Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that in delivering affordable and accessible healthcare to the people of Daura and its environs, the Nigerian Air Force recently built and equipped a state-of-the-art reference hospital
President Muhammadu Buhari has commissioned a 60 bed ultra-modern Nigerian Air Force Reference Hospital (NAFRH) in Daura, Katsina State. The Reference Hospital, which was commissioned on August 15, 2019, would go a long way in meeting the healthcare needs of NAF personnel, their dependants as well as other members of the Armed Forces and the general public.
According to the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the NAFRH Daura is equipped with two state-of-the-art operating theatres, an intensive care unit, medical laboratory, eye and dental clinics and a physiotherapy department, amongst other facilities.
In addition to providing needed advanced Medicare, it would also serve as the Teaching Hospital for the NAF School of Medical Science and Aviation Medicine. Other facilities available in the Hospital include; Special Baby Care, Renal Dialysis, Ophthalmic, Dental, Maternity and Antenatal units, as well as a Cancer Screening Centre.
Others are the Accident and Emergency Unit and a robust Radiology Department with complete digital X-ray, mammogram, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and computerised Tomography Scan Machines. The hospital is also equipped with modern diagnostic, life support and surgical equipment intended to provide an ideal facility for the care of critical cases such as soldiers wounded in action.
Speaking during the commissioning ceremony, the Special Guest of Honour, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, assured the NAF of the Federal Government’s support and commitment in ensuring that the hospital functions effectively for the benefit of all Nigerians.
The president stated that the commissioning of the hospital was another critical milestone in the resolve by the nation’s Armed Forces to provide the best possible health care for service men and their dependants as well as the host community.
While congratulating the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for embarking on the laudable and noble project, the president noted that the state-of-the-art medical equipment provided in the hospital would minimise the need for people in Daura, to travel to Kano, Kaduna, Abuja or even overseas to receive medical care.
The president disclosed that the federal government has, in the last four years, invested considerable resources in the health sector by increasing budgetary allocation to the health sector from N259 billion in 2015 to over N340 billion in 2018.
According to him, significant strides have been made to improve life expectancy and reduce some of the killer diseases associated with child and maternal mortality to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030, as enshrined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The president added that despite significant investment in the health sector, many more efforts were needed to fully eradicate a wide range of diseases and many persistent and emerging health issues in the society. Therefore, to achieve sustainable healthcare delivery, efforts would need to be redoubled and focused to providing more efficient funding of the health sector, improved sanitation and hygiene and increased access to medical care in rural areas in order to save the lives of millions of Nigerians.
Speaking further, he said the hospital would assist the federal and state governments in providing standard and affordable health services to the people of Daura and other adjoining towns and villages, with a view to supplementing the existing secondary and tertiary facilities.
It would also serve as a centre for medical research where medical practitioners collaborate to find solutions to public health challenges in the country. More importantly, the facility is poised to provide the much needed trauma care for personnel on active duty, especially those engaged in various theatres of operation. This, he said would go a long way in boosting the morale of personnel as well as encouraging them to give their best in the cause of service to their fatherland.
He said: “I want to assure you that the federal government and indeed the Katsina State Government are highly appreciative of this initiative. The hospital will be utilised and maintained in the best possible way. To the staff of the hospital, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ I urge you to maintain the highest standard and quality of services the military is known for, in attending to the patients and the host community.”
While expressing his profound appreciation to the president for his steadfastness in ensuring that the NAF is better equipped to fulfill its statutory responsibilities, the CAS remarked that it became necessary to establish full-fledged trauma hospitals in close proximity to conflict areas for the treatment of life-threatening battle injuries.
He said it was for this reason that the NAF took the bold step of establishing Reference Hospitals in Port-Harcourt and Bauchi. He noted that the newly commissioned NAFRH in Daura would complement the already existing NAF hospitals in providing medical care for NAF personnel and their dependents as well as members of the host communities.
According to him, “extending the services to our host communities in various locations where our hospitals are located is intended to boost the existing cordial relationship between the NAF and members of the host communities, whilst at the same time increasing NAF contribution towards the improvement of our National health care delivery services.”
Abubakar disclosed that the establishment of the NAFRH and upgrade of other NAF hospitals was part of the modest efforts by the NAF to reform health care in the service and ensure that personnel and their families get the best medical attention, in order to spur them to greater dedication and performance.
In line with this objective, the CAS said, the NAF recently embarked on a deliberate upgrade of other medical facilities through enhancement of existing infrastructure, provision of modern hospital equipment, recruitment of appropriate medical professionals to bridge manpower deficiencies and retraining of own medical personnel.
He stated that all the 38 NAF medical facilities had accordingly been provided with critically needed equipment and medical personnel to enhance their service delivery.
Since 2016, the CAS said the service had recruited a total of nine medical consultants, as well as 61 general medical practitioners and dentists through the Direct Short Service Commission programme which had significantly enhanced the capacity of the Medical Services Branch to provide quality healthcare to personnel.
He further explained that, in line with the NAF’s tradition of providing succour to communities affected by terrorism, the service established emergency hospitals for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Bama and Maiduguri, and upgraded the State Clinic in Maikohi IDP Camp in Yola. He equally stated that the NAF had conducted medical outreach programmes across the country which had provided medical care to over 323,000 IDPs and beneficiaries in host communities.
In her remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence (MOD), Mrs Nuratu Batagarawa stated that the commissioning ceremony underscored one of the major thrusts of military leadership, which revolves around the welfare of personnel.
Batagarawa noted that in response to the imperative need to provide a quick resolution to the security challenges in the country, the Federal Government had deployed substantial national resources, especially in opening up of additional military facilities in the country. While commending the CAS for translating the strategic guidance of the president into tangibility, the Permanent Secretary implored NAF personnel and members of the host communities to ensure protection of the facility.
The Commissioning ceremony, which was preceded by a two-day medical outreach at Sandamu Local Government Area, had in attendance the Chairman Senate Committee on Air Force, Chairman House Committee on Air Force as well as the Executive Governors of Katsina, Zamfara and Kano States.
Other dignitaries included the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Director Air Force MOD, Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, His royal Highness the Emir of Daura, Deputy Governor of Katsina State, Speaker Katsina State House of Assembly, Branch Chiefs from Army and NAF Headquarters, Air Officers Commanding and other serving senior military officers, amongst others.