3 January 2010

Nigeria: NMA Advocates Better Emergency Health Services

Abeokuta — Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has called for better emergency services in medical institutions across Nigeria. It also emphasized the need for attitudinal change on the side of health workers towards patients in delicate conditions at emergency times.

Ogun State chapter of the association made the call at Adeoye Memorial Lecture, tagged, "Save Lives: Make Hospitals Safe in Emergencies," to commemorate the 2009 Physicians' Week at the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, the state capital.

Chairman of chapter, Oluwole Kukoyi, in his address, said all the stakeholders in the health sector share the responsibility of ensuring that the hospitals are made safe in emergency conditions.

He said, "As a result of this central role played by hospitals in our communities, all of us - government, health workers, the communities - share the responsibility of making sure the hospitals are resilient and safe in the face of emergencies."

Kukoyi, who said the event was to address medical issues of global significance, said the adoption of the World Health Organization's (WHO) theme was to underscore the importance of investing in health infrastructure that could withstand hazards and serve people in immediate needs.

He said, NMA was "focusing on the safety on health facilities in Nigeria and the readiness of our health workers who treat those affected by emergencies, realizing that health centers and staff are critical lifelines for vulnerable people in disasters.

"Hospitals are more than just buildings, as they are a vital asset at the heart of a community; the place where often life starts and ends," the president pointed out while believing that Nigeria has experienced resources that can contain Nigeria's situation in respect of handling emergencies.

While presenting the first paper titled, "Pre-Hospital Care of Emergencies; Patient Loading and Transfer," the Coordinator of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, O. O. Farotimi, called for training and retraining of medical personnel on emergency cases.

Farotimi, who called for the "insulation of health care facilities from political manipulation," faulted the delay in the diagnosis of patients in critical conditions.

He identified bad transportation networks, inadequate ambulances, inefficient emergency medical services, lack of good communication network and technical know-how of personnel, as the major challenges of emergency health care delivery in Nigeria.

Head of Hospital Services, State Hospital, Ijaiye, Nurudeen Aigoro, while presenting the second paper, titled, "Surgical Emergencies: Care from Hospital Entrance to Discharge," faulted governments at all levels for not involving teaching hospitals in the activities of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its states counterparts, SEMA.

He pointed out that Nigerian hospitals are "ready" to cater for the emergency health care needs of the citizenry based on the lack of basic infrastructure and equipment, adequate power and water supply, and the lackadaisical attitude of personnel towards patients.

Aigoro called for attitudinal change in medical practitioners, adding that their interest and zeal in rendering their services will go a long way in saving more lives.

A resource person from the Department of Family Medicine, Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), A. J. Ariba, noted that any citizen in distress should have access to emergency medical services at any point in time.

In his paper, titled, "Medical Emergency: Care from Hospital Gate Until Discharge," the speaker faulted "avoidable" protocols in hospitals and long queues at emergency centres due to lack of adequate facilities and personnel as the bane of emergency service delivery.

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