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INTERVIEW! How We Shut 4 Illegal Hospitals in Kwara- Commissioner for Health Alege

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Alhaji Sulieman Atolagbe Alege is the Commissioner for Health in Kwara State. Before his appointment, he was the Senior Research Officer at Federal Ministry of Health. In this interview with WESTERN POST’s Kwara State Correspondent Mosunmola Ayobami, he speaks extensively on the activities of his ministry…  

How will you describe the recent nomination of Kwara Community Health Insurance Scheme for award by the Financial Times of London?

It is a very good one because Community Health Insurance is the first in Nigeria, which others follow. This is a programme that takes care of women and children in the rural communities. Here a token amount of N500 would be paid to access a year healthcare facility and the Financial Times is looking at a programme that has serious impact on the people within the community, state and rural areas so they look at it and pick Kwara State Community Health Insurance Scheme is the best programme so we don’t expect nothing less than the award, and we are happy that in far back United Kingdom these people have recognized us and we have recorded series of awards before in this area. We had one in Holland, Netherlands.

What gave rise to the award?

This is a programme where mother and children from ages 0-5 benefit from and this has made Kwara a low recorder of maternal and mortality rate state. This programme is subsidized b the state government. The government is the one paying about 35%. Its flows from the government’s commitment and that is why we are collecting the N500, which provides them with card that bears their photograph for data and proper monitoring of their health services. Also, the Hygeia Foundation and Pharmacy pays their quota too and the counterpart funding the state government is paying for this year His Excellency, Governor Abdulfathai Ahmed has just released N100,000,000 for counterpart funding.

How many do we have on this scheme in Kwara State?

For now in every rural we are having 160,000 plus that have enrolled on the scheme but I know by the time we start the ‘Save One Million Lives Programme,’ which will comprise of the KWCIS and other local government areas of the state, we will have to improve on our law to change it from community based programme to state based thing so as to get National Health Insurance Scheme’s partnership.

How much does the Ministry of Health Get in this year’s budget in Kwara?

The Ministry of Health this time round got a huge sum of money around, N8.5billion for Recurrent and Capital because His Excellency knows that the health of Kwarans is very important, which has brought about this lion share of the budget 

In which areas will the fund be principally expended?

It will be spent on development of infrastructure in our hospitals, upgrading of the rural facilities. It will also go into equipment for our consultants to improve on services provided

What is the ministry doing on recruiting more health workers?

Of recent, His Excellency approved the recruitment of 231 health personnel, including doctors, medical lab scientists, pharmacists, nurses and midwives and others for now, because recruitment is a continuous process

How often do the existing workers get retrained?

At the Ministry of Health level, training is a continuous process. Every now and then, some who are medical doctors go for their consultancy programmes, Medical lab Scientists, nurses who want to go for specialized training are on training now and also community health workers too go for training and thank God we have some partners that are assisting us in retaining our workers like the MSH, Hygeia, De Johnson and Johnson, even the LEAH Foundation of Her Excellency are giving and supporting us in retraining. The Wellbeing Foundation of the Senate President’s wife also supports us in this course.

What are you doing on what I call the ‘I Don’t Care Attitude’ of some health workers in the state?

I have told you we do proper monitoring and evaluation by putting up our (Directors, Perm. Secs’) phone numbers are in public domain for any observation on services received. 

How is the Ministry supporting Family Planning awareness?

Family planning is one of the best programmes in the Ministry. In our budget, funds have been approved to improve family planning programme, we’ve launched our blueprint in which Kwara is the first to launch in the North. With the blue print and budget implementation and ‘save one million lives’, the fund also spreads to Family planning too. His Excellency has just given us the approval for dialysis machine. With this, we will recruit a Nephrologist, so very soon Ilorin General Hospital will start its dialysis center.

In the first term of Gov. Ahmed, five general hospitals were constructed, should Kwarans expect more hospitals this time? 

Just like I told you part of the construction is the General Hospital Oro, Civil Service Hospital, then we want to improve on some cottage hospitals in bigger communities, which will cut across the three senatorial districts of the state. The Igbaja Cottage Hospital has been remodelled and we are moving to equipping it. Those are the interventions carried out.

Is the Ministry planning to partner any foreign body?

Yes, some partners are talking to us but for now I can’t say these are the people we want to partner. The Starkey Health Foundation want to come to Kwara; this is a world-class foundation that looks into hearing because hearing aide is very costly. So in Africa they are having focus on Kwara State. Of recent the Liverpool Centre for Tropical Medicine is here in support of Johnson and Johnson to give training on maternal healthcare in our facilities, which will run for some years

What is the Ministry doing on illegal private hospital operations?

Our monitoring continues, we have closed down at least four illegal hospitals, and this will still continue because Kwara is not a dumping ground where you can do anything you like.

On drugs monitoring, what is synergy between the Ministry and NAFDAC?  

The Ministry has set up a drug control committee headed by our Director with the Secretary produced by NDLEA or NAFDAC to monitor the drugs market in the state. Very soon we will mark the World Drugs Day I believe we have an improved system in the state for drugs.      

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