An estimated 4.25 million adult Nigerians, aged 40 years or more are visually impaired or blind; while 2.7 million of them are estimated to have moderate visual impairment 400,000 are severely visually impaired. These statistics were brought to the fore in the National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey which was unveiled at the 43rd Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria (OSN) held in Abuja. The AGM and scientific conference, which was organised in collaboration with Afro-Asia council of Ophthalmology (AACO), under the theme: “Advancing Eye Care Beyond 2020”.
Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who spoke at the conference, disclosed that the global target is to reduce the prevalence of blindness by 25 per cent by 2019 from a 2010 baseline. Ehanire said that this reduction can be achieved by improving access to integrated comprehensive eye care service, strengthening partnership and collaboration and mobilizing human resources for eye care.
He described eye care as a particularly delicate specialty which requires enormous human and material resources to tackle. Ehanire observed that the health system in Nigeria is constitutionally the responsibilities of three tiers of government namely local, state and federal governments.
“It is instructive that the private sector is very well represented in all three tiers of healthcare delivery accounting for well 60 per cent share of patient load. However, there is no strict adherence to this pattern because some state government inherited or chose to build hospitals equivalent to tertiary care centres.
“Meanwhile, tertiary institutions on their part, battle quite outside their mandate, with over load of primary and secondary care cases, when service at those levels has failed.
“When this administration came on board, less than 20 per cent of primary care centres (PHCs) were functional. Health care was thus available only to the few who could generate enough money for transport to far away hospitals, among were the rural dwellers whose alternative is to seek care in private hospitals at high out of pocket cost, or resign themselves to faith and traditional or their fate.” he said.
The Federal Government, Ehanire said, is working to support training institutions, from schools of health technology to universities, to improve their curricula and increase output of health workers. According to him emphasis has to be placed on equipping
Community Health Workers (CHWs) with the various skills needed to provide more comprehensive, even if basic care, with update courses and E-learning platforms.
The minister urged OSN to join the government in finding a solution to the high rate of emigration of Nigeria doctors and nurses, especially those trained at the public expense.
“We are rated among developing countries suffering most from skilled medical workforce attrition popularly known as ‘brain drain. The subject was addressed at the 57th World Health Assembly with a “code of practice” drawn up to regulate the flow of highly skilled personnel from poorer developing to wealthy developed countries; but we shall need to take proactive steps on our side to protect and benefit from the service of our national investments in human resources for health,” he said.
Ehanire commended the development and launching of the “Patients’ Bill of Right”, produced by the Consumer Protection Council(CPC) for the Nigerian health care system.
“No matter how much investment we make in sophisticated medical technology, no matter how qualified the doctors and nurses are, the most important ingredient in any health system is “Confidence”. Without this, patients, especially those of high net worth, will elude the system.
“In Nigerian, there are factors that continue to damage confidence in our health system and they include some quite simple issues like poor housekeeping, and environmental sanitation in our hospitals, which do not need to occur. Other ruinous factors are recurring health worker strikes and the so-called inter-professional rivalry which frightens users; the vexatious “not on seat” workplace absenteeism; laissez faire, and sluggish attitude to work; the unprofessional behaviour of soliciting, extortion and other forms of corruption, which give patients the impression that their lives are worth only a few thousand naira to a healthcare givers; and lack of respect for patients’ dignity or personal privacy; or the security medical records.
“The Patients should been seen as subject rather than the object of healthcare service. Actually, a customer is paying for service rendering, and thus has right, choices, an opinion and dignity that we, the providers must respect. This is called Customer Service,” Ehanire said.
President, International Council of Ophthalmology, Dr. Peter Wiedemann, said that the current and practice- oriented sessions would make it possible to implement the mission of the new strategy paper of OSN, namely to empower Nigeria ophthalmologists to work with the stakeholders to ensure access to high-equality eye health eye health in an affordable and equitable manner for the people of Nigeria.
President of Ophthalmology Society of Nigeria (OSN). Dr. Bade Ogundipe, said that one of the objectives of the conference was to give room for all members of OSN and beyond to share individual experience among themselves with the sole aim of enhancing their practices in a way that would benefit mankind. Ogundipe said the society is looking forward to developing the eye care with the most modern technology and skill in Africa and other continent in the world.
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