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Health is a fundamental human right and it is indispensable for the exercise of other human rights. Every human being is entitled to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services".

The right to health is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of other human rights, as contained in the International Bill of Rights, including the rights to food, housing, work, education, human dignity, life, non-discrimination, equality, the prohibition against torture, privacy, access to information, and the freedoms of association, assembly and movement. These and other rights and freedoms address integral components of the right to health.

The assertion that “health is Wealth” is a truism hence a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. In keeping with this old saying and to ensure that the nearly two million people of Bayelsa State have access to quality and affordable health care services, government has over the years undertaken certain reforms in a bid to creating a framework for developing a workable health system and enshrined a social charter on human development. There is a huge range of determinants of good health namely, safe drinking water and adequate sanitation; safe food adequate nutrition and housing, healthy working and environmental conditions, health-related education and information. The Sylva administration is simultaneously working in sync with the relevant agencies to meet the MDGs.

Available health indicators showed that the state is faced with serious health challenges in common but killer diseases such as infant and maternal mortality, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Malaria etc prior to this administration. Again one of the measure factors causing the set back in health care delivery was attributed to poor and inadequate funding hence the 2009 budgetary provision was only 5% of the total public expenditure; a percentage so alarming.

The global commitment on health for all is encapsulated in goals 4, 5 and 6 of the Millennium Development Goals. Goal 4 seeks to reduce child mortality. Child mortality is one of the core indicators of human well-being, as measured by life expectancy. It is also taken as one of the key dimensions in the Human Development Index as defined by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Goal 5 seeks to improve maternal health. The underpinning assumption is that healthy mothers are more likely to look after the health of infants and children with the capacity to promote the health of mothers side by side with the health of the child thereby improving promoting child-care and reducing child mortality. The consummation of this goal requires highly skilled health personnel. On this score, Bayelsa State has made tremendous progress courtesy of the Foreign Scholarship Scheme, which the State has leveraged on in the production of some medical doctors.

And Goal 6 has to do with Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases. The incidence of these scourges has debilitating effects on human capital in Bayelsa State. If this trend is not reversed, its effect could be even more catastrophic. The targets for goal 6 include halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AID as well as the spread of malaria, tuberculosis and other child killer diseases. While it may be said that Nigeria or no State in the nation has come anywhere near achieving the millennium development Goals on Health, some States have made appreciable progress in that direction. Bayelsa State is one of those States striving at the attainment of such goals.

Upon assumption of office, the Timipre Sylva realized the need for good, accessible and affordable health as a linch-pin for development. Status report of the health situation in Bayelsa State indicates that there was an alarming rate of abandonment of public health facilities such as General Hospitals, Community health centres and the Teaching Hospital at Okolobiri.

The administration was therefore faced with three main challenges namely: resuscitating existing health institutions; rebuilding new ones and training medics and para-medics to manage the system. Part of the manpower production process was to be done through the foreign scholarship scheme. The fourth area is perhaps the provision of equipment and drugs for the optimal functioning of the hospitals.

The sectoral goal is to provide access to quality, affordable efficient and effective health care to all people in Bayelsa State by 2011; reduce child deaths by 66% by 2013; reduce maternal deaths by 75% by 2012, reduce HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other related Diseases by 50% and provide support specialist services for primary care and chronic diseases by 2011.

The sector objectives of the health sector are to improve the availability of essential medicines, vaccines and other health commodities; improve access to health facilities; and improve the availability of health personnel. In the same vein, the sector goals set out to improve and sustain human resources training institutions, create public awareness with a view to reducing infant and maternal mortality, reduce HIV/AIDS and TB morbidity and mortality. Another area of interest to the sector is to develop health infrastructure that can support referral and emergency support system

The medium-term targets are to achieve 85% access of under-five children to ACTs within 24 hours by 2013; develop pilot sites in each of the local government areas for Indoor Residual Spraying, equip government health facilities with adequate stock of Sulphadozine Pyrimethamine and to have a fully functional and adequately equipped General hospital in each of the LGAs. The aim is for government to make concerted efforts to improve primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare delivery services to meet with WHO recommended standard.

The Sylva administration has completed and commissioned the Koki-Diete-Koki Specialist Hospital. Government has also demonstrated robust commitment to put into use the Chief Melford Okilo memorial hospital in Yenegoa, which has reached 80% completion rate. The hospital will serve as a referral center to Nigerians.

The principal goal of the State’s health policy is to ensure that health facilities in the state maintain standard medical care; ensure that all state-owned health facilities are provided with medical and allied equipment. The Ministry of health for effective service delivery has the following, departments and agencies; Bayelsa State Hospital Management Board, School of Health Technology, Otuogidi, Bayelsa State School of Nursing, Tombia, Local Health Service, (Fmr. Ambulance Service) Bayelsa Medical Service (Fmr. BHSS), Health System Fund project and NDU Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri .

The premium placed affordable health is further buttressed by the high level of commitment and dedication to these targets. For instance, a budgetary increase to 6.05% is allocated to the Health Sub-sector over the period which translates to N21.90 billion in the 2010 budget. In subsequent budgets, more resources shall be provided to the sector. The State has put in place a health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must - must - redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent healthcare is by definition re-distributional.

For the effective delivery of health care services, Bayelsa State uses the following ministries, departments and agencies.

 Ministry of Health
 Bayelsa State Health Management Board
 School of Health Technology, Otuogidi
 Bayelsa State School of Nursing, Tombia
 The Koki-Diete-Koki Specialist Hospital
 Local Health Service
 Bayelsa Emergency Medical Service (fmr. Ambulance Service)

 Bayelsa Medicare Services (fmr. BHSS)
 Health Systems Fund Project and
 NDU Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri
The Sylva administration has put in place the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as well as making determined efforts to meet the (WHO) recommended patients/health worker ratios. Presently, the sector is running concurrently with the medium term priorities as the objectives of the ministry and fundamental plans are in every respect significant to the provision of adequate infrastructures within Bayelsa State. The sector is looking forward to increased infrastructure by way of hospitals, clinics and health centers and other facilities that will directly promote good health.

With transparent procurement processes of medical equipment, increased funding, health care has gained greater prominence in the State. Government has intensified the supervision of private clinics and maternity homes in the State and registration of private medical and health institutions to ensure they conform to established standards. Medical practices in private hospitals are being standardized to maximize efficiency as well as increase revenue generation. For the system to be holistic, private investors should be assisted to invest massively in healthcare delivery especially in the headquarters of all LGAs. When all health infrastructures are completed, equipped and running, Bayelsa State shall, in the foreseeable future, become a haven for health tourism in Nigeria.

Sekegha Oguara, contributed this piece from Borokiri-Port Harcourt.

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