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Snakebite victims flood hospitals as cost of anti-venom drug soars

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Minister of Health Dr. E. Osagie Ehanire
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Victims of snakebites are flooding treatment centres across the country as the scorching heat forces the reptiles out of their holes into bushes, farms, roads and peoples homes in search of fresh air.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that states worst hit include Gombe, Plateau, Borno, Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa and Bauchi, with herders, farmers and rural dwellers mostly the victims.

Our correspondents, who visited some snake treatment centres, found that most of the patients were on the floor with medics complaining that facilities were being overstretched.

The situation of the victims appeared worsened by the sharp rise in the cost of the usually imported Anti-Snake Venom (ASV), following the high cost of foreign exchange.

With a vial of the Echitab drugs – the brand of ASV that cures bites from snakes in Nigeria – going for more than 55,000, stakeholders have heightened calls on the Federal Government to support the Echitab Study Group in Nigeria to produce the vaccine locally to lower production cost.

At Snakebites Treatment and Research Centre, Kaltungo in Gombe State, Dr Sulaiman Mohammed, its Principal Medical Officer, told NAN that about 300 patients had been admitted from January to date.

He attributed the sharp rise in the number of cases to the hot weather.

“The heat is at its peak; this period is usually the peak season of snakebites,” he told NAN.

He said that some were treated and discharged while four deaths had been recorded .

Giving a breakdown, he said that 69 patients were admitted in January while 79 came in February.

According to him, more than 135 have been admitted in March with the figures increasing by the day.

“The figures are usually high in March which is the onset of rainy season; on the average, we receive a daily average of nine victims or more.”

He said that the victims were mostly peasant farmers and cattle rearers because “they normally enter bushy areas”.

According to him, most of the patients come from the North-Eastern States to access the treatment.

He explained that most of the victims were bitten by carpet vipers, “the snake that bites without warning; once you are close it, it will strike”.

“Other snakes like puff adder and cobra will show you the sign and will not bite unless provoked. If you are smart, you leave the place quickly,” he explained.

He said the centre currently has some ASV supplied to it by the North East Development Commission (NEDC).

“We received 2,000 vials from NEDC which we give free to patients. It should last for sometime.

“Last year a vial was N40,000. It is far beyond that now,” he said.

He listed some of the challenges the centre was confronted with, to include inadequate manpower as the number of patients far outnumber the staff strength.

Another challenge was the late arrival of patients for medical attention.

“Some victims spend days at home taking herbs and only remember the hospital when the condition becomes critical.

Most times they arrive too late as the venom would have gone deep into the system.

“Such patients take considerable number of ASV vials unlike those that come early that may require just one or two vials.

“Once the patient comes early, especially the very day he was bitten, he will get better within five days and be discharged.

“If a person bitten by a snake, especially carpet viper, decides to stay at home for some days before coming to the hospital, blood will be coming out in all the opening in his body.

“If he comes late, besides the ASV, he will definitely need blood and the cost of taking care of such patients will be much,” he said.

He regretted that herbalists, who know that herbs will not work, still keep the ignorant victims just to exploit them.

He appealed to rural dwellers, especially farmers and herders, to always wear rain boots and hand gloves to protect themselves against snakebites.

“Such precautions will reduce the high incidences of snakebite and save them the cost of medical bills,” he said.

Mohammed emphasised the need for local production of ASV.

“The Echitab drug is produced in England and Costa Rica after the venom is extracted from the snakes here.

We can transfer that technology here and produce the drug locally.

“If we can do that, the drug will be cheaper. We have the raw materials, we can do it,” he said.

At the Zamko Comprehensive Medical Centre, a specialist snakebite treatment centre in Langtang, Plateau State, NAN met a similar situation of rising cases of snakebites.

At the rural medical outfit owned by the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr Nyam Azi, a medical officer, told NAN that a vial of ASV, which cost between N23,000 and N25,000 in 2021, had risen to N50,000 or even more.

“The price of ASV is almost double its former cost owing to the rise in dollar rates and scarcity.

“Considering that it is peasants that are mostly affected, N50,000 per vial is too heavy.

”It is a hard situation especially coming at a time when a high number of cases are being recorded.”

Azi revealed that the health facility records more than 20 cases per week and attributed the high figure to the heat season usually one of the peak periods of snakebite cases in the area.

He said that victims come from Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa States.

The physician lamented the current scarcity of the Echitab ASV which he said was so far the only proven vaccine for the species of snakes in Nigeria.

He added that the situation was worrisome as patients required four or more doses for standard treatment.

“The standard dose a patient requires is four vials of polyvalent or one vial of monovalent, while some patients require even more,” he said.

Azi urged government to resume subsidising the ASV for victims to ease their sufferings.

He urged government and private organisations to train health workers in the treatment and management of snake bites to minimise mortality or limb loss.

