(By Yusuff Moshood)
In this special interview with Pharmanews, Dr. Tayo Bello, chairman of Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA), Lagos State, spoke on the efforts of the agency to raise the standard of health care delivery in Lagos State.He also spoke on the challenges facing health facilities in the state and how members of the public can help HEFAMAA fulfil its mandate. Excerpts:
As the chairman of HEFAMAA, Lagos State, what objectives did you set for yourself at the inception of your tenure, and how far have you achieved them?
At the inception of our tenure, we set out to raise the standard and quality of health care delivery in the state to the next level. This we decided to achieve by collaborating with the major stakeholders in the industry: The Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN), Health Care Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN) and a host of other professional bodies in the state.
Issues such as medical waste management, high quality drugs and hospital consumables as well as provision of basic medical equipment in the facilities were top on our priority list. Qualified personnel were also to be hired by service providers while medical wastes were to be properly disposed by LAWMA Medical as opposed to cart pushers as was the case in the past.
Above all, the different professional bodies now relate better with HEFAMAA. We are now partners in progress. The facilities are also better off as those with improved quality indices have recorded improvement in clients’ attendance.
What are the challenges facing health facilities in Lagos State?
Among challenges facing facilities in the state are:Dearth of qualified personnel, especially the nursing cadre. With the tremendous improvement in infrastructure and welfare package in the state health sector, most of the highly qualified personnel hitherto in the private sector drifted back to the public sector, thereby leaving a vacuum in the private sector. For the nurses, the good news is that with the commencement of the new school of nursing, the vacuum so created will soon be filled.
Power supply is another major challenge, as most facilities have to provide their sources of energy – just as it is in almost all the other sectors of the economy – thereby increasing the cost of healthcare in the state.
Quacks and charlatans are also there to contend with. This is a major problem that HEFAMAA is having sleepless nights on. I must at this juncture appreciate some members of the public who have been giving useful information that have led to many arrests and prosecution. I urge members of the public to continue to assist us by providing us with information about any suspicious facility or provider in their community.
What is the level of compliance of health facilities in Lagos State to the required standards of HEFAMAA?
The level of compliance is very high now. As I said earlier, the providers have now realised that all HEFAMAA is doing is to improve the market for them. We meet regularly with the different professional groups to discuss grey areas and move at the same pace. In fact, some sanction their members before HEFAMAA gets to know of infractions.
Can patients file complaints against health facilities? If yes, what are the processes to follow to do this?
Oh yes! Patients have the right to complain about facilities to HEFAMAA. We have actually received many of such complaints which we have investigated. Two of the lines through which such complaints can be made are: +234 80 2929 3046 and +234 802 351 3345
The health sector in Nigeria over the years has been bogged down by incessant strike actions by health workers, sometimes leading to avoidable loss of lives.How can we halt these costly strikes?
As you have rightly put it, the incessant strike action in the health sector has been very costly, as innocent lives have been lost thereby. To stem this, I think the government and the health workers need to have a rethink. We need to dialogue more with each other. Above all, health workers should exercise more restraints in using the weapon of strike to press home our demands. We should always remember that we are taught to save and preserve lives. Even in other industries where strike is a very useful tool, clinics of such industries are usually left to function when they embark on industrial actions. This is to provide succour to members whose lives might be endangered during the exercise.
I am also of the opinion that government should actually see what health workers go through in our society. The dignity and adequate remuneration of health workers which have been eroded over the years should be restored. Government should equally be more instrumental in creating inter-professional harmony among the different professional bodies in the health industry.