Dear Cross Riverians today we take another bold step to respond to the needs of our people who seek health from our various healthcare facilities in Cross River state. By early January, less than a month after my appointment as commissioner for health, I began to receive complaints from Cross Riverians far and near about some unwholesome happenings in our healthcare system, both public, private and even in communities.
Families are hurting from what they see as needless deaths. Others have suffered irreversible bodily harm. Many have invested their hard earned money seeking health from quacks who are on the sprawl across our landscape.
During my January tour, I and my team were met with the reality. Our healthcare industry has largely been running in autopilot mode with little regulations. Efforts planned to address the findings were temporary suspended due to the pressures from the COVID 19 pandemic. Thankfully, the pandemic exposed more of this weaknesses.
Many professionals are operating unregistered facilities. Some operating outside the scope of their license, We have alien facilities which have questionable status : hospitals, pharmacies & chemists, maternity homes, mortuaries, laboratories, physiotherapy homes, etc etc. There are cases where operators have no evidences of business practice permits. Some have no evidence of possessing requisite professional registration licenses. Many of these quacks invade our communities from neighbouring states. Some of them have their permanent location in those states from where they cross occasional to seek their victims in our communities. This acts sabotage the expectations of our health seeking populations and they must be stopped.
The public must also know that we do not authorize motorized or any form of hawking in medicinal products or services. Organizers of outdoor or indoor health outreaches should always seek authorization from the ministry of Health before opening their camps in Cross River state.
We have information about criminals in the industry. These individuals can be seen lurking around our rural and urban communities where they feed fat from the seeming lack of effective regulatory oversight. One would imagine that the crime of ‘fasciotomy’ where a person is given a skin cut for a surgery that never took place is gone behind us. But no, our people still get swindled by cum men who must be removed and the system made safe for the legitimate taxpaying healthcare practitioners.
On this note, we call on all media houses (print and electronic) to join the drive. Media houses should develop protocols for the vetting of individuals and their claims. This will help us avoid the continued use of these channels to peddle fake or misleading information by the quacks.
Similarly, property owners should also share in the responsibility of promoting health by ensuring that their tenants are not using their property for illegitimate healthcare practices. Employers and employees should see the need to verify the status of the personnel and facilities they operate.
Our target is to track the quality of healthcare delivery from life to death. An arrangement is being made for death within facilities to be reported in a central desk. The various facilities will be visited routinely and mostly unannounced for all relevant inspection works. During such visits, status verification will involve checks on personnel and the building engineering controls as well as the environment. The team will also assess the various work processes put in place to guide staff who render professional services to the public. Necessarily, these checks will include evidence of compliance with the COVID 19 IPC facilities and protocols.
Naturally, those whose facilities fail the test in any of these thematic investigations will be treated accordingly. Prosecutions and imprisonment and/or closure of facilities may follow. We want to avoid these sad consequences.
We are not only after the criminals. The exercise is also designed to support the legitimate operators and their business. A training desk has been set up to help with skill and knowledge transfer according to needs. Those who fail in noncritical nonconformities will be assisted through the mentorship program to upgrade appropriately.
The activities of this team of experts is being coordinated by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Health, Dr David Ushie, Heads of relevant Department in ministry, Medical unions and associations , regulatory bodies with knowledge and love for the tenets of Quality Management System (QMS).
We will work with the Chairman House Committee on Health CRSHA, for an anti quackery Bill, work with regulatory bodies for licensing issues, curtail the criminalization of practice where people leave their Scope of practice to delve into other Job specification ( live and let others live), enhance interdisciplinary collaboration in health sector,etc
Finally, I want to appeal that all concerned should take the next two weeks to determine their status and do the needful. Owners of unregistered facilities should proceed to prefect their status immediately. Owners of criminal practices should vacate our communities to avoid the inevitable consequences of being visited. We have an effective information system to police the entire networks of illegal facilities and their operators. Those who deal on products that make claims to curing multiple disease, whether as supplements or so called ‘cleanser’ should be weary as their operations will come under similar professional supervision by the taskforce.
After these two weeks, our team will come around to check and enforce compliance. We urge you all to cooperate with the taskforce.
These clean up activities have become more urgent as government ushers in the Ayadecare health insurance programs. His Excellency Sen Prof Ben Ayade wants the best care for the inhabitants and visitors in Cross River State. The Governor beliefs that a responsible healthcare industry is necessary to support the current industrialization drive by government. His Excellency wants our investors, their staff and families, every household in Cross River state to be offered universal health coverage in their local environment without the need to travel far and wide for healthcare. Government is interested in the lives of its citizens, as such any practice that puts our people at risk, Government will defend its citizens. The task force will work closely with law enforcement agents and the traditional institutions for effective coordinations.