Reacting to the situation, Prof. Abdulsalam Nasidi, Chairman, Echitab Study Group in Nigeria, said that a vial of ASV costs N55,000 and blamed that on the rising cost of foreign exchange.

“This price will keep growing dependent on Naira fluctuations,” he told NAN.

He, however, said that efforts toward local production of ASV had reached an advance stage.

“The Federal Government is fully supportive of the efforts. The Federal Ministries of Health, Industry and Commerce, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria are working with us on the project.

“The Federal Government is encouraging self-sufficiency to save herders and farmers who are at highest risk,” he said.

He acknowledged receipt of rising cases of snakebites at the treatment centres due to increase in heat, but expressed satisfaction that all the treatment centres were functioning.

“The cases have continued to rise because snakes are invading human habitats due to excessive heat.

“A major good news is that the number of deaths have decreased substantially when the ASV are available.

But deaths do occur when snakebite victims report late or arrived when ASV is not available,” he said.

 

(NAN)

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Health

CMD: 600 Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, others resign from UCH

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Nigeria’s foremost tertiary health institution, the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan is being hit with exodus of 600 health workers within the last one year.

At least, 15 Nurses, Doctors and Pharmacists, among others exit UCH on a weekly basis.

The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UCH, Prof. Abiodun Otegbayo, on Monday confirmed resignation of clinicians.

According to him, “Every week, I signed resignation letters of 15 health workers at the institution, who are mostly clinicians, that is, Nurses, Doctors and Pharmacists, among others.”

Hence, the CMD called for removal of bottlenecks in replacing workforce due to mass exodus of health workers.

Otegbayo made the call at a news conference marking the 65th Founder’s Day celebration of UCH in Ibadan, on Monday.

Otegbayo said that from 2020 to October 15, 2022, no fewer than 600 clinical staff had left the hospital, noting that bureaucracy bottlenecks had been hindering their replacement.

He said that there was an acute shortage of manpower due to push and pull factors, such as poor welfare of workers and insecurity, among others.

Otegbayo said that UCH had been committed to effective healthcare delivery in Nigeria and West African Sub-region.

The chief medical director said the institution would continue in its strides as infrastructure and facilities were being overhauled in addition to human capital development.

He commended the staff members of the institution for their dedication and commitment to uplifting the institution by giving in their best and according respect to the patients.

Otegbayo said the institution had acquired two sets of Auto Clave, 64-Slice CT machines and two Mammography machines to improve clinical services.

“Just as the physical infrastructure is being developed, so also is the administration bringing in state-of-the-art equipment to enhance service delivery.

“We have not rested on our oars as we keep acquiring new equipment.

“It is our style to keep on acquiring equipment that position the hospital at the forefront of demands for best clinical practices.

“Perhaps one of our most significant achievements in the last 65 years of our existence has been a truly indigenous elaboration and facelift of the University College Hospital.

“However, like I said, we keep improving, between the times we produced the scorecards and now, we have continued with our projects, acquired new equipment, got more help and upgraded our services.

“In the area of physical infrastructure, we have made the following milestones: Completion of the Molecular Laboratory, completion of the rehabilitation of the burnt Tailoring and Laundry building.

“Completion and equipping of the West West Block 4. ongoing renovation, rehabilitation of the North West Block.

“Completion of renovation works on the Radiology Block VI, painting of the exterior of the Mortuary Block and continuation of the interior of the Mortuary Block,” Otegbayo said.

Otegbayo said that the institution yearly attended to documented 14,000 out-patients and 10,000 in-patients and it’s committed to quality service delivery and leverage on technology.

 

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Buhari Launches Nigeria End Malaria Council In Abuja

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President-Muhammadu-Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari
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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday launched the Nigeria End malaria Council at the State House in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The Council is expected to drive the Federal Government’s commitment to end malaria in the country.

In attendance at the launch is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, and Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire among other ministers and top government officials.

Speaking to a 16-member council headed by the President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote who accepted to be an ambassador for malaria, the President maintained the quest to eliminate mallards remains a priority for his administration.

“Malaria is an age-long disease and remains a major public health challenge in Nigeria.

The World Health Organisation report of 2021 shows that Nigeria alone accounts for 27% of all cases of malaria and 32% of deaths globally,” Buhari stated.

“Malaria infection can cause severe disease and complication in pregnant women and lead to high rates of miscarriage. It is also responsible for a considerable proportion of deaths in infants and young children, with children under 5 years being the most vulnerable group affected. These are reasons why we must not relent in fighting malaria.”

According to Buhari, beyond improving the quality of life, health and well-being of Nigerians, the strategy adopted had public health and socio-economic benefits for the country.

The President urged the council to deploy best practices in its dealings in order to reduce significantly Nigeria’s malaria burden which according to the WHO now accounts for 27percent of all cases and 32 percent of deaths globally.

He added, “Our inauguration today will therefore ensure that malaria elimination remains a priority on our agenda, with strong political commitment from leaders at all levels. Additionally, the End Malaria Council will provide a platform to advocate for more funding to protect and sustain progress made so far by our country, and put us on a pathway to ending malaria for good.

“The successful implementation of the Council’s agenda will result in improvement in the quality of life, health and well-being of Nigerians, by providing impetus for malaria elimination and by saving about N687 billion nationally which is the estimated economic burden of malaria for 2022. The savings could increase to N2 trillion in 2030.

A concerted strategy to tackle malaria, therefore, has both public health as well as socio-economic benefits for Nigeria.”

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Presidency lauds Oyetola for prioritising Osun people’s health 

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Former Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola
Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola
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As Oyetola inaugurates multiple state-of-the-art health facilities in Osun 

…says building healthy population nonnegotiable

The Presidency, on Wednesday, lauded Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun for prioritising the health of the people of the State.

Speaking at the inauguration of multiple state-of-the-art health facilities in the State, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, also commended the Governor for striving to build a healthy population.

She was in the State to join Governor Oyetola in inaugurating 100-bed Mother and Child Hospital; 80-bed Multipurpose Hospital, Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Centre and Transit Home and Vocational Centre for Abused Women and Girls.

She said the execution of the projects was in fulfilment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s promises to providing quality health service delivery for Nigerians particularly women and children.

“We are here to commission these projects that had been fully equipped for the benefit of the people of this community and the skill acquisition centre will in no doubt equip our people with requisite vocational rubrics to be self-sustaining and self-employed”, she added

Speaking while inaugurating the projects, Governor Oyetola said that his administration remains committed to the health and well-being of the people of the State.

The projects were facilitated by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the Sustainable Development Goals  in partnership with the State.

The Governor also lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for considering Osun as one of the beneficiary states of the projects.

Inaugurating the projects in Iragbiji and Osogbo, the state capital, Governor Oyetola said the multi-billion naira health facilities would in no doubt improve significantly, the quality of life of citizens of the State.

He noted that the facilities would serve as catalyst to building a virile economy for the people, adding that the projects are critical to the country’s strident efforts to meet the vision of SDGs.

According to him, the 80-bed and 100-bed state-of-the-art multipurpose hospitals, for instance, are another fitting and timely complement to the ongoing effort of our administration at transforming the health sector.

“You will recall that since we assumed office over three years ago, our State has witnessed unprecedented investment in the health sector in a manner that has placed us as a leading State in innovative and sustained health investment across the country.

“Among other strategic interventions in secondary and tertiary healthcare, we are particularly proud of the ripple impact being achieved among our citizens through the 332 Primary Healthcare Centres revitalised across the State.

“The choice of the health sector as one of the preeminent sectoral drivers in our administration owes itself to the conviction that we would only be able to build a truly- sustainably virile economy to the extent to which our people enjoy quality, accessible and affordable healthcare.

“It must also be mentioned that the second facility, the Abused Women Transit Home, is unique in its conception as a solution centre for providing succour to women who are victims of abuse. This sprawling centre is impressively equipped with multidimensional skills acquisition facility alongside a hostel catering for over 100 hundred people.

“It is another excellent addition of which I am immensely proud of, as it would further significantly boost the ongoing campaign against gender violence, ably led by my wife, the First Lady”, he added.

Speaking further, Governor Oyetola urged people of the host communities to take full ownership of the facilities and ensure that they are protected against any form of vandalism, saying this is the only way to show gratitude for the investment.

Earlier in his remarks, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on SDGs, Mr. Shittu Williams, described the projects as a dream come true, saying the people of the state stand to benefit largely from the services that the state-of-the-art facilities will be providing forthwith.

He said the actualisation of the projects in the State had put an end to the long agitations saying the facility would in no small measure further advance the course of quality healthcare delivery in Osun.

The Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Ayotunde Olabomi, lauded the initiative saying the facilities would go a long way to complement the health interventions of the state government.

Oba Olabomi who expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the citing of the projects in Osun called on the people of the benefitting communities to patronize the facility and stop going to substandard health centres just as he assured of the readiness of his subjects to put the facilities into good use.

In his remarks, the Atoaja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, applauded Governor Oyetola for being committed to the socioeconomic and infrastructural development of the state.

Ataoja who described the edifice as a welcome development befitting the state capital said its establishment in the heart of the city would further enhance the health of the people particularly Osogbo residents.

“I am not a sycophant but I do appreciate good works, indeed, this edifice is good and magnificent. This is another great thing coming to the State capital and we are appreciative of this.

“I am speaking on behalf of the good people of Osogbo, our reverred sons and daughters that this edifice befits us as we are awaiting more to come. We must appreciate the administration of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola for his commitment to turn around the socio-economic fortunes of the state in the face of the visible economic reality on the nation’s economy”, he added.

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