•CAN tasks FG, CHAN, as support for faith-based hospitals declines
By Cosmas Omegoh
A wide spectrum of Nigerians is passing through terrible times at the moment. The common people are encountering enormous pain and anguish trying to access health care services.
This was made evident recently at a health forum in Ibadan, Oyo State. Secretary-general of the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN), Dr. Daniel Gobgab, declared at the event that the pain of ordinary folk was unimaginable. He related how a man in the North East a few weeks back could not pay for hospital bills after his wife had surgery at a hospital run by Christian missionaries, but was allowed to go home because it was obvious that he was financially distressed.
Gobgab and his team were in Ibadan as part of their advocacy to seek state and federal governments support for no fewer than 5,000 Christian hospitals, clinics and primary health centres across the country.
He regretted that most of the health facilities, such as Sacred Heart Hospital, Abeokuta, Ogun State, believed to be the oldest in Nigeria, and Holy Rosary Hospital, Emekukwu, Owerri, Imo State, established by white missionaries in times past, were in dire straits due to government neglect. Some of them, he said, had served four generations of Nigerians since inception.
Gobgab said the economic recession now sweeping through the country was taking a heavy toll on faith-based hospitals, rendering some of them unable to procure basic medical consumables. He further regretted that even where some of the items were available, the poor, who are the main beneficiaries of the hospitals’ services, can no longer pay because they have been thrown into severe poverty. He lamented that the cost of operating hospitals in the country had continued to soar, and yet the hospitals could not send the teeming patients away, as doing so would negate the reason for founding the health centres.
“Somewhere in the North East recently, a man brought his wife to one of our member institutions (MIs). After surgery, her husband could not pay the hospital bills. He was pleading that his wife should be released to him; he wanted to go home and harvest his yams and sell them in the local market.
“He said from the sales, he could realise some amount in the region of N2,000. So the hospital let his wife go home without recovering anything.
“In that case, what could the hospital do? Detain the woman because her husband could not pay? Doing that would have meant abandoning our primary mandate of saving life,” Gobgab said.
The scribe said that was the reason CHAN was determined to address the funding challenges facing its health facilities. It was also one of the reasons that CHAN has been appealing to government and donor agencies to support its drive in procuring basic health consumables to cater to the needs of many Nigerians.
Gobgab told Rev. Samson Ayokunle, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), that CHAN was facing serious funding challenges as a result of increasing donor fatigue. The agency, he said, needed the support of its founding fathers like never before.
Gobgab stressed that since the founding fathers of CHAN belonged to the umbrella body of CAN, the president was in the position to help sway the members to re-ignite and re-invigorate their support for CHAN in these challenging times.
The CHAN scribe noted, however, that, against all odds, the body had met the expectations of the founding fathers that came together to establish CHAN in 1973, as the health outreach arm for propagating the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Although the health facilities of CHAN member institutions are run by different denominations, the linkages and networking of the institutions have been unique. They have succeeded greatly in achieving the vision of the founding fathers. Despite their differences in denominations, the member institutions regularly speak with one voice and have embraced the desire to continually improve on their health facilities and human capacity building in order to sustain the provision of quality health services to the Nigerian populace,” he said.
He regretted that most international organisations that had hitherto supported CHAN with funding had reduced their support, especially in the area of HIV/AIDS, and, in some cases, the funds were no longer there for CHAN.
According to Gobgab, the body had been reaching out to government to help sustain the health services rendered to the public by member institutions of CHAN. Moreover, there was no better time than now for the owners of CHAN to come together and really talk to government to help CHAN reach yet-unreached areas with quality health services.
Based on the comments, Ayokunle called on all stakeholders to halt the slide in the country’s health care. He said faith-based health agencies could address the challenge, if they were given the necessary support.
Ayokunle expressed delight at the visit and commended CHAN for its rich history, having been established in 1973.
“At the centre of CHAN’s history is the genuine concern for the wellbeing of the people, which is a motivating factor for health care delivery worldwide.
“To save life is the mind of God and we thank the three Christian bodies which gave birth to CAN; they have remained a formidable block till date.
“We appreciate the hindrances facing CHAN, that is why you need to have the seal of CAN in your correspondences to enhance effective communication with government at every level. With that, they will know that you are not acting alone.
“With over 100 million members of CAN, only a government that wants to fail would not recognise Christians. We will continue to task government to improve health services in the country. It is the right of our people to have access to improved health care.
“It is easy for CAN to call on our members holding strategic positions in government or the Christian Caucus at the national level and ask them to help. If there is the need to chip in or further expatiate on what you are doing, we can, for instance, call the leader of the Christian Caucasus at the National Assembly and tell him that a bill is coming, study it and give us feedback. CAN needs to lend its support.
“We will request the minister of health to help us take this issue to the Federal Executive Council or to forward an executive bill to the National Assembly,” Ayokunle said.
Responding, Oyo State Advocacy Committee chairman, Dr. M.O. Ogundeji, thanked the CAN president for his remarks and requested for his assistance in the future.
Ayokunle, who assumed office as president of CAN on June 14, 2016, was in company with CHAN’s Secretary General, Dr. Gobgab; Director of Communication and Advocacy, Mr. David Omorebokhae, and several volunteers.
The forum was hosted by officials of the Oyo State chapter of the CHAN advocacy team, led Dr. Ogundeji, Dr. Sola Olamide, a lecturer at Bowen University’s medical school, Rev. Sr. Lucy, and Venerable O. Olagbaju, among others.