The wife of the president Aisha Buhari , yesterday came hard on the management of the Aso Rock clinic over alleged poor services, asking the authorities to give account of the huge budgetary allocation to the hospital.
The demand came as the presidency announced plans to commercialise the State House Medical Centre (SHMC) for better health delivery system amidst mounting allegations of misappropriation and withholding of funds meant for medical supplies.
The centre currently offers free medical services to patients. It provides medical services to the president, vice president and their families, aides, members of staff of the State House and other entitled public servants. It is also a training facility for house officers and other medical personnel.
However Aisha’s husband, President Muhammadu Buhari, has been going to the United Kingdom for medical treatment despite the availability of free services at the clinic.
The Permanent Secretary, State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, last week said the decision of the management to seek the commercialisation of the centre, among others, was to boost its revenue and augment the appropriation it receives from the government in the quest for better services.
But the wife of the President who berated the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Hussain Munir, yesterday expressed disappointment over poor services in the hospital despite huge allocations by government over the years.
Mrs. Buhari also took a swipe at the managers of the clinic, insisting that there is the need for them to tell Nigerians how the N3.89billion budget for the clinic last year was expended before it was reduced to N331.7millon this year.
“If the budget is N100million, we need to know how the budget is spent,” she said at the opening of a stakeholders meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) organised by her pet project, Future Assured.
At the event attended by wives of the governors of the 36 states, development partners, primary health care coordinators, among others, Mrs. Buhari lamented: ”You are all aware for the last six months, Nigeria wasn’t stable because of my husband’s ill health, we thank God he is fully recovered now.
“If somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, then you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street in Nigeria.
“A few weeks ago, I was sick as well, they advised me to take the first flight out 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 is N100 million, we need to know how it is spent. Along the line, I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the x-ray machine was working. They said it was not working. They didn’t know I am the one that was supposed to be in 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?
“So, I think it is high time for us to do the right thing. If something like this can happen to me, no need for me to ask the governors’ wives what is happening in their states.
“This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government, and this is the Presidential Villa. One of the speakers has already said we have very good policies in Nigeria. In fact, we have the best policies in Africa but the implementation has been the problem. So, we need to change our mindset and do the right thing.”
She added: “ I’m sure Dr. Munir will not like me saying this but I have to say it out. As the chief medical director, there are a lot of constructions going on in this hospital but there is no single syringe there, what does that mean? Who will use the building? We have to be good at reasoning. You are building a new structure and there is no equipment, no consumables in the hospital and the construction is still going on.”
President Buhari’s daughter, Zahra, also recently took to her Instagram handle @mrs zmbi, on Saturday, where she raised concerns over the poor state of the hospital despite the allocation in the 2017 budget.
She specifically called out the permanent secretary in the State House, Arabi to provide answers as to why simple drugs as paracetamol, and consummables as syringes and gloves were not available, leaving patients and staff to individually source those items.
Using the hashtag#statehousepermsecplsanswer, she asked: “Why isn’t there simple paracetamol, gloves, syringes, why do the patients/staff have to buy what they need in state house clinic?
“More than N3 billion budgeted for state house clinic and the workers there don’t have equipment to work with? Why?
“Where is the money going to? Medication only stocked once since the beginning of the year? Why?”
While clearly avoiding responding to the president’s daughter, the permanent secretary said the management would, among other things, seek the commercialisation of the centre .
“It is the only health centre in Abuja where patients are not required to pay any 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.”
The permanent secretary further explained that “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.
Arabi said the proposed reforms would ensure that those eligible to use the centre are National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)-complaint with their Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) or primary health provider domiciled in the clinic.
“We have already created a NHIS desk at the clinic where patients will 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.
Arabi dismissed allegations of misappropriation and withholding of funds meant for medical supplies at the centre.
In the 2016 budget, the State House Medical Centre got N3.219 billion which was for the completion of ongoing work as well as procurement of drugs and other medical equipment.
In the 2017 budget, the sum was reduced drastically from N3.89 billion to N331.7 million.