Abia Tele-Medicine Initiative is revolutionary-Ahukannah

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Our attention has been drawn to a publication in an online publication, Abia facts news.com by a Dr Dominic Ugochukwu Nmerengwa on reasons why Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s newest initiative, the Abia Tele-Health Initiative MAY fail.

While appreciating his contribution to the discuss, we would not join any issues with him, but rather state the facts as they are and should be.

As a preamble, let me state categorically that the future only belongs to the brave. Otherwise, how do you reconcile the fact that even though Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did not have the best degrees, we still celebrate them for apple and microsoft products. They were brave and indeed, braced up to the future.

The ‘can do’ spirit has kicked in in Abia state, via the visionary leadership of Gov Okezie Ikpeazu. It is no longer fashionable to get into governance just for the glitz, as you now get judged by what positive ways you impacted on the populace that you govern. You must therefore wear your thinking cap all the time and think out innovative ways of addressing the many challenges that affect us as a people.

Cuba has presently a doctor to patient ratio of 1:155 whilst Nigeria has 1:6000. It is not any news that most doctors in Nigeria prefer urban practice, away from the rural masses who are obviously in the majority needing doctor attention.

The Abia Tele-Health Initiative is one innovative tool we have deployed to widen access to trained medical personel, especially in those areas far removed from the urban centres. In doing this, the state tapped into the increasing tele-density/tele technology in Nigeria to widen access to quality healthcare for our people.

The advantages include stamping out self medication and quackery that are on the increase in our country, owing to our resouce poor setting. We have deliberately started this project from the audio component but would add on the video component as we progress and finetune this service.

It must be pointed out that the emphasis is on strengthening our PHCs and not taking over the job of our secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities. Our call centre in Abia is localed in a secured site with 24hr power. Overflow calls get taken at the Abuja centre.

Patients would be encouraged to make their calls from their PHCs such that vital signs could be obtained and outcomes smsd directly to their centres. They could also place their calls from the comfort of their homes.

Access to the doctors is via the toll free number on the card. However, once through to the doctor, the call credit now gets deducted. That is what pays the doctors, our project consultants and then some revenue to the state for that service.

The call card is re-chargeable either through designated outlets or via the customer care line clearly indicated on the back of the card.

We make bold to state that we realise what a challenge this is for us as a state. We will continue to multi-task by continuing our chosen part of impact whilst same time improving all our levels of medicare.

Suffice it to say that the idea of this tele-health initiative came following the adopted motion at the 58th National Council on Health held in Sokoto for states in Nigeria to key into the use of tele-technology to widen access to medicare for our people.

Abia state, through the visionary leadership of our governor has become the first state to kick start this project, after a successful pilot. Bayelsa and Ekiti states are set to flag off theirs.

My candid advise to those who may share contrary views is that a quiet revolution in healthcare delivery in Nigeria is setting off, I therefore urge you to get a hold on your pessimism and join us to ensure this innovation works for our people.

Dr Gozie John Ahukannah
Hon Commissioner for Health,
Abia State.


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