WIFE of the president, Aisha Buhari, has reacted angrily to the poor condition of State House Medical Centre (SHMC) despite the huge allocations made to it in the budget.
Speaking on Monday at the opening of stakeholders meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N), held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, she revealed that she was recently forced to seek medical treatment for her ailment at a foreign-owned hospital in Abuja because SHMC equipment were out to order.
Aisha regretted that while the most basic drugs were not available at the centre, its management has however embarked on the construction of new projects.
She wondered who would make use of such projects and demanded that the management led by Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr Hussain Munir, must account for the huge allocations to be Centre.
She said: “Before I commenced my speech I will like to be realistic and say a few words concerning health in Nigeria and health delivery system in Nigeria.
“The Nigeria health sector is in very, very, very poor sorry to say the least. I am happy the CMD of Aso Clinic is here, is here around? Dr Munir (Dr Hussain Munir, consultant cardiologist and the chief medical director at state house medical centre) or his representative? Ok he is around.
“Ok, Dr Munir I’m happy you are here. As you are all aware for the last six months, Nigeria wasn’t stable because of my husband’s ill health. We thank God he is fully recovered now.
“If somebody like Mr President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street in Nigeria.
“Few weeks ago I was sick as well, they advised me to take the first flight out to London, I refused to go.
I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us.
“If the budget is N100 million, we need to know how the budget is spent. Along the line I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine is working, they said it is not working. They didn’t know I am the one that was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.
“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners in and out 100 percent. What does that mean?
“So, I think is high time for us to do the right thing. If something like this can happen to me no need for me to ask the governors wives what is happening in their states. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government, and this is presidential villa. One of the speakers have already said we have very good policies in Nigeria, in fact, we have the best policies in Africa. Yes of course we have but the implementation has been the problem.
“So we need to change our minds set and do the right thing. I’m sure Dr Munir will not like me saying this but I have to say it out. As the Chief Medical Director, there are a lot of constructions going on in this hospital but there is no single syringe there what does that mean? Who will use the building? We have to be good in reasoning. You are building a new building and there is no equipment, no consumables in the hospital and the construction is still going on.”
Her daughter, Zahra, had recently stoked controversy on the subject when she posted a criticism of the centre’s management on her Instagram account.
Zahra had been quoted as saying on the post: “More than N3billion budgeted for the State House clinic and workers there don’t have the equipment to work with? Why?
“Where is the money going to? Medication only stocked once since the beginning of the year? Why? State House Permanent Secretary please answer.
“Why isn’t there simple Paracetamol, gloves, syringes… Why do patients/staff have to buy what they need in the state house clinic?”
She sparked a reaction from the State House Permanent Secretary, Jalal Arabi, who explained that the centre was offering free medical services and needed to be commercialized.
He also deflected allegations of funds diversion as he maintained that no such thing has happened.
The Permanent Secretary said the SHMC will be repositioned to offer qualitative and efficient services.
According to him, the management will among other things seek the commercialization of the Centre to boost its revenue and augment the appropriation it receives from the government in the quest for a better qualitative service.”
He added: ‘‘The Centre is the only health centre in Abuja where patients are not required to pay any dime before the consultation.
“In other government hospitals in Abuja, patients are required to pay for the consultation, treatment, laboratory tests and others but that has not been the case with the State House Medical Centre.
“The Centre offers free services, nobody pays a kobo for hospital card, consultations or prescriptions and this has taken a toll on the subvention the Centre receives from the government.
“We have some of the best equipment in the country. For instance, to maintain the MRI and other scan machines, we spend close to N2 million monthly. Yet we do not charge a dime for those who require MRI scans in the clinic.”
Arabi said the proposed reforms will ensure that those eligible to use the Centre are NHIS complaint with their Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) or primary health provider domiciled in the clinic.
He added: ‘‘We have already created a NHIS desk at the clinic where patients will be required to authentic their profile. If their HMOs are registered in other hospitals they will be required to transfer to the Centre.
“This is another way through which we can boost revenue generation at the hospital and this has started yielding results because the stark reality is there is no free lunch anywhere,’’ he said.
In dismissing the allegations of misappropriation and withholding of funds meant for medical supplies in the centre, the Permanent Secretary declared: “I know people will insinuate and give all sorts of reasons because they don’t ask but it will be foolhardy and madness for anybody in his senses to defraud a medical centre of a kobo and toying with people’s lives.
“No sane person will do that, so the truth of the matter is the hospital is being run on subvention and appropriation; if it comes we pile the drugs, but the truth is the drugs are always overwhelmed by the number of people who use the Centre because it is not controlled.’’
Mrs Buhari explained that Monday’s event was to build alliances that would help strengthen advocacy for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) at the state level.
She said by creating a strong coalition, would in turn increase awareness on the importance of improving RMNCAH+N, promote advocacy for better service and increased utilization of RMNCAH+N services.
The event was organized by her pet project, Future Assured.