Twenty four months after taking the reins of government in Lagos, it is time for Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to give account of his stewardship. Besides serving as Nigeria’s epic-center of the global Coronavirus pandemic, which sneaked into the country through an Italian businessman who flew into Lagos in February last year, the state government said it has leveraged on the experiences garnered in the fight against the virus to upgrade medical infrastructure and train personnel that can manage the health and wellness of over 20 million residents.
At an inter-ministerial press briefing to mark the second-year anniversary of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in office, the Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, said the roadmap for the upgrade of infrastructure in the state-owned health facilities began last year, following the approval of the plan by the executive council. While giving account of stewardship of the Health Ministry’s activities in the last two years, Abayomi explained that the state’s infrastructure roadmap, which is being executed by the Medical Project Implementation Unit (MPIU) in phases, is geared towards revamping facilities across primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.
•The interior of the oxygen centre
The total overhaul, he stressed, is part of a strategy to build a resilient healthcare in Lagos and increase residents’ access to quality universal health coverage, with the comprehensive refurbishment being carried out in short, medium- and long-term bases. This would bring about fit-for-purpose healthcare facilities that would raise the capacity of the state to respond to contemporary and future health challenges, Abayomi said.
According to him, part of the new features include improved efficiency for physical maintenance, ease of movement, low carbon footprint, low energy consumption, infection prevention and control as well as staff and patient comfort. “In last one year, we have embarked on a phased but comprehensive revamp of our secondary health facilities as part of our medical infrastructure upgrade roadmap which is aimed at raising access to quality and bringing about efficiently run health facilities. This effort commenced in the previous year and it is expected to address issues of design errors, drainage, patient flow, staff flow, water collection, infection prevention, energy and ventilations.
“We have renovated and remodeled the Mainland Hospital in Yaba with future plans of making it an Institute of Research for Infectious Disease. We have also completed the remodeling and upgrade of Apapa General Hospital, just as we currently renovate Harvey Road Health Centre, Ebute Metta Health Centre, Isolo General Hospital and the General Hospital, Odan Lagos. All of these are in the effort to make health accessible.”
In the last two years, the Sanwo-Olu administration has completed, equipped and handed over two multi-level Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC) in Eti-Osa and Badagry. The construction of another 110-bed MCC, he said, has been completed in Epe and is due for commissioning in the coming weeks. Abayomi noted that the upgrade was being done in a sustainable way, which would take another decade for major repairs to be done, except statutory maintenance by the hospital management and the Lagos State Asset Maintenance Agency (LASIAMA).
He disclosed executive council had also approved the construction of new hospitals to bridge gaps in access and services in the health sector. This, he said, is in tandem with the determination of current administration to achieve the goals set in the Health and Environment pillar of its T.H.E.M.E.S agenda. “In fulfilment of our medical infrastructure blueprint agenda, we have commenced the construction of a 280-bed General Hospital in Ojo, 150-bed New Massey Street Children’s Hospital, while the Governor has also approved the construction and equipping of 1,500-bed Psychiatric Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre at Majidun in Ketu Ejinrin.
“In the course of the year, we have completed the construction of a four-storey Faculty of Basic Medical and Clinical Sciences Office Block at Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) and plans have been concluded for renovation and upgrade of some facilities at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in tandem with our medical infrastructure blueprint strategy for the tertiary health facilities.
“In partnership with the private sector, we have completed and handed over an oxygen plant at Mainland and Gbagada General Hospitals. We have delivered Traige and Oxygen Centres in 10 locations across Lagos. In raising staff welfare, we have started the construction of a 24-unit Doctors’ and Staff Quarters in at Gbagada General Hospital.”
Abayomi also disclosed that work had begun on the blueprint designs for Comprehensive Health Center, Primary Health Center and Health Posts as part of the move to rejig their operations and service delivery. This, he said, will help in adding significant bed capacity to state’s healthcare infrastructure. While noting that the promotion and protection of the health of residents of state has a positive impact on social development and quality of life of citizens, Abayomi disclosed that the state government embarked on the greenfield medical infrastructure projects to prevent issues noticed in health infrastructure across all levels of care in the State. He added that all issues bedeviling medical health infrastructure will disappear when the medical infrastructure blueprint strategy is fully implemented.
