Gbagada Hospital: Fresh, healthy breath for Lagosians
Apart from being a drain, foreign medical treatment has become a status symbol of sort for the elite in Nigeria, particularly the political class who would prefer to jet out of the country at for any slight discomfort that ordinarily has solution within the country.
From Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ondo to Lagos state, structures, facilities and recruitment of professionals in the medical fields are being recruited to turn the tide against health tourism, which experts say could save the country from losing N120billion yearly.
One of the few state chief executives that keyed into the vision of transforming the nation to a health tourists’ destination is the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Raji Fashola.
The completion of the Gbagada Cardiac and Renal Hospital has proven to be one major project the people of Lagos State would forever remember the Babatunde Fashola-led administration.
Propelled by perhaps, the importance of the health sector to the general wellbeing of the populace, or the environmental nuisance the road leading to and fro the hospital constituted, or as a way of arresting brain drain syndrome which has contributed immensely to poor state of healthcare in the country, the completion of the specialist hospital, has shown the far sightedness of the former helmsman.
Very few would doubt the governor when he declared, during the commissioning of the hospital, that in the course of an almost eight years tenure of service, he had been privileged to lead a team of public servants who have given a better name to governance in the country by their commitment to confront problems, devise solutions to them and painstakingly pursue those solutions to fruition.
After his predecessor, Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration upgraded the Ikeja General Hospital to a teaching Hospital, the place became congested as a result of new structure erected there. A critical care unit, a diagnostic centre with MRI facilities, a dental unit and many more, were compressed into the available space within the hospital.
This compelled the Fashola-led administration to move to Gbagada in order to provide more specialist facilities for critically ill patients and to train doctors and students.
If Fashola had any illusion about the urgent and critical importance of the Gbagada Hospital, such was quickly dispelled when he had a personal experience of the agony visitors and people of the state had been going through.
During the 2007 campaign, one of the governor’s aides was shot by rival political thugs. The aide was rushed to the Gbagada Hospital, but could not be attended to in time to save his life because the hospital was over- crowded with burns victims who were casualties of an NNPC pipeline that exploded in Alimosho earlier.
Environmentally, the Gbagada Expressway, a stretch of road belonging to the federal government that links the international/local airports, as well as, the sea ports, had become an eyesore, and residents of the adjoining areas of Gbagada, Medina Estate, Ifako and Deeper Life all lived with fear of the rains. Right by the hospital many lives had been terminated when drivers run into flood-covered ditches.
That was when the state Ministry of Health and Deux Project, a contracting firm, came up with the design of Gbagada complex as an Annex to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).
At the time also, there were at least 20,000 Nigerian medical personnel, who were living and working overseas, swelling the brain drain syndrome.
Many of them often complain that they wanted to come back to the country and practice, but there were no hospitals in the country comparable to where they were accustomed to working.
Between 2008 and 2014, the state government sponsored very sick people overseas at taxpayers’ expense. There were 42 cardiac cases and 28 renal cases that benefited from this gesture of compassion on the recommendation of the state Ministry of Health.
There were also 11 renal cases that were sponsored by the government for kidney transplant, dialysis and post-transplant immunosuppressant at St. Nicholas hospital in Lagos.
Sadly, some Nigerian patients have needlessly died abroad out of loneliness, being unable to see their loved ones around after going through complex surgeries, changing diet and eating foreign foods they were not used to, and seeing people who did not speak their language.
The turning point was when the country exported President Umaru Yar’ Adua to a Saudi Arabia hospital to manage a kidney ailment.
While it must not be mistaken that the country can have all the specialties locally, at least lifesaving effort can be made; and that was what Fashola may have achieved with the Gbagada hospital, which was started in 2008 and completed in 2013.
The hospital could not be built without solving the drainage problem, which took over a year. Currently, the area is completely flood free and the streetlights revived.
Just before the completion, the state government yielded to wise counsel from the contractors to replace the asphalt on the road leading to the hospital with concrete so that it will last long.
Their argument is that critically sick people require urgent attention and a bad road can make the difference between life and death.
Consequently, there is a concrete that does not need resurfacing and it is projected to last at least 50 years.
A visit by The Guardian to the hospital revealed a facility that has 24 dialysis bed stations, 20 beds for recovery and general ward use, two high dependency wards with five beds each, making a total of 10 beds, for patients who have come out of intensive care, five beds for patients in intensive care, four post-surgery beds for patients who just finished surgery, two post cat lab beds and two surgical theaters built to the most contemporary standard to cater for people who are critically ill. There are lecture rooms for students, but one of the fascinating facilities is the surgical theatre where kidneys and hearts can be removed and transplanted.
There are cameras fitted into the surgical scumps, which project images and voices of what is happening in the theatre to the students lecture rooms on the ground floor.
This ensures that students can learn by seeing and hearing what is going on in the theatre without actually being in there, which ensures the sterility of the operating theatre area and prevents patients from secondary infection.
The management and maintenance of the hospital has been concessionaired to the Renescor Team, a multi-dimensional consortium of Nigerian and American doctors and nurses who are cardiac and kidney specialists in the United States. They will manage and maintain the hospital for the next five years with a renewal option.
The team has recruited 32 medical staff, who are already on ground; 17 are local, eight are Indians, seven are Nigerians in Diaspora who returned home full time.
About 12 other Nigerians in Diaspora have signed to come to the hospital in rotation and 50 Nigerian specialists in Diaspora would be coming on permanent rotation.
Instructively, the maintenance team also has in its agreement, an accommodation for a quotapoor people who the state government will refer to them to treat for free, and when that quota is exceeded the state will pay.
Whatever the state pays in future, will be cheaper than going abroad. It will not include airfare, it will not include accommodation abroad all of which are paid in dollars, and doctors’ fees and feeding costs will now be charged in naira, in Lagos.
Apart from solving a drainage problem, a road problem, and building a hospital the state government has taken a very big step in reversing human capacity flight from the country and turning a brain drain into a brain gain.