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LAGOS. NIGERIA.     Friday, November 29 2002














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Govt begins N1.3b upgrading programme for 15 hospitals
By Ben Ukwuoma and Chukwuma Muanya

A NEW lease of life is underway for 15 specialist and teaching hospitals in the country, as the Federal Government begins the implementation of a N1.3 billion equipment credit purchase agreement between it and an Austrian firm Vamed Engineering GMBH and Co-Kg.

Health Minister, Prof. ABC Nwosu, disclosed this in Abuja at a four-day yearly conference of chairmen and chief executive officers of tertiary hospitals.

Another piece of good news came for the health sector yesterday, as after a 20-year-old wait, the National Food and Nutritional Policy was eventually released by the Federal Government.

Speaking on the implementation of the multimillion naira pact on re-equipping the hospitals, Nwosu said the hospitals would also be upgraded into five-star health institutions at the end of the implementation of the pact, which is in two phases.

The pact was signed recently by the Federal Ministry of Health on behalf of the Federal Government, to re-equip, maintain and train personnel in the hospitals over a period of five years.

A joint statement by the Health Minister, Alphonsus B.C Nwosu, who signed the contract on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health, and Helmut Dietrich for Vamed Engineering GMBH & Co. KG, said that the eight hospitals that would benefit from the first phase of the project are: University College Hospital, Ibadan; Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; and University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt.

Others are: University of Jos Teaching Hospital, Jos; University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri; University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, Lagos; and University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin.

The statement said further that based on the satisfactory implementation of the first phase of the agreement, the ministry may consider equipment modernisation in the seven remaining teaching hospitals, which will consitute the second phase of the project.

According to the statement, the possibility of a third phase which would cover the maintenance of equipment of all Federal Tertiary Health Institutions in Nigeria would be considered subject to satisfactory execution of Phases I and II.

Addressing chief executives of Federal tertiary hospitals at a 4-day conference held in Abuja recently, the minister said that tertiary healthcare delivery would undergo drastic changes in the next few months.

The changes, Nwosu assured, would enhance the efficiency of the hospital system.

He declared: "The new direction is to increase the autonomy and independence of the hospital management boards of tertiary health institutions and let each hospital develop its own character, thereby encouraging healthy competition."

The minister also assured the hospital chiefs that under the new restructuring process, all the 36 states of the Federation and Abuja will benefit once they meet the criteria.

Nwosu continued: "In the first phase, the Federal Government is starting with eight Teaching Hospitals followed by another seven in the next few months."

Prince Albert A. Awofisayo, Chairman/Chief Executive of CPL Group of Companies, the Nigerian exclusive technical partners of the Austrian firm, told The Guardian that under the contract, which is a credit purchase facility to the Federal Government repayable under four years with one year moratorium, (grace period), Vamed would provide equipment supply; project management; staff training; maintenance and spare parts; consumables and disposables, as well as contigencies to specified teaching hospitals across the federation.

Awofisayo, who is also the Chairman of Vamed Engineering Nigeria Limited, a product of the merger between CPL Group of Companies Nigeria and Vamed Engineering GMGH & Co. KG, Austria, revealed that the Federal Government had so far released four per cent of the N100 million as an upfront payment.

The Health Minister, at the four-day conference, disclosed plans by the Federal Ministry of Health to persuade the National Assembly to enact a law before the end of the year that will raise the tempo of the battle against fake and adulterated drugs.

The law, Nwosu said, would stipulate deterring sanctions for perpetrators of the deadly act.

Culprits and their accomplices would on conviction, have no option of fine but go to jail for seven years.

Nwosu also said that plans were underway to ensure that drugs could be imported into the country only through certain designated ports, where they would be thoroughly examined.

Meanwhile, nutritionists in the country have commended government for the National Food and Nutrition Policy which was released in Lagos yesterday.

The policy, which had been on the drawing board for the past 20 years, listed poverty, inadequate investment in the social sector, inadequate dietary intake and disease as the major causes of malnutrition in the country.

It also identified micronutrient deficiencies as major consequences of the situation.

The policy advocates reduction of micronutrient deficiencies by 50 per cent of current levels by year 2010.

President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Mrs. Beatrice Eluaka, who articulated the views of the nutritionists, said "it is our fervent hope that this policy does not become another beautiful document adorning our shelves and gathering dust.

"It is also our prayer that the present seal of the National Committee on Food and Nutrition (NCFN) which informed the production of an implementable National Plan of Action, would be sustained and supported with adequate funding," she added.

Eluaka, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the 33rd yearly conference of the association held in Lagos, said further that "On our part as a professional group, we will continue to provide sound expert advice that is based on scientific evidence on nutrition related issues, and also collaborate with relevant stakeholders in the areas of nutrition research, education and information".

She called for the creation of a Nutrition Co-ordinating Agency in the Presidency to be directly supervised by the President and headed by a nutritionist, with the relevant complementary staff and budget.

UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Christian Voumard, said the introduction of the National Policy signalled Nigeria's commitment to adequate nutrition for Nigerians.

He said that Nigerians have generally become hungrier, less educated, less healthy and more malnourished.

"At UNICEF, we believe that malnutrition, largely preventable, can be remedied. We will continue our effort to ensure that the Nigerian child survives, and develops to its fullest potential," he added.

Professor Laolu Akinyele, of the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Ibadan, in his keynote address, canvassed adequate funding for the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Nutrition which, according to him, should be multisectoral, multidisciplinary and integrated.


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