He averred that the medical infrastructure blueprint agenda will help address the issue of brain drain, medical travels and patient welfare, stressing that the state government, through the strategy, hoped to attract medical tourism to the state. “The continuous improvement in quality of health service in the State is a core mandate of our administration and we are uniquely positioned to utilize available resources to actualize this goal. With the ongoing refurbishment and roll out of new infrastructure blueprint, the medical infrastructure landscape of the State would look completely different, giving us a step closer to achieving universal health coverage.
“The prototype of the new, remodeled and upgraded healthcare infrastructure in the state will conform with key elements of global standards health facility designs, which include natural light/ventilation, sustainable energy, patient flow, infection prevention, noise prevention, flood prevention, identifiable standout visual features as well as scalability and modular design for expansion,” Abayomi said.
Abayomi said the second wave of COVID-19, which spread more rapidly across state than the first wave, would have wreaked havoc on the country, if not for the response strategy put in place by Governor Sanwo-Olu. The measure efficiently curtailed the pandemic and limited fatalities, he said, adding that the effectiveness of the state’s response strategy saved the country from negative impacts associated with the pandemic’s second wave as seen in other countries.
One per cent of Lagosians vaccinated so far
While disclosing that the second phase of vaccination would start soon, Abayomi warned that Nigeria stands the risk of experiencing a third wave because less than one per cent of its population has been vaccinated. In Lagos, only about 260,000 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, with the figure represented just one per cent of the state’s population. According to Abayomi, health facilities in the state have been placed on high alert to pick up early trends that may suggest a third wave of COVID-19.
”Currently, countries like India, Brazil, Argentina, Iraq, Qatar, Peru and Uruguay are being ravaged by a vicious third or fourth wave following a less active and insignificant second or third wave. The latest wave in India has been proven to be as a result of new mutant strains that have resulted in a dramatic increase in sickness and deaths for two weeks running. Whilst we commiserate with these countries, it is important that we protect our environment and residents against this virus, especially as we have less than one per cent of our population that have received their first dose of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine similar to India that has about eight per cent.”
He said Lagos is working toward ensuring 60 per cent herd immunity, representing 14 million people, is achieved. Among steps being taken to curb a third wave of the virus included aggressive testing, including mutant PCR testing to identify the particular virus strain. “It also included the deployment of technology (EKOTELEMED) to track and monitor in-bound travelers; enforcing non-pharmaceutical interventions; increase in oxygen supply and vaccination. Of the 123 passengers of interest tracked between April 13 and April 27, Abayomi disclosed that 110 (89 per cent) were called by EKOTELEMED, with only 39 per cent reached and tracked. He said that 66 per cent had Lagos as their final destination, while about 28 per cent filled in no address in Nigeria or filled in a foreign address. As of the time of this report, total samples tested so far was 460,647, with 58,222 confirmed positive. Of this number, 168,312 (37 per cent) were tested in public laboratories while 292,335 (63 per cent) were tested in private laboratories.
How Lagos is preventing third wave of COVID-19
While warning that a trigger for a third wave of COVID-19 in Lagos is likely to come through importation of new COVID-19 strains from inbound travelers, Abayomi noted that all strides gained in the fight against the virus would be lost without improved border surveillance against the importation of new and mutant strains.
“All passengers arriving in Nigeria will now have to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel rather than the previous 96 hours period. I have hence instructed that all these protocols would be made more stringent to protect the residents of Lagos State from an impending third wave. As part of these protocols, passengers are to mandatorily isolate for the required seven days and will be strictly monitored through phone calls by our EKOTELEMED platform and physical visits to the passengers’ homes by our surveillance teams,” he said.
He warned that anyone that flouts the rule, or gives a fake phone number or address to evade the protocol would be identified. Such persons would be made to mandatorily isolate at any government or public private partnership isolation centres or identified hotels for 10 days at their cost, Abayomi said. Defaulters would be fined, while the passports of the indigenous passengers would be forwarded to the authorities for deactivation and foreigners may be subject to deportation.
According to him, the state will also improve its capacity to conduct additional analysis on all positive cases to assist in determining the predominant strains in the environment. “This, I am certain, will help us gather relevant analytic intelligence that is critical for planning and defining treatment protocols.” He advised residents not to assume the worst is over, urging them to continue to adhere to any precautionary measures. “Residents are still advised to stick to the laid down protocols of always wearing face masks in public gatherings, washing of hands and maintaining social distancing, even after receiving the vaccine.”