African Quartz: What should the people of Delta State expect from your Ministry in terms of provicion of Healthcare?

Dr. Joseph S. Otumara: I believe that health care in Delta State has been very perfect and excellent. You are aware that the Governor of Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan is himself is a medical doctor. When we came in I am not going talk about the second term because I have been here for about five years, from the beginning of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan's administration. We were actually thinking of expectations because people have been seeing a lot of goodies. But we noticed in our ministry that the view of his Excellency is for the people to have access to quality healthcare system and provision of infrastructures. Delta state today has about 65 government hospitals, six central hospitals and about 60 General Hospitals. We also have about 450 Health Centers and one Teaching Hospital most of them built and equipped by the Delta state government. It was in the course of Dr Uduaghan's administrations that the Teaching Hospital was equipped and opened just about two years ago. This hospital is a centre of excellence. With this entire infrastructure in existence, we have a lot of consultants working in the Hospital Management Board. About 53 of them are consultants, about 260 medical doctors and with a lot of nurses. In the teaching hospital, consultants alone are about 52 with about a 100 registrars, senior and junior registrars. These are doctors. Also we have consultants from Europe and America we brought to the hospital. There are also state of the art equipments in the teaching Hospital and also in the Specialist Hospitals. Yet, in spite of all these, a gap still exists because of poverty; the general masses of this state are poor. You know this service delivery is there but the uptake of this service delivery is lacking. For them they can't afford to go to the hospital because they have limited funds. Again there is the state of ignorance. Some people are used to traditional healers. They have never been tested, examined or see a medical doctor in their life especially if you go to the riverine areas. So there is a gap between service delivery and service uptake. It is an effort to bridge this gap that the state government, in 2007, commenced the free maternal health care programme. What is this all about? We started three programmes. First is the free maternal health care programme second is the rural health scheme and the third is the free medicare for children under five. All these are to ensure that the gap that existed is bridged and that people who are poor can now have access to the hospital. Also that ignorant people can now know that diseases, no matter what, the solution lies in the hospitals. Before then, the maternal mortality rate in the country, that is the number of mothers that die in the course of childbirth, was rated as the third worse in the world. In terms of rating, India appeared to be the worse followed by Pakistan and then Nigeria in that order. And in keeping with the global millennium goals of reducing maternal mortality by two thirds in 2015 we started the programme and I can tell you that it has been very rewarding. Within the past four years, every patient in Delta state can now go into our hospitals from the time of conception to six weeks after delivery. They can go to the hospitals and receive treatments for free as it concerns them whether it is operation or assisted operation or whatever it is free. Also free is blood investigation, to issuance of drugs, to prescription.

What about blood?
Yes we give blood for free, we have blood and we give it to patients with emergency cases of postpartum hemorrhage that is bleeding after delivery and even in some cases of anti-postpartum hemorrhage like we have apoptosis placenta and previa placenta. We give them blood to bring them back to life and to ensure they don't die. I think that is the whole purpose and with what we have done in the past four years - our maternal mortality ratio when we started was 476 deaths for every 100,000 deliveries - but I am happy to announce to you that our maternal mortality delivery ratio is 221 for every 100,000 deliveries so it is very rewarding. That is about 60 percent reduction from where it was when we started. This is the same thing with the under five mortality rate. You know children are very fragile; they die from a lot of complications. So taking it from pregnancy, the child is well immunized, mother and child are well immunized and when the child is delivered in the hospital the culture of immunization is continued. Again immunize our children against all childhood diseases like poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, whooping cough, diarrhea etc. All this we are able to provide via the under-five programmes and today we have about 90 percent to 96 percent coverage in terms of immunization in Delta state. Any child that is healed whether via surgery or anything that will make the child to stay in hospital even for six months we are ready to take care of the bills for the parents.

Our under-five programme has also helped in keeping with the millennium development goals. All these programmes are meant to actually strengthen the state's healthcare delivery system. We have the healthcare delivery system but nobody comes there, the only people that comes are people who can afford; it the middle class and the very rich. But the programme of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is specifically designed to take all comers, everybody, to come to the hospital and receive treatments. The last programme, which is the free rural health scheme, involves moving from one community to another. The programme started in 2007 at a low key and was here before I came in as a commissioner. What they were doing then was basically medically screening people for diabetes, malaria, hypertension, arthritis, rheumatism but since the administration of Dr. Uduaghan we have been able to expand this programme to include all such. You will believe that because of ignorance many people have been blind for years but for the inclusion of surgery at the commencement of this programme in 2008. We operated about three women who have been blind for fifteen years. They had bilateral cataract and we removed the cataract and place intraocular lens and three days later when we removed the plasters they were able to see the glory of God again. I can tell you that it was news all over the place. We have done about 2,000 eye operations and other numerous operations including womb fibroid. Today am happy to say that in 2008, about 15,974 persons were saved, in 2009 about 19,567 were saved, in 2010 about 14,879 were saved while in 2011 we saw 21,994 because we expanded it to include dental cases and immunization. In 2011 we did more surgeries about 1,944 surgeries, in 2010 it was 774 surgeries, in 2009 it was 1,057 surgeries, and in 2008 it was 865 surgeries. If look you at it, it was broken down into general surgery or obstetric or genecology, dental or eye surgeries. And it has been a success story. With this we are able to talk to the people in the community, talking to them in order to be able to take blood samples because you cannot do an HIV test without the patient being aware and volunteering. We have a comprehensive analysis of all the communities of in all our Local Government Areas, of the percentage prevalent rates in our communities. We are happy to say authoritatively that just like we are doing in the rural health scheme and the free maternal birth scheme, all pregnant women after counseling them, we take blood samples from them and the HIV prevalent rate which is a part of the millennium development goals in Delta State is reducing. Today our prevalent rate is about 2.6 percent, one of the least in southern Nigeria. We actually started with a prevalent rate of about 3.8 percent and it has gradually reducing. In the following year (2009) the figure was like 3.7-3.8 percent l but today is about 2.6 percent. That shows what we are doing in terms of education, enlightenment to the people and its bearing fruits.

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