Countdown To Obiano’s 7th Anniversary: Focus On Healthcare Delivery Services

By James Eze
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Governor Willie Obiano
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In the Healthcare sector, Governor Willie Obiano started out with a clear vision of what he wanted to do. His Vision for the health sector was to make Anambra “the state with the highest health status in Nigeria with unfettered access to healthcare delivery and near zero disease burden.” All performance indicators point to the fact that Obiano has made good his pledge to the health sector in the past seven years.

His most daunting challenge when he assumed office was the lack of accreditation for the College of Medicine of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam. When he took over as governor, the pioneer set of medical students of the university had been marooned for ten years with no hope of ever becoming certified medical doctors. Many of the medical students were utterly disillusioned by the lack of accreditation of their programme. But Governor Obiano swiftly worked hard to get the college accredited. He actually did more than that. He also offered automatic employment to all the pioneer students who graduated as medical doctors from the college to make up for the time they had lost in pursing their programme. The Governor also worked very hard to get accreditation for the School of Health Technology Obosi and turn the institution into a model of excellence.

Primary Healthcare Delivery
In his aggressive pursuit of this vision, Governor Obiano in 2015 established the Anambra State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (ASPHDA), to tackle the fundamental issues in Primary Healthcare delivery in the state. Previously, there was no organized response to Primary Healthcare issues in the state.

Under the Willie Obiano administration, Primary Healthcare delivery in Anambra State has received priority attention. In fact, in 2018, Anambra State took the first position in the National Immunization Campaign across Nigeria. This is because PHC facilities in the state have been renovated and equipped with the basic facilities like oxygen, ambulances, electricity generating sets and the necessary drugs. The idea is to have a functional PHC per political ward in Anambra State. At the moment, the state has 176 PHC centers. To give legal validity to the operation of PHCs in the state, the Agency is solidly backed by law. On account of the exploits of the Anambra Primary Healthcare Agency, the state had attracted the national Basic Healthcare Fund which is 1% of the nation’s consolidated revenue. Again, the Obiano administration has shown a lot of competence in this area.

Health Insurance For Ndi Anambra
It was the same passion to make a difference in the lives of Ndi Anambra that informed the establishment of the Ananmbra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA). ASHIA is a revolutionary healthcare delivery agency charged with the mandate to make primary healthcare easy and accessible to the greater number of Ndi Anambra. Through ASHIA, quality medi-care has become easy and affordable to more people. With ASHIA, all that policy holder has to pay for high quality health coverage for a whole year is just N12,000 (N1,000 per month). This agency has saved many lives in its short time of existence. It has an enrollment figure of over 90,000 people already. ASHIA’s ‘Adoption Model’ which encourages philanthropists and public spirited individuals to buy healthcare insurance policies for the less privileged has been praised as revolutionary by healthcare authorities across Nigeria.

Specialist Hospitals
However, the most outstanding legacies of Governor Obiano in the healthcare sector may well be the Immaculate Heart Multi-specialist Hospital, Aguleri which compares favourably to any modern hospital in the advanced parts of the world. The opening of the hospital attracted positive reviews and outright commendations from Ndi Anambra who are happy that such a world class medical facility has come within a touching distance.

Saving Lives Through Oxygen Provision
Another memorable achievement of the Obiano administration in the medical sector is the commissioning of the largest oxygen plant owned by a state government in Nigeria. The Anambra Oxygen Plant is located in the premises of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka. This plant has turned out to be Governor Obiano’s most visionary investment so far. This is because, the outbreak of COVID-19 has made oxygen a basic instrument for survival. Consequently, Governor Obiano had issued a directive that hospitals in Anambra State should be given free oxygen from the plant to increase the survival chances of COVID-19 patients in the state. Needless to say, this directive has saved many lives.

Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
Anambra is one of the few states in Nigeria that made great efforts to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic did not wreck a sever havoc on its population. Under the leadership of the Commissioner for Health, Dr Vincent Ogochukwu Okpala, Anambra State Ministry of Health has shown a lot of creativity and versatility to checkmate the pandemic.

On account of its extremely itinerant population and the presence of West Africa’s largest retail market, Anambra had looked very vulnerable at the outbreak of the pandemic. But the state mounted a timely awareness campaign to sensitize traders and residents on the need to adopt the standard protocols against the virus. This proactive step played a crucial role in slowing down the spread of the virus. Anambra’s COVID-19 Isolation Centers are among the best equipped and friendly centers in Nigeria.

To underscore the efforts of the government to save people who tested positive for the virus, there was a deliberate choice to call the centers “Protective Care Centers” rather than Isolation Centers. The word ‘isolation’ suggests abandonment and lack of care. Again, no other state in Nigeria has looked at the situation from this point of view. A combination of effective contact tracing and timely provision of critical care to patients has saved many lives in the state.

To bring solutions closer to the people, the Ministry of Health has developed ‘Home Treatment’ packs for patients which have proven highly effective in containing the spread of the virus. Along this line too, the Ministry has moved the collection of samples to public places like churches, markets, schools and other open spaces to ensure that no one is left out of the circle of survival. A most important aspect of the campaign against the virus in Anambra State is that sample collection, testing and treatment of COVID-19 are free. They are done at no expense to the patient.

Another creative response of the Anambra State Ministry of Health to the pandemic is the ‘Anambra State COVID-19 Chain of Survival’ (ASCOSS) strategy rolled out by Dr Okpala and his team. ASCOSS is a six-step containment strategy that outlines what the citizens, patients and healthcare workers must do at every stage in the management of the virus to ensure greater chances of survival for everyone. This strategy has drawn applause from the medical sector.

Support To Mission Hospitals
In addition, the government has donated the sum of N747m to mission hospitals in the state to help them retool their processes and offer critical interventions in the health sector. This is why healthcare delivery in Anambra State is almost exceptional!