sub-Saharan Africa we have not done enough for healthcare. Affordability and access remain formidable hurdles while population is growing. We have increasing pressure on facilities so we need to optimize resource allocation and provide requisite funding,” the Governor observed.
He promised to consider the requests tabled by the UITH board and urged the hospital to explore how to improve biomedical engineering in the country in line with global trends.
The UITH is a second-generation teaching hospital established in 1980. It started operation using its temporary site, the then General Hospital and Maternity Hospital, Ilorin, owned by the Kwara State Government. The permanent site of the hospital was opened by former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in May 2007.