Dr. Abdu Mukhtar
Dr. Abdu Mukhtar, National Coordinator, Presidential Unlocking Healthcare Value-Chain Initiative,

Only Three States Have Emergency Medical Services in Rural Areas – Dr Abdu Mukhtar

The National Coordinator, Presidential Unlocking Healthcare Value-Chain initiative, Dr Abdu Mukhtar, has revealed that only Yobe, Ogun and Osun States have Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems in rural areas, while four per cent of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC) have functional and operational oxygen equipment.

Mukhtar, who made this known at the 11th Medic West Africa exhibition in Lagos, organised by the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), on the theme “Optimising Emergency Care Delivery: Unlocking The Healthcare Value Chain, “stressed the need for universal access to infrastructure, technology, communication systems, trained EMS personnel, and essential medical equipment and drugs.

The immediate past Director of Industry and Trade Development at the African Development Bank (AfDB) emphasised the urgency of addressing these shortcomings, citing the World Health Organisation’s framework for assessing emergency medical service systems worldwide. He lamented the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in securing an adequate oxygen supply, which exposed gaps in Nigeria’s healthcare system.

“During COVID, oxygen was a problem in this country. We were running helter-skelter to get oxygen, we were not producing oxygen, and finding a way to capture it, financing, and regulations. So, we, the para-ministry of Health are looking at the framework to ease these problems.

He underscored the importance of aligning with the National Health Act, which outlines funding provisions for EMS, and urged for sustained efforts to enhance the quality and accessibility of healthcare services nationwide.

Moreover, Mukhtar highlighted concerns regarding the quality of medical interventions, noting that 30 per cent of Oxytocin injections fall below industry standards, and pose additional risks to patient safety.

He said with the approval for the establishment of the Presidential Initiative on Healthcare Value Chain by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in October, issues surrounding data certification need to address some of the issues and ensure a measurable increase in domestic manufacturers. “We are in the process of defining our target to ensure that the 70 per cent import will become 70 per cent local production by 2030, which will enable us to create quality jobs, across the various segments of the value chain, mobilise foreign direct investment, as well as boost economic activity to reduce medical tourism, and ensure high quality of healthcare. Every year, we spend about $1.5 to $2 billion on healthcare tourism in other countries.

Speaking at the event, Special Adviser to the President on Health Matters, Dr Salma Anas-Ibrahim, who represented the president emphasised the significance of local manufacturing in driving down healthcare costs and improving access to essential medical supplies. She echoed the government’s commitment to prioritising healthcare as part of the Renewed Hope Agenda.

Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, highlighted the financial constraints that plague emergency response. He stressed the need for a clear funding mechanism to ensure immediate medical attention in emergencies without placing financial burdens on those in need.

Abayomi said: “In emergencies, you must roll out what you have, you have to get the responses almost immediately and think about money afterwards. So, money is an important issue, apart from the operational guidelines and the structures that we need to put in place for either pandemics, mass disasters, or the day-to-day regular emergencies that we see in Lagos. Our data in Lagos is alarming.”