GOVERNOR FAYEMI REPLIES TO JOHN'S OPEN LETTER: HOW NEGLIGENCE, LACK OF PPE AND OXYGEN KILLED MY MUM AT EKSUTH
Your open letter on the above stated was brought to my attention. First, I commiserate with the entire Oluwadero family on the demise of your mum, Mrs Oluwadero Deborah Bolanle at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital. Ado-Ekiti recently. Irrespective of the circumstances, the death of a parent is a difficult life event for most people and I pray for strength and fortitude for you all at this trying period of mama's transition.
It is however a testimonial to your good upbringing that in spite of your personal pain, you are concerned about the systemic issues in Nigeria's health sector as detailed in your open treatise.
Before I try to address those concerns, let me let you know that I ordered an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding your mother's death at the Ekiti State Teaching Hospital EKSUTH and I am convinced that contrary to the report you got, there were no deliberate acts of negligence in the management process. From her case file, she was attended to by 11:05am. That was within 35 minutes of her leaving home to present at the Emergency Room, including travel time, going by your timeline.
My findings also showed that all patients coming to EKSUTH and other hospitals in the state, whether at the outpatient clinics or any of the admission points, are all checked for any symptoms to indicate their current status before admission. This standard, non-invasive procedure is not an indication that the patient is considered a COVID-19 case but rather to determine the level of self protection the team should adopt.
I can also confirm that there was no shortage of oxygen or PPEs before, during or after the sad incident at the ER and there was proof that all clinics were operational, even during the lockdown, as our health workers were exempted from the restrictions as essential workers. From the case evaluation, the continued and unmonitored glucose administration before her hospitalization appeared to have complicated the management. May her soul rest in perfect peace.
As a health worker yourself, I believe you have first hand experience of the personal risk your colleagues face daily in a pandemic situation hence the need to be extra cautious when admitting a new patient with symptoms similar to COVID-19. This may account for the perceived delays though still within standard stipulated response timing in an ER.
One cannot however fail to agree with your observations on the weakness of our healthcare sector as a nation in general and as a sub-national in particular. While the issues you identified are valid, the systemic re-engineering needed to change this narrative require enormous resources.
For instance, the cost of maintaining an independent ambulatory service you recommended is too prohibitive for the average Nigerian. One ambulance visit in a developed country like the United States could cost as much as $3,000; that is over N1million naira at today's exchange rate! How many Ekiti Citizens can afford to pay N1million for an ambulance in an emergency?
That is why many state governments have tried to procure ambulances for their healthcare centers. In Ekiti State, all our Secondary and Tertiary Healthcare centers have at least one functional ambulance for patient emergencies. While this may be inadequate, until we are able to adequately fund healthcare, probably through a health insurance scheme, such interventions would remain our only way to mitigate the circumstances.
As a nation, we have to master a difficult balancing act between dwindling resources and an increasing population, against a background of decades of low investment in infrastructure. Private sector investment may therefore be our most sustainable option to fund an efficient healthcare system and we are already exploring this at the level of the Nigeria Governors' Forum, which I currently chair.
On our part in Ekiti State, in spite of our excruciating financial challenges, my administration has always prioritized the safety, protection and wellbeing of our citizens. EKSUTH alone has a recurrent grant of N2.6bn in the 2020 budget and that is separate from the Healthcare capital budget of almost N3bn. Health and Human Services sector is 12% of this year's budget while we are targeting an increase to at least 18 percent of the total budget in subsequent years.
Since the beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have procured large quantities of PPEs, surgical masks, clinical gloves, Infrared thermometers, automatic dispensers of hand sanitizer, and Veronica buckets for hand washing, all of which are readily available at the various service points despite the very high cost of procuring these items.
Government will continue to ensure that the hospitals and all our health care centres work towards an improved and responsive health system, which will be of great benefit to the generality of the people. I particularly find your observation on the need to increase our efforts on prevention of non-communicable diseases as a policy shift worth considering and the State Government would be glad to work with your proposed family foundation and other non-governmental organizations in this area as it should reduce the pressure on our healthcare system.
Let me assure you that all the points raised in the letter are well noted as it is within your inalienable right as a citizen to point out certain developments you consider unsavoury, with a view to ensuring the situation is redressed.
In closing, it gladdened my heart to read of your footprints in the global developmental economy from the humble beginnings of our sponsorship to attend the first event in South Africa less than a decade ago. Yours is a justification of my confidence in the ability of the Ekiti Youth which we are working very hard to unlock through our investment in the Knowledge Economy.
Thank you for making a difference in your generation and making Ekiti State proud. Indeed, with young people like you, we are truly the Land of Honor.
Again, please accept my condolences and my best regards to your family.
Dr. Kayode Fayemi