29 March 2009

Nigeria: 'Country Has Only 100 ENT Doctors'

Nigeria, with a population of 140 million citizens, has only 100 ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors, the Medical Director of the National Ear Care Centre, Kaduna, Professor Babagana M. Ahmad, has revealed.

Speaking to Sunday Trust in Kaduna last week, the medical director said that more than six million people are suffering from the disease across the country.

He said that a survey conducted in 2001 in three different states in Nigeria revealed that Katsina leads with the highest 7.6 percent, Akwa Ibom 4.4 percent and Benue 2.1 percent of people with hearing impairment.

The Northern part of the country is the worst hit due to prevalence of Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) ravaging the states. He added that despite the soaring cases of deafness in Nigeria, the situation is still given little attention.

The country, he said, has only one centre, established in 1999 as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) resolution of 1995 that recognised hearing impairment as a major health issue in Africa.

Professor Ahmad said that though the centre has finally got a permanent site after operating for a decade in borrowed facilities, the new site (the former Psychiatric School of the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Kaduna) is not fully operational because of the renovation and reconstruction works going on.

Inadequate funding, he said, is responsible for the snail pace of the renovations works. Manpower shortage is one of the centre's immediate problems, after funding. He attributed this to the employment embargo and bureaucratic bottleneck, as can't employ more staff despite its dire need for them.

He said the institution, which is the only one in the country, is currently operating with three consultants, two senior registrars, three medical doctors, 10 ENT nurses, 2 anaesthetic and one theatre nurses respectively.

"The centre has to source external ENT doctors and consultants to perform most of the centre's activities that include surgeries, audiology, endoscopy, school hearing screening services, speech therapy, hearing aid services and industrial hearing conversation services.

"Presently, the centre is using the facilities of the Kaduna State- owned Yusuf Dantsoho General Hospital, Tudun Wada, Kaduna (where it operated from since its relocation to Kaduna in 2003) to run its post-basic ENT nursing programme and primary health care course for community health officers, and extension workers, while it used the 44 Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna to perform surgery.

"We had to contend with the near absence of basic infrastructure such as water and power supply. The centre now relies on a generator and borehole for its power and water supply," the medical director said.

The medical director also commended the Minister of State for Health, Dr Idi Hong, who recently visited the centre and also pledge government commitment in providing adequate funds to enable the centre operate like other specialists hospitals in the country.

Apart from the training and workshops the centre constantly organised for nurses and primary health officers from across the country, other recommendations by WHO are yet to be fully adopted due to shortage of funds, equipment, infrastructure and manpower.

The equipment in the centre's consulting rooms, and the theatre among other facilities, it was gathered, was acquired through the annual allocation it receives from government since it never benefited from take-off grants, MDG funds and special grants like other specialist hospitals across the country.

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