Four days after President Muhammadu Buhari’s daughter, Zahra, took to her Instagram page to raised concerns over the poor state of State House Medical Centre, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, has said plans were under the way to commercialise the Centre.
He said the State House Medical Centre (SHMC), which currently offers free medical services to patients, would be re-positioned to offer qualitative and efficient services.
The Centre provides medical services to the President, Vice President and their families, aides, members of staff of the State House and other entitled public servants.
It is also a training facility for house officers and other medical personnel.
On her post on her Instagram handle @mrs_zmbi, on Saturday, Zahra, raised concerns over the poor state of the hospital despite the N3 billion budgetary allocation in the 2017 budget.
She specifically called out the Permanent Secretary in the State House, Arabi to provide answers as to why simple drugs as paracetamol, syringes and gloves were not available, leaving patients and staff to individually source for those items.
Using the hashtag #statehousepermsecplsanswer, she asked: “why isn’t there simple paracetamol, gloves, syringes..why do the patients/staff have to buy what they need in state house clinic?
“More than N3 billion budgeted for state house clinic and the workers there don’t have equipment to work with? Why?
“Where is the money going to? Medication only stock once since the beginning of the year? Why?”
While clearly avoiding responding to the President’s daughter, the Permanent Secretary said the management would, among other things, seek the commercialisation of the Centre to boost its revenue and augment the appropriation it receives from the government in the quest for a better qualitative service.
“The Centre is the only health centre in Abuja where patients are not required to pay any dime before consultation.
“In other government hospitals in Abuja, patients are required to pay for consultation, treatment, laboratory tests and others but that has not been the case with the State House Medical Centre.
“The Centre offers free services, nobody pays a kobo for hospital card, consultations or prescriptions and this has taken a toll on the subvention the Centre receives from the government.
“We have some of the best equipment in the country. For instance, to maintain the MRI and other scan machines, we spend close to N2 million monthly. Yet we do not charge a dime for those who require MRI scans in the clinic,” he said.
Arabi said the proposed reforms will ensure that those eligible to use the Centre are NHIS complaint with their Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) or primary health provider domiciled in the clinic.
“We have already created a NHIS desk at the clinic where patients will be required to authentic their profile. If their HMOs are registered in other hospitals they will be required to transfer to the Centre.
“This is another way through which we can boost revenue generation at the hospital and this has started yielding results because the stark reality is there is no free lunch anywhere,” he said.
Arabi also dismissed allegations of misappropriation and withholding of funds meant for medical supplies in the Centre.
“I know people will insinuate and give all sorts of reasons because they don’t ask but it will be foolhardy and madness for anybody in his senses to defraud a medical centre of a kobo and toying with people’s lives.
“No sane person will do that, so the truth of the matter is the hospital is being run on subvention and appropriation; if it comes we pile the drugs; but the truth is the drugs are always overwhelmed by the number of people who use the Centre, because it is not controlled,” he said.
In the 2016 budget, the State House Medical Centre was N3.219 billion which was whixh for the completion of ongoing work as well as procurement of drugs and other medical equipment.
In the 2017 budget, the sum was reduced drastically from N3.89 billion to N331.7 million.