By Matthew Denis
The Founder of West Africa’s leading air ambulance service, Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr. Ola Brown Orekunrin has decried the proliferation of hospitals in Nigeria.
She therefore urged the Federal Government to ensure the expansion of primary health centres in the country.
The medical doctor made the call while speaking at a conference organized on the theme ‘Funding Healthcare for All’, held at the Musa Yar’adua Conference Centre, Abuja at the weekend.
The medical expert argued that the numbers of hospitals in Nigeria need to reduce, not increase but the focus to be on expansion of primary care centers.
She said, “as healthcare advances, more can be done to treat patients that have what were previously disabling or life threatening conditions like burns, severe injuries or strokes. But, in order to provide complex healthcare safely, professional teams need to see sufficient volumes of patients with a particular condition.
“The potential benefits from specialisation are greater for some life threatening conditions like heart attacks and major injuries, but the safest treatments cannot be provided at small general hospitals because there are not enough patients for teams to maintain their skills. More lives can be saved if advanced services are centralised in more specialist hospitals.
She noted that the importance of focusing on determinants of health that lie upstream from hospitals cannot be overstated as Health systems in Nigeria should focus on optimising resource allocation to focus on reducing the disparity in healthy access and quality of health within the majority, rather than extending life for the minority.
“Nigeria has some of the poorest healthcare outcomes in the world. For example, the under-five mortality rate has been reported by the World Health Organization at 117 per 1000 live births. In other words, 1 in 10 Nigerian children under the age of 5 die annually.
“As our population continues to grow at rates as high as 4% the need for healthcare reform has never been more urgent. Hospitals are a big part of Nigeria’s problem.
Orekunrin emphasized that focus should be on emerging technologies and social reforms which Nigeria can tap on even at this stage to achieve modest morbidity and mortality rates.
“These include telemedicine, remote support for para clinical healthcare staff, institution of robust systems to manage patient journeys, protocolization of common and easily preventable disease management guidelines and efficient referral systems.
“A preventative health system would be primary and community based, and hinge on the shift in resource allocation from tertiary institutions (hospitals) to community and primary care facilities,” she added.