It came as one of those news we are generally accustomed to. I read the statement from the Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr Jalal Arabi, which sought to commercialize the services offered by Aso Rock Clinic, and thought it was another gimmick; an inert opportunity to score cheap points in the eye of Nigerians.
This is an excerpt of the statement;
“The centre is the only health centre in Abuja where patients are not required to pay a 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.
As most informed Nigerians are aware, the Aso Rock Clinic was designed to take care of Nigeria’s Presidents, Vice Presidents and their families as well as employees of the presidency (which could also include highly privileged Nigerians). The clientele base presupposes that the ‘cream-de-la-cream’ of the medical community, who are astute professionals must be working in the facility, with round the clock functional equipment and readily accessible drugs.
However, this is not to be the case, as “everything” that should be basic in a hospital is lacking. Indeed it is an aberration. How can a clinic run on solely on allocations from the government? In saner climes, these kind of clinics or hospitals are established for the abjectly poor, and not for the ‘highest’ public servant.
Now fast forward to a few days later;
Ceasing an opportune moment, the First Lady took a swipe at the healthcare delivery system in Nigeria, and particularly called out the Aso Rock Clinic.
Read part of Mrs Aisha Buhari’s Statement;
“I would like to be realistic to say a few words concerning health delivery system in Nigeria. It is very poor, sorry to say that.
“I am happy that the MD of Aso Clinic is here. Dr Manir, I am happy that you are here.
“As you are aware for the past six months Nigeria was not stable because of my husband’s ill health.
“We thank God that he has fully recovered now.
“If somebody like Mr President can spend several months outside Nigeria, you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street in Nigeria.
“Few weeks ago I was sick as well; they advised me to take a first flight to London; I refused to go.
“I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us.
“If the budget was N100 million, we need to know the way the budget is spent.
“And along the line I insisted; they called Aso clinic to find out if their X-ray machine was working, they said it was not working; they didn’t know that I was the person that was to be at that hospital at that very time.
“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners in and out 100 per cent.
“What does that mean?’’
“I think it is high time for us to do the right thing.’’
“Yes of course we have (policies) but implementation is always the problem.
“So we need to change our mindset and do the right thing.’’
“There are lots of constructions going on in that hospital but there is no single syringe there; what does that mean? Who will use the building?
“So we have to be good in reasoning; you are building and there is no equipment, no consumables in that hospital and the constructions are still going on.
I find the First Lady’s speech to be so true, yet vindictive. Her personal experience is not peculiar as most people, who can afford medical tourism have been advised to do seek medical treatment abroad. Yet, though bitter about the overwhelming failure of the Aso Rock Clinic, the First Lady had to patronize a private facility, ‘established in and out’, a 100% by foreigners? Pity!!!
From all indications, the Aso Rock Clinic have not been professionally managed, i dare to say: or how can one explain Mr Arabi’s proposed reform where he assures there would be full enforcement of the NHIS rules.
…already NHIS desk had been created at the clinic where patients would 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.
Is this an affirmation that the Aso Rock Clinic have not been operating under the NHIS? After all, figures shows that the bulk of NHIS compliant users are in the Federal Service, but Presidency Staff have exempted themselves from the scheme.
A lot of questions begs to be answered on leadership and on operations of the Aso Rock Villa Clinic.
Take for instance:
- The Aso Rock Clinic takes care of the presidency and her staff. These group of people are high caliber public servants. Does it mean they can not afford to pay their hospital bills just like other public servants?
- How is it possible that so much tax-payer’s money is spent on just on a very few persons who are less than 1% of the whole public servants?
- Is the clinic exempted from participating in the NHIS?
- What has been the motive for establishing a health facility for Presidency staff, who can pay the fees, yet they can exempted from paying?
- Is it possible that there is more than meet the eye?
- According to the First Lady, ‘No syringe is in the clinic’… What is the procurement process for hospital consumables in the clinic?
- What is the monthly allocations to the hospital?
- How many staffers are working in the presidency?
Until these questions are answered it remains a direct indictment on the Federal Government. It is a sorry truth that the Aso Rock Clinic is in a total disrepair, but eventually the bulk falls on the Federal Government to provide answers.
Hence, it is in good stride I accept Mrs Aisha Buhari’s position, calling for a probe into The Aso Rock Clinic. Even though her position seems brave, it is very uncommon to find the First Lady speak out on topical issues, not after the ‘inner room’ saga of Mr President. The tone of her speech, sublimely appeared vindictive against a person or a group. Only time would tell.
It is quite reassuring to hear the ‘fresh’ voice of the First Lady harp on the decay inherent in the healthcare sector as exemplified by the Aso Rock Clinic. Many commentators, including myself, believe this kind of conversation is long overdue, but in the end I believe it would be good for the Presidency and for Nigerians in general.
A probe is so much in order!!!