Following widespread allegations of impropriety and lack of adherence to due process in the procurement of medical equipment at the National Ear Care Centre (NECC), Kaduna, AMOS DUNIA, in company of other members of Forefront Magazine, undertook a guided tour of the Centre and captures facts on ground that contradict information being dished out to the public.
The National Ear Care Centre, situated at No 3, Golf Course Road, Kaduna was established in 1999 as a mono-specialist Hospital, specifically for the diagnosis and treatment of Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) ailments.
Dr. Bakari As MD
With the appointment of Dr. Aminu Bakari, an Associate Professor of Surgery as the Medical Director in July 2014, making the Centre a zenith of excellence in providing qualitative ENT services in the country as well as ensuring it ranks among the best Research and Training Centres in the Africa region has remained a key project. Dr. Bakari uploaded his vision for the NECC to Forefront editorial team that visited the Centre over some allegations leveled against the management. The easy going and staff friendly administrator said there is no going back on making the organization, which is dear to him, a Centre of excellence in the delivery of effective, efficient and quality care and specialist training in ear, nose and throat diseases and related fields in the country. Accordingly, he maintained that all efforts by the Centre are geared towards making life better for the hearing impaired and deaf persons in Nigeria in such a manner that would embrace all those with other Ear, Nose & Throat conditions.
The New Vision
The Medical Director, who said this would be achieved by attaining sets goals laid out on his assumption of office about two years ago, explained that these include provision of state-of-the-art ear, nose and throat clinical equipment and services by December 2017. He said for the first time since its establishment over 17 years ago, the Centre now has some of the needed structures and equipment for basic Otorhinolaryngology services. In his words; “What is required is continuous upgrading and introduction of new technology/services that will make it unnecessary for Nigerians to travel abroad for specialised ear, nose & throat treatment.” Dr. Bakari, who conducted the Forefront team round some of the state-of-the-art medical equipment presently available for use by officers and men of the Nigerian military that sustained injuries at the Theatre of war in the North-east as well as members of the public, said the main objectives of NECC, among others is the provision of Endoscopic ENT Services such as Endoscopic sinus surgery facilities complete with powered instruments and navigation system. He also said these will increase the scope of endoscopic sino nasal surgery as well as safety of surgery, especially in skull base lesions, adding that part of the future plan for the mono specialized hospital is the need to provide Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) and Cochlear implantation services which at present does not exist in any Centre nationwide. With such in place, Dr Bakari said the Centre would easily be in a position to provide comprehensive, regular and complete cochlear implantation service to Nigerians. For him, having one in the Centre will also serve to train Consultants and Resident Doctors in the highly specialized field, just as he stressed that the provision of Audiologic equipment and Vestibular laboratory can no longer be emphasisied in the foremost Ear; Nose and Throat Centre in Nigeria. “There should be an established state-of-the-art audiology department for the rehabilitation of the Deaf and vestibular laboratory for the diagnosis and treatment of balance disorders. The department should commence a universal Neo-natal and School Hearing Program as part of Child Health in the