- Current state of the clinic belittles the country
The first lady, Aisha Buhari, has upbraided the management of State House Clinic for not having basic medical equipment and supplies. The first lady was frank in her assessment of the clinic: “Few weeks ago, I was sick. They advised me to take the first flight out to London. I refused to go… I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the X-ray machine was working. They said it was not working…I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners 100 per cent. What does that mean? So, I think it is high time we did the right thing…If the budget is N100m, we need to know how the budget is spent…We need to change our mindset and do the right thing.”
In addition, her daughter, Zahra, also condemned services rendered at the clinic, calling on its management to give account of the N3 billion allocated to it.
The unequivocal expression of the first lady’s displeasure has drawn immediate response from the presidency. The permanent secretary’s office has stated that the State House hospital got between 2015 and 2017 a total allocation of N1.2 billion. Appropriation for capital projects was N970m while N225 million went to recurrent expenditure. Out of this, the presidency claims to have received 33 per cent of its capital vote and 48 per cent of recurrent vote in the last three years while there was zero allocation for capital projects in 2017. The clinic currently has about 10,000 registered patients from the presidency, political appointees, the military, para-military, other security agencies, and members of the National Assembly (NASS).
Though jarring, the frankness in the comment of the president’s wife is commendable. It draws attention to what has become recurrent in management of public institutions in the country – nonchalance and inefficiency. To find a clinic designed to care for the country’s top political elite in such a sorry state is shameful. It is unfathomable why the country’s political leaders that use the clinic seem to have been complacent about the substandard level of the clinic they use. This is worrisome as it suggests that no standards appear too low for the people ruling the country. It is, however, reassuring that the wife of the President and her daughter have courageously brought the nation’s attention to the embarrassing situation of the clinic. Any surprise that less fortunate citizens resort to self-medication and political leaders rush abroad for medical attention?
However, the excuse that only 48 per cent of appropriation for the clinic has been released is a flimsy excuse for not having basic medical needs such as syringe, x-ray machine, and even paracetamol tablets in a clinic projected as a model. This excuse demonstrates a culture of poor process auditing, lack of strategic prioritisation, and poor monitoring of the clinic’s supplies by those charged to do so.
Similarly, there is no excuse for the relevant ministry not to release budgeted funds for such life-saving establishment. Unless the government believes that the clinic has no capacity to spend its allocations for both capital and recurrent items, it does not make sense to delay release of allocations for basic needs. If, as the first lady observed, there is money for construction of new buildings, it becomes irrational not to have funds for syringe, x-ray machine, simple pain killers, etc. If bureaucrats are mindful enough to build new structures to provide more facilities for patients, they should be mindful enough to know that a healthcare centre without basic equipment and supplies is a misnomer. It is also irrational to be preparing the clinic for better service and commercialisation while it lacks basic medical equipment. After proper auditing that the first lady has called for, the Federal Government should release funds to enable the clinic function optimally. Its current state belittles the country.
We commend Mrs. Buhari for exposing the failings of the clinic and for wondering aloud about what difficulties must await average citizens that need to use local hospitals not built and run by foreigners. Stories about poor health care in the country are not new but the first lady’s boldness to alert the nation about the need for those in authority ‘to change their mindset and do the right thing’ is timely to animate policymakers and bureaucrats.