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‘Two doctors to 200,000 people’ — the state of healthcare in Awe, Sanusi’s exile home

‘Two doctors to 200,000 people’ — the state of healthcare in Awe, Sanusi’s exile home
March 16
07:06 2020
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There are only two doctors and 19 nurses employed by the government to serve a population of approximately 200,000 people in Awe town, Nasarawa state, TheCable has learnt.

Awe town served as the exile home of Muhammad Sanusi II, the deposed emir of Kano, who was reported to have been banished from Kano for “disrespecting” Abdullahi Ganduje, the governor of the state.

Sanusi has since challenged the order banishing him from Kano, and has been released from confinement following a court order. The former emir has since left Awe for Lagos, where he reunited with family.

But while Sanusi was there, a house was painted for him, barbed wires were fixed, security agents were deployed in large numbers, and electricity was made available to him by his host.

TheCable also learnt that Ahmed Yahaya, the state commissioner for health, also visited Awe — on Thursday — while Sanusi was there to inspect and possibly improve the state of healthcare in the local government area. But what is the state of healthcare in Awe before and after Sanusi?

STATE OF HEALTHCARE IN AWE

There are only three healthcare facilities serving approximately 200,000 people in the town and local government area. They are; General Hospital, Awe and two Awe Primary Health Care Centres. TheCable visited all three facilities and found that there were, and historically, have been, only two doctors in all the medical centres.

The two doctors are stationed at the General Hospital Awe, where they consult on everything from malaria to HIV/AIDS — or if you like, coronavirus. They are the obstetrician-gynaecologist, the paediatrician, the virologist — basically the Alpha and Omega of medical care in the region.

Officials at the hospital told TheCable that they are grossly understaffed, with only two doctors, 19 nurses, four permanent record staff and a number of contract staff.

“We told the commissioner we need more staff, we have only two doctors, 19 nurses, four permanent record staff, all the attendants are contract staff. Most of our staff here are contract. We are very understaffed,” Samuel Osayi, secretary to the medical superintendent of the hospital, told TheCable.

When TheCable visited, only one of the doctors was around, but could not speak with us due to the number of patients he had waiting for medical attention. The other doctor had gone for a workshop.

We asked what the population of the town was, and how many people they had to attend to daily.

“For the population of the town, we are about 160,000 in this cachement area alone. So, in all, we have approximately like 200,000 people we are expected to cater for,” the secretary said, showing us thousands of case files, stacked in an old metal shelf.

Speaking on how the doctors work, Osayi said: “Normally they work together, but on weekends, one will go for weekend and rest, the other will cover as in call. They shift the call weekly, this one is on call, the other one will go and rest.

“The one that is on call will work the whole of that week; if he goes home and there is any emergency, they will call him and he would have to come back — this has been the case since I got here over two years ago.”

According to the latest data, Nigeria has one doctor to every 4,222 citizens. But for Awe, attaining the national average would mean hiring 46 more doctors; for now, the town has one doctor to 100,000 people. In fact, the national average itself is deficient, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals prescribes that every country should aim for a minimum of 4.45 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1,000 people.

WE NEED STAFF, MACHINES AND BUILDINGS

Safe Birth Centre, Awe Primary Healthcare Centre

As if the job of a general doctor is not difficult enough; these doctors do not have the necessary machines to aid their work. The hospital staff told us that  “the only machine we have here now is that ultrasound machine, which we use in attending to pregant women”.

“When you came, you saw many pregnant women outside — many of them are here for a scan,” Mohammed Yusuf, another official who volunteers at the hospital, from a non-governmental organisation, told TheCable.

They told TheCable that they need a genexpert machine for testing tuberculosis, genotype and a number of other crucial details.

“We need solar blood bank, an X-ray machine, and more staff”.

The officials also said they needed renovation and completion of the buildings with the hospital compound.

The bigger hospital blocks have been built within the premises of the hospital, but have not been in use for at least 10 years — serving as home to goats and peacocks.

“These buildings, which are supposed to be the permanent place of use for the hospital have been built for over 10 years, but never completed. The contractors abandoned the job. It is one of the reasons the commissioner came,” Osayi told TheCable.

Millions of naira were spent on building the bigger blocks, but they have not been used for a single day.

TWO ‘UNAVAILABLE’ PRIMARY HEALTHCARE CENTRES

The only certified ‘drug store’ in Awe

On arrival at the medical centre, we met a young girl clad in Ankara gown and hijab sleeping on a small wooden bench. We walked in, knocking on doors and greeting those inside the building, but we found no one. We went from room to room, but it was all empty — no one else was in the primary healthcare centre.

As we walked out, the young girl had woken up; we explained ourselves and she told us to wait while she calls someone to attend to us.

About five minutes later, she returned with a dark-skinned middle-aged man, who identified himself as Umar the attendant. He told us that the officer in charge was not around. We asked what would have happened if we came in with an emergency, he said: “The ‘in-charge’ went out, and I don’t know when she will be back. If anyone comes now, I’d advise them to go to the next available hospital in the town.”

He said the woman in charge was a trained community healthcare worker treating malaria, typhoid, and all sort of diseases. “Anything more than our power, we refer them to Awe General Hospital or to Lafia, where we get our drugs from,” he added, stating that drugs not available but needed urgently are bought from the only recognised “pharmacy” in the local government area — This can only be God Pharmacy.

Sanusi is out of Awe, and so is the media hype — but the people, the 200,000 Nigerians, are still there, in need of basic health facilities than can make their life better and longer.


This is a PRIN project by Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) in partnership with TheCable, supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

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