BY DENNIS ALEMU. (21/08/2014).
The wealth of a people or nation truly depends on their health. It is in recognition of this sacrosanct fact that the axiom “health is wealth” was weaved out of the vaults of wisdom, and it continues to gain currency in modern health phraseology. It is self-evident that maintaining good health is of strategic importance in a people’s ability to realize their full potential- considered individually or collectively. This is why the issues of providing essential public health services, and that of safeguarding the health of the nation are the main focus of public health policies, at all levels of political administration in the country.
There is no gainsaying that sound health is indispensable to high productivity, in virtually all sectors of the economy. The economy needs healthy workers to man its industries; the military needs healthy men and women to realize the national goals on internal security and territorial integrity; healthy hands are needed on the farms to turn out high agricultural output, and in like manner, healthy minds are demanded in the education sector to groom students who are the future leaders of the nation. The foregoing helps underscore the importance of prioritizing the provision of essential and affordable health services to the people.
Now, this is the concern of the Dickson Administration for its pioneering inroads made in the all-important health sector in Bayelsa State. It is heartwarming that right from the inception of his administration, Governor Dickson has shown remarkable commitment in reviving the health sector to make it one of the most vibrant, efficient and responsive in the country. The present administration has indeed made it crystal clear that the healthsector is very dear to it. This fact can be excavated from the rich policy mix adduced to the Restoration Agenda in the state. This realization does not come as a surprise because the administration has been generally faithful in the implementation of its development blue-print for the state and fulfilling its campaigns promises to Bayelsans.
It is worth recalling that during their 2012 electioneering campaigns, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson and his Deputy, Retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah did promise the people of Bayelsa State the entrenchment of a robust health delivery system through the building of modern health facilities in all the local governments in the state. True to their promise, the building of the health infrastructure of the state is a crystallizing vision, with the award of contracts for the construction referral hospitals in all the LGAs. Therefore, this is an ideal time to take a peek at what has been taking place in the health turf to find out how the restoration team has fared so far.
As a government that has a clear focus and knows exactly what is best for its people in the area of healthcare, the Dickson Administration on assumption of office quickly made a forensic audit of all existing health facilities in the state. The audit helped provide a useful database for the articulation of the sound health policy for Bayelsa State.
As alluded to earlier, one of the key areas of focus under the health policy is the building of health infrastructure. The referral hospitals being built in the LGAs are some of the products of the new policy. Work on the referral hospitals is nearing completion. Other health facilities built around the state are primary healthcare centres, the new Government House clinic, renovation and equipping of the Diete Koki Memorial Hospital, amongst others. The Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital has been transformed into a health village, with the construction of the diagnostic and toxicology centres there. The sprawling health facility is to also house a shopping centre, helipad, and residential quarters for medical doctors.
In order to provide first-rate medical diagnostic services for Bayelsans, the administration has also built a standard diagnostic centre in the state. The goal is to provide such services at affordable rate and extirpate the high cost of travelling out of the state and country in search of such services outside the shores of Nigeria.
In order to curb the incidence of fake drugs distribution and the attendant health complications and challenges in Bayelsa State, the Dickson Administration has since taken the bull by the horns to build a world class safe drug distribution and quality control centre. The project is nearing completion. According to Governor Dickson, “We need to be sure of the quality of drugs in supply, not only through public institutions, but also through all private retail outlets. This project, when completed, will curb the menace of fake and adulterated drugs, which has been the bane of the Nigerian drug market. In addition, it will address goals 4 and 5 of the Millennium Development Goals.” During the foundation-laying ceremony, one-time Minister of Information and Director-General of NAFDAC, late Professor Dora Akunyili pledged the support of the Professor DoraAkunyili Foundation for Safe Medicines to the quality drug control project for the administration.
One of the greatest feats achieved so far in the health sector is the transformation of the State Action Committee on AIDS into a full-blown agency to tackle the menace. The welcome transformation underscores the importance being attached to the fight towards the elimination of HIV/AIDS in the state. Impeccable sources in the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health told this writer that the change was something that had been pushed for long before the present administration came into office in 2012. According to the source, it was one of the World Bank’s conditions for the state to benefit from the body in the critical area of HIV response. The Dickson Administration being a government that does not believe in taking only half measures in matters of public policy, has since provided the agency with adequate office accommodation and competent manpower that would drive the system. The monthly stipends to registered or enlisted HIV/AIDS victims have also been increased to alleviate their suffering.
The government has also succeeded in training medical doctors in the Niger Delta University and secured the accreditation of the Bayelsa State School of Nursing, Tombia. Others are the accreditation of the Anaethesia, Surgery and O&G department at the NigerDelta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH), Okolobiri.
To make health services more affordable to the common man, the administration has reintroduced the Bayelsa Health Service Scheme on a brand new template. A board to oversee the scheme has been inaugurated, with the Bayelsa State Government committing N500million for the take off of the scheme. Government’s unbroken counterpart funding is crucial to the overall success of the scheme in the light of shortcomings that bedeviled the previous schemes. Therefore, government is leaving no stone unturned in its drive to entrench a robust public-client-driven health services scheme in Bayelsa State.
From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that Governor Seriake Dickson and his team are not here to play politics with health of Bayelsans. It is hoped that when the vast array of health facilities under construction is completed in no distant time from now, the people of Bayelsa State will have a reason to reflect on re-electing their Contriman Governor in 2016.
Mr. Dennis is a member of the Bayelsa New Media Team (21/08/2014)