The Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa, has assured of his administration’s readiness to strengthen mental healthcare delivery services and tackle drug abuse in Nigeria.
Alausa gave the assurance during his first official visit to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba on Wednesday in Lagos.
He identified substance/drug abuse as a menace to the society and one of the causes of mental illness in Nigeria.
According to him, it is imperative that the country addresses the issue of substance abuse in the society with the view to promoting mental health of the citizens.
Alausa said that the government would support the hospital to expand its substance abuse delivery capacity, so that they could build more wards for substance abuse services.
“Substance abuse is a huge problem in the society now, which if we don’t tackle it very quickly will create a bigger problem in the future.
“And this hospital is well-positioned to help reduce these impending future problems by increasing the level of awareness, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of patients who have substance abuse issue.
“I am very impressed by what I am seeing on ground; presently, you already have about 60 beds ward for substance abuse patients.
“But we will also have to help you to expand the facility, so that you can double this; build more wards and expand your substance abuse service capacity,” Alausa said.
According to Alausa, since human resource for health is a major crisis, plans are underway to expand human resources and increase the number of nurses the hospital produced.
He noted that there was need for the hospital to expand its capacity development to be able to increase its productivity.
“Of all the challenges mentioned by the hospital’s Medical Director, we are going to find a way to address them except for the provision of funds for the welfare of pauper/indigent patients.
“This is a Federal hospital, specifically designed to provide healthcare for indigent citizens. So, the hospital should be able to cater for indigent patients probably from its internally generated revenue.
“We will continue to work together to find a way to support and expand the services of the hospital and, hopefully, things will get better,” Alausa said.
The Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Olugbenga Owoeye, applauded the minister for the visit and called for government’s continuous support to improve the hospital’s operations.
According to Owoeye, the hospital is at the forefront of the treatment and campaign against drug abuse.
He said that inadequate funding of overhead releases to the hospital, need for new facility building for the drug abuse rehabilitation unit were some of the challenges limiting effective operation of the hospital.
He said that other challenges included the need for alternative power supply, provision of funds for welfare of indigent patients and construction of more staff accommodation for resident doctors.
Owoeye said that the hospital also required adequate funding for research and community education as well as infrastructure for its evolving medical services among others.
“The hospital is at the forefront of the treatment and campaign against drug abuse. We have partnered with other non-government organisations to sensitise and educate the public on the issue of mental health wellbeing.
“Our podcast programme on ‘Yaba Voice’ has received fellowship from many Nigerians, at home and across the globe.
“The hospital also derives its significance and relevance as a mental health institution through its activities in mental health research,” Owoeye said.