We Are Employing More Doctors For Better Services – Commissioner
Dr. Rafiu Isamontu, the State of Osun Commissioner for Health, spoke in this interview with OSUN DEFENDER Toba Ajisafe on Governor Rauf Aregbesola achievements in the health sector, government efforts at ensuring lasting solution to strike action of doctors in the state and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Q: Can you highlight the achievements of Governor Rauf Aregbesola in the health sector?
When Aregbesola came on board in Novermber 27, 2010, the legacy of free medical health services which was initiated by Baba Akande continued by Oyinlola administration continued; we were able to continue and sustain this legacy; we have even brought a radical transformation in the programme just like what we did in the education sector.
Q: How many state hospitals do we have in Osun and what was their condition when you came on board?
We have nine of them and these hospitals were in the state of disrepute and we swung into action, all the nine state hospitals were rehabilitated, about N1.7billion was spent in renovating our State hospitals; we have three State hospitals in each senatorial district, in West senatorial district we have them at Iwo, Ede and Ikire; in Central senatorial district we have State hospital Asubiaro, Ila-Orangun and Ikirun; in the East senatorial district we have State hospital Ilesha, Oke Ogbo in Ile-Ife and Ipetu-Ijesha.
Q: Did you do anything on primary health care?
We built Primary health centres in Ogbaagba, Erin-Ijesha, Erin-Ile/Erin-Oke and about nine comprehensive health centres were equipped with modern day equipment. 50 ambulances (O-Ambulance) were bought by the state government which 30 local governments got one each and the rest stationed in all the Highways across the State. To comprehend our effort on the O-Ambulance scheme, we built emergency unit in State Hospital Asubiaro.
In 2014 we bought about 100 handheld scanners that we have distributed to rural areas outside the cities and we equally gave Asubiaro that too. We bought four 3-D Duplad scanners which were distributed according to the Senatorial districts; one was given to Iwo, Ilesha and Asubiaro then the fourth one was given to LAUTECH Teaching Hospital here in Osogbo.
We also built tuberculosis control centre in Ilesa west. As a policy, government make sure that anyone treated of leprosy and tuberculosis in the state, they all get drugs free of charge, diagnosis and treatments of HIV/AIDS in our State is free.
In 2013, about 1.4 million long lasting insecticidal nets were distributed. Periodically we trained members from the O-Yes scheme on house fumigation. This year in conjunction with Global Fund, Catholic Relief Services, Society for Family Health they gave us about 4 million insecticidal nets.
We have also encouraged ‘Surgical and Medical Mission’ with the help of an NGO called Hope Flow Initiative headed by Dr. Simeon Afolayan, we use to do what we called Surgical Jamborees in which we go to all the State and General Hospitals to do free surgical operations, surgeries that won’t require hospital admission like anemia, breast lump; occasionally pregnant women during this period second stage of labour will be attended to.
Between June and July this year, we covered all the nine State hospitals and the grand finale was done in Asubiaro. We have started this since 2010. We also distributed free eye glasses in 2012.
Q: Apart from buying and providing equipment to the hospitals, what did government do about the welfare of Healthcare’s givers talking about remuneration and promotion before the financial quagmire came in late 2015?
When Governor Aregbesola came on board, in most states, they had implemented Consolidated Medical Salaries Structure and Consolidated Health Service Salaries Scale for all other categories of health workers who are not doctors. It was when Ogbeni came that he approved that in compliance with what is happening in other States ditto for other health workers so it baffles me when people say “Mr. Govenor hasn’t done much for health workers in the State”.
Also, the resident doctors in Asubiaro hospital when they go for exams because they are trained to become consultant, government give them some allowances before the economic downturn of the country even at that in the last one year we have continued to support the Resident doctors who are going for exams, giving them allowances.
Q: There was a particular statement ascribed to you that Osun doctors are among highest paid doctors in the Southwest, what do you have to say on this?
I didn’t issue any statement about that but what I said was that; during the time of Baba Akande, Doctors in Osun were the highest paid in Southwest and it continued, not that it reduced.
What I used to tell our people here in Osun is that ‘You can’t give what you don’t have’. If we have the money and refuse to give it out that would be a different ball game entirely but based on what we can afford, we are operating in that realm.
Q: Doctors has said repeatedly that they were been paid 30% of their salary even when other workers received 50% above of modulated pay, was that the agreement government reached with the doctors?
That is not true that the government is paying them 30%. They only want the masses to be on their side, everybody gets 50%. If you are on grade level 12 and above you get 50% of your salary.
Q: You mentioned that about 50 O-Ambulances were distributed across the State, what is the effect of this program in Osun as of today?
If an accident happens and a call is being put through our O-Ambulance within a very short span of time they will be at the scene. The program has been so effective and people who live in the state have attested to that by saving many lives.
Q: Have you gotten the required doctors you need?
We haven’t gotten the required doctors that we need. In the last 6 months we have recruited 32 doctors and two days ago we conducted another interview in which we are going to recruit another 15 doctors. We are not relenting, we want to employ more doctors ditto to other health workers. We want to employ nurses, laboratory technicians and pharmacists.
Q: Was it true that the State laid off some doctors who call bluff government’s No Work, No Pay rule while on strike in 2016?
During this time none of our doctors was sacked, nobody was reprimanded for that strike action and we did not bring any doctor in to replace those doctors. What we did was that we mobilized those doctors who were working with the local government to come and stand in for them because they did not join the strike. We are even employing more doctors because we know that we need them.
Q: Are there any sensitization programmes for the people in the rural areas?
We are sensitizing through radio and we are mobilizing town criers which we will continue to do and teach them on the need for them to see and know how to maintain, prevent and take good care of their health and living hygienic lifestyle.
Q: Now that Nigerian Medical Association, Osun State Chapter have resumed from the industrial action they embarked on, have you resolved the issue between the government and the Union permanently?
We have met with the executives of the union and we keep channel of communication open and we are still meeting with them, we know that they have suspended the strike and gave us 14 days or so in which their demands should be met. We would do our best between what the state can afford.