Two years after public outcry over the unavailability of medicines at the State House Clinic, Abuja, Daily Trust investigations have shown that the problem still persist.
The hospital has however made considerable improvement in service delivery, especially in the area of acquisition of medical equipment, staff attitude, child friendly services, and laboratory tests among others.
As at 2017, the clinic reportedly could not boast of basic things like syringes, gloves and paracetamol inspite of the billions of naira allocated to it. About N9.14 billion was allocated to the clinic from 2007 to 2017.
The situation was such that the Wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, said the hospital could not boast of syringes during her visit to the hospital. The President's daughter, Zahra Buhari, also claimed via her social media handles that the hospital could not provide ordinary paracetamol inspite of the N331.7 million allocated to it.
Some people questioned the huge budgetary allocation to the health facility, especially as the first family and senior government officials continued to travel abroad for treatment.
While commending the hospital for some of the improvements made in the last two years, patients told Daily Trust that the drug scarcity problem at the hospital, especially for serious conditions still needed to be addressed.
A patient who craved anonymity said, "drug is still a problem at the hospital. When you get to the pharmacy, they will mark the available ones and ask you to go outside and buy the rest. The ones they have are often fewer than the ones you buy outside. If the drugs you need are like 10, you only get those for minor ailments. For others, you may get some and buy the remaining outside," he said.
The patient added that nurses at the clinic have an exceptionally good attitude. "The nurses here are very nice .Their attitude is different from what you see in other public hospitals. You hardly see any rudeness. I don't know if they are just like that or there is a management policy mandating them to do so. They are also very good in recognising and following up on their patients."
However, another patient who accesses care at the hospital disagreed that drug scarcity still persist at the hospital. "It is before that drugs were scarce. The clinic has now been revived. The pharmacy has been giving me all the drugs prescribed for me whenever I go there. It is only for serious diseases like cancer or the ones that require surgery that they ask you to buy some drugs outside or refer you to other hospitals. I know people who come here for high blood pressure, typhoid, malaria, asthma and others and they did not buy drugs outside," he said.
Another patient, Jummai, said she thinks the clinic's services have improved. "I went to the hospital for eye check and everything went fine. I was tested and given drugs," she said.
Asked about the present situation of services and drugs at the hospital, a source said things have improved on so many fronts and were still improving.
"Improvement has been on an on-going and continuous basis. There has been a fairly regular supply of medications and medical consumables which have been adequate to sustain patients who visit the clinic from time to time," he said.
Daily Trust reports that the clinic recorded milestones within the last two years.
There were improvements in the renal dialysis and cardiology units. Two months ago, two state-of-the-art dialysis machines were launched at the hospital. The reporter visited the dialysis unit and observed that the machines were being utilized for patients.
Tunde (not his real name) is a staff of the State House. He suffers from kidney problem and accesses care at the clinic. He was all praises for the management of the hospital for the acquisition of the new dialysis machine, saying he accesses free treatment and free medical examination there.
The Obstetrics and Gynaecology Unit also received a Voluson E10 ultrasound machine, described as a high-end 4D ultrasound that is most ideal for women's health examinations.
"It delivers excellent image quality not only in 4D but also in 2D and 3D. This is the most advanced ultrasound machine available," a medical personnel who craved anonymity said.
The clinic also established a modern state-of-the-art level two Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where special medical equipment and services are provided by doctors and nurses for patients who are seriously injured or ill. Level two ICU in the classification of critical care, refers to one that can provide invasive monitoring as well as basic life support.
Other improvements at the clinic include complete renovation and upgrade of the Accident and Emergency, it now accommodates an Emergency Paediatric unit (EPU). A functional public health unit was also established by the clinic. It bridges the gap between preventive health care and clinical care services at the hospital as well as between the hospital and other health organisations.
"The Public Health Unit is being supported by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and FHI-360 through its Global Fund sub-recipient, Achieving Health Nigeria Initiative (AHNI) in areas of capacity building, health systems strengthening, and disease-specific global health initiatives for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, viral haemorrhagic fevers like Ebola, Lassa Fever and other emerging and re-emerging infections of public health importance," a physician told Daily Trust.
But another source said infrastructure at the clinic are in need of facelift. According to the source, the current infrastructure has not had an overhaul for some time now due to budgetary constraints. "A general renovation would go a long way in supporting staff to deliver excellent medical support to patients," he said.
Asked if there was any improvement in the funding of the hospital, the source said the answer was yes and no. He said: "I would say yes because within the limited appropriation and releases, the hospital has been able to sustain patients in terms of capital and recurrent expenditure.
"I would say no because the needs and wants of the hospital are such that they are infinite but resources as we all know are not infinite but limited".
Access to the public / reversal from a medical centre to a clinic
In April this year, the Permanent Secretary State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, in a statement said President Muhammadu Buhari, had directed that the State House Medical Centre, be reverted to a clinic to serve the original purpose for which it was established, that is to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa.
Speaking during an appearance before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs for the 2019 budget defense, Arabi said it was a case of 'cutting one's coat according to your cloth.'
He said: "It was initially meant to serve the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa. The overstretching of facilities at the medical centre by patients is some of the challenges the centre has been going through. It wasn't meant for that purpose.
"Nobody was charging anyone for any services and relying on appropriation means we will depend on subvention when it comes to running the centre. Whatever comes is what you utilise and if the last patient comes in to take the last drugs based on the last budgetary release, that is it and we have to wait till another release is done. But this new development means that services will be streamlined to a clinic that will serve those that it was meant to serve when it was conceived."
However an inside source told our reporter that the hospital which is now officially known as State House Clinic was still open to the public and not just staff of the State House.
When contacted, Chief Medical Director of the clinic, Dr Hussaini Munir Yakassai said the present administration has been supporting the hospital immensely and "that accounts for the improvements and achievements it has recorded".
Asked about the drug scarcity, he said the situation was not the same as before, adding that any challenges the hospital still faces can be tackled if there was timely release of budgetary allocations to the clinic.
The State House Medical Centre (SHMC) was set up in 1976 at Dodan Barracks, Lagos as State House Clinic (SHC). It commenced operations as a small facility which was primarily set-up to render professional medical services to the President/Head of State, the Vice President/Chief of General Staff, and members of staff of the State House. Following the movement of the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja in 1992, it became the apex hospital in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and specifically catered for the first and second families and all other top tier government officials.
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