Patients at the State House Medical Centre are groaning over lack of drugs and equipment at the facility, Daily Trust reports.
The clinic is meant to serve Nigeria’s president, vice president and their families as well as employees of the Presidency and other privileged individuals.
Multiple sources at the clinic revealed that the last time drugs and other consumables were supplied was in April this year.
There are complaints that common drugs and other items such as paracetamol, Vitamin B-complex, cotton wools and syringe are not available in the hospital.
The situation seems to be scaring patients away. Daily Trust reporter, who was at the medical facility from 7am to 12:00noon on Friday, counted only seven patients waiting to see doctors.
One of the president’s daughters, Zahra, had raised questions over where the money budgeted for the State House clinic was going to, with the unavailability of simple paracetamol, gloves, syringes.
Daily Trust checks revealed that after prescriptions by doctors, pharmacists ask patients to “go and get drugs” outside the hospital.
Those who spoke to Daily Trust correspondent, mainly workers and patients of the clinic, refused to give their names, fearing that as civil servants, their jobs could be on the line.
A patient recently diagnosed with low Packed Cell Volume (PCV) said he was told that there were no folic acid, fersolate tablet and vitamin B-Complex at the centre. A receipt he showed our correspondent indicated that he got the drugs for N650 outside the facility.
Another patient recalled that he had to go to Garki Hospital for a malaria test few weeks ago because he was told that the laboratory at the State House clinic did not have “the tools for the blood test.”
A female patient stated: “Doctors and nurses at the State House hospital do their work, they prescribe drugs, but when you get to the pharmacy, you are told there are no drugs. Recently when I was asked to do a leg x-ray, I was told the machine was not working.”
“Seriously, this hospital lacks drugs and equipment. My wife gave birth yesterday (Thursday) and I was asked to go out and buy everything needed for the delivery totalling N7,500. I’ve the receipts with me. President Buhari should look into this and help us out,” another patient said.
A senior nurse of the centre revealed that she spent her money to buy paracetamol when she “couldn’t get it from the State House Medical Centre.”
A doctor at the clinic disclosed: “Once in a while, they send little money to buy syringes and cotton wools. Every other thing, our patients usually buy from outside. We, doctors, are always on ground 24 hours to attend to patients, but there are no drugs. It is unpalatable. Patients are suffering. That is the truth.”
Daily Trust reports that a sum of N3.8 billion was budgeted for the State House Medical Centre in 2016 and N331.7million in 2017 with zero capital allocation.
Allocations to clinic paltry – Perm sec
The Medical Director of the State House Medical Centre, Dr Munir Yakasai, couldn’t be reached for comments. But the Permanent Secretary attached to the State House, Mr Jalal Arabi, told our correspondent on Friday that since the clinic renders free services, no matter how much was spent on supply, drugs would finish and there would be a problem if there is no allocation.
Asked how much has so far been released to the clinic this year, he responded: “Honesty, I can’t say offhand, but it’s really paltry and I don’t want to blame anybody. It’s because of the situation we find ourselves in terms of revenue generation. But no matter how much is released, so long you don’t commercialise it (the clinic) or there’s a way you generate money to replenish whatever given out, it would finish.”
Arabi added that: “If you leave your gate wide open, like we do at the State House Medical Centre, patients would come, and if they come, you prescribe drugs and give them based on availability. So long as you don’t charge a kobo, they’re coming in and out and you’re giving them drugs, certainly, one day, the drugs will finish. And if they finish, and you don’t have appropriation to replenish the drugs, what do you do?”
Asked if he meant there was no appropriation, he responded: “No! No! No! There are appropriations, but whatever is appropriated is released based on the release you get from the Ministry of Finance. If it’s released, you buy (drugs) according to what has been released to you. And if the drugs finish, you’ve to wait until another appropriation since we don’t charge kobo. It’s free medical services. And you dispense with what you have. Unless of course there’s a change of policy that you start charging like other hospitals are doing, then one can be accused of not stocking drugs or consumables.”
‘Clinic should be commercialised’
The permanent secretary suggested that the clinic should be commercialised to be able to render satisfactory services.
According to him, there is now a policy mandating those interested in the services of the State House Medical Centre to transfer their National Health Insurance Scheme profile to the centre.
He added: “There was a time the NHIS policy was jettisoned at the State House Medical Centre in which case you find patients enrolled in NHIS, but have chosen different providers. Because of proximity, they’d rather come to the State House Medical Centre to do it more or less taking free medication when, as a matter of fact, what ought to have come to the State House Medical Centre if they’d utilised the NHIS policy goes elsewhere and you can’t chase it. In the end, the drugs will finish and if you don’t have appropriation, I can’t violate the law.”
The permanent secretary denied the allegation of diverting funds meant for drugs’ procurement to the maintenance of the hospital’s building, challenging those behind it to provide a proof.
Arabi said: “You can’t take the money for construction to buy drugs and you can’t take the money appropriated for drugs to construction unless you’re out of your senses and you should be ready to face the law.”