Health is wealth. A healthy population is a productive population. This is the propelling stunt with which Edo State is delivering adequate, effective and effectual healthcare service to the people of the state.
To ensure that the ripples of the uncommon health care spread across Edo State, the state Ministry of Health is embarking on the enforcement of regulating and monitoring all healthcare facilities in the state to ensure they operate within the drag-net of ethnical and professional prerequisites and practice.
In a chat with Mr. Thompson Erhomonsele an editor with The NIGERIAN OBSERVER newspaper in Benin City, the Director, Directorate of Regulation and Monitoring in the Edo State Ministry of Health, Dr Stanley Ehiarimwian, opens up on the essence and operations of the regulation and monitoring enforcement team.
Let the people know you
I am Dr Stanley Ehiariamwian, the Director, Directorate of Regulation and Monitoring in the Edo State Ministry of Health.
What Is Your Office Doing In The Ministry For Edo State?
What we do essentially in this office is to regulate and monitor public as well as private health care facilities in Edo state, if you go to a private or public facility, services are rendered by human beings comprising doctors, nurses and medical laboratory scientist, pharmacists and other staff that you find there. So in this directorate, what we do entails regulation and monitoring of the practices that occur, the kind of services that are rendered in health facilities in the state, those who render those services, if the personnel are qualified, if they are adequate in number, if they have the tools, if they have the equipments, if the environment is good enough for human beings to be treated, whatever it takes to ensure that the people of Edo get the best of care when they go to a health facility in the state that is what our job entails.
We are the ones who ensure that the best practices are met, standard of practice, minimum requirements are met and we are the ones who ensure that before you have a health facility whether a hospital, medical centre, clinic, pharmacy, laboratory centers, nursing homes and maternities, we are the ones who give approval for you to set up that place. By giving approval, it means that minimum standard could have been met.
The State Governor, Governor Godwin Obaseki has been very wonderful. He has given us the backing we need to ensure that Edo people are healthy and safe. We want to also key into the vision of the Executive Governor to ensure that Edo people are healthy and wealthy because it’s only those who are alive that can strive to become wealthy and become one thing or the other in life. That is essentially what we do here.
In doing our job, of course, there are a lot of impediments, there are issue and regulation. There are a lot of obstacles you meet when you go out to ensure that the right things are done to ensure that the people of Edo get the best of care. It’s not just enough to have hospitals or medical health facilities scattered all over the place. We want a situation in which, irrespective of the facility you go to, you can beat your chest and say “oh! If I go to so and so place I will get the best of care,” because life has no duplicate.
We do not want our people to get into the hands of those who are not qualified. We do not want our people to get into the hands of those who are just interested in the money they will make. Yes, there are gasps in the system. We may not have all the facilities in all the localities in Edo state but there are those facilities that have been approved. We want to ensure that everything is in place for people to get the best of care. We know that there are also places that may be functioning or that have been operating under questionable circumstances to the extent that whoever dies may not have been duly or properly registered. From time to time, we will go out to ensure that such places are fished out and that sanctions are meted out to them. But we also work in an environment where people just like to cut corners, people want to operate in a space that they do not have the qualification and even those who have required qualifications, there are some limits to which they can practice and from time to time we try to go out and do some monitoring exercises to ensure that some of the lapses are addressed.
It has not been easy. It’s been tough because quite a number of our people do not understand that in regulating and monitoring what goes on in health facilities, whether public or private, we are actually working for everybody, even as someone who works for this office, sometimes you too may get sick that you may not be able to decide or determine which health facility you are going to get taken to but if the health industry is well-regulated, when you get to decide where to take you to but someone who is close to you may be close to a health practitioner but may not be able to get across. So anywhere you are taken to, you are sure that you are going to get some form of quality care.
A lot of unwholesome practices are going on, people are doing what they are not supposed to do and we are also trying to reverse some of the laws in the states that regulate the practice of health issues in Edo state. Some of the laws are old. So we are working on those laws. We are trying to revisit and revise them. All stakeholders are on board. Very soon, we will re-convey that committee. It was on before but due to COVID-19 we went down for a while but the State Head of Service is the one chairing that committee and hopefully by the special grace of God we are going to start soon and ensure that whatever policy that we will put in place to ensure that those who are practicing illegally, those who are practicing wrongly, those who do not have the prerequisite, competence or experience to practice in Edo State will be checked. We want to ensure that we run them out of town, run them out of business and that the long arm of the law will catch up with them. There are fines for such offences.
They can face imprisonment depending on the level of such offence. When you go out, even outside the health facilities, you’ll see all kinds of wares (concoctions), you will see women especially, and they have trades of all kinds of business on their head, they have all kinds of mixture, sometimes they tell you it is washing and setting. The life expectancy in Nigeria is around 50 years or thereabout and that is very low. There are quite a number of things responsible for why our people do not live as long as they are supposed to live and even those who are alive are battling with one form of ailment or the other. So because of that a lot has been happening and now the state, more than ever before, has come all out to give out the necessary support for the backing to ensure that the people of Edo state are healthy, they are able to perform optimally, they are able to beat their chest to say even if we are in a country where people think that we have gaps but we want to set the pace to ensure that the space is properly and adequately regulated and our people, at the end of the day, will be better for it.
What are the specific requirements for health facilities?
There is usually a list of minimum requirement depending on the kind of facility. For example, for a hospital, you will expect that they have more rooms, more space, and more personnel working in the hospital, more services cutting across a lot compared to, maybe, a clinic. Ordinarily, like a lot of people may not know, most clinics are supposed to run on an out-patient basis, they see patient, they just monitor and observe but they don’t do admission. So if you are looking at a hospital for example, you are looking at personnel who should be more in number when compared to a clinic as the case may be. We are looking at equipment you should have to run a place like that, they are looking at the size of that facility to be able to accommodate as many beds as possible, we are looking at more skilled manpower. Whereas in a small medical centre or clinic, you might be good to go with a pharmacy technician dispensing drugs but in a big hospital you expect to find that a pharmacist should actually be in place to ensure that things are done properly. For the laboratory, or big diagnostic centers you are expected to find medical lab scientist as against some very small places where we may have a laboratory technician, such places can actually work.
There is a list of requirements and beyond that there are also other requirements. Your personnel have to be qualified; they have to have all the certifications needed for them to practice, the school they went to, youth service certification as the case may be, then proper license from the regulatory councils depending on which profession. You need to get your tax clearance for at least three years, the building plan of the place and other requirements needed to ensure that everything is put in place to give the people the best of care.
It is also important to know that for public hospitals owned by the government, they may not have some of the deficits like you have in the private hospitals. As part of regulations to those health care workers in public hospitals they are paid by the government they are staff at government. Yes, we know that some of them have private facilities that they run. If you are old enough in the system yes, the system allow you to run your own private facility if you have the years of experience but on no account should a doctor, nurse or any other health staff employed by government use the time of Edo state government to run his or her private facility. That will be seriously frowned at and if we find something like that happening, that health facility is going to pay dearly for it. When you have government time, use government time for its business. When you close from work, you can go to your facility. So, we are interested in what goes on.
We do not want to have hospitals owned by government, manpower paid by government and the people are nowhere to be found when patients come for treatment and you know that in health centre, not getting the treatment at the time you are supposed to get it is a bad thing. One minute is a long time in medicine.
So when patients come to the hospital and they have to wait endlessly before doctors, nurses or whoever is supposed to attend to them comes, it is a big problem and we are saying no to that. Whoever is found culpable will face the wrath of law. There will be no room for complacency, people should be at their duty post, it is not enough to point fingers and everybody should do what he or she is paid to do.
What are you planning to do in other to check quackery in healthcare practice?
You know when we are talking about quackery, quackery has to do with not being qualified to do a job and also not having the experience to do those jobs beyond all qualification. Now, there are regulatory bodies for example, for doctors there is a medical and dental council of Nigeria who issues licenses to doctors to be able to practice within the country called Nigeria where we live and so when our facilities are about to be opened, you have to register before we give approval, we usually ask for the requirements and as part of the requirement, we look at their certifications to know how qualified they are, and of course inside my office here, you will see that there is a master register so if I want to have a list of all the doctors at a particular year, it is just easy for me to get it.
What is your advice to stakeholders in the healthcare industry?
All the stakeholders (care-givers) should endeavour to do the right thing to meet standard in order to ensure an effective and efficient service delivery. This is because the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki is committed to having a healthy, productive and wealthy populace in Edo State.
It is being worthwhile having this chat with you
You are welcome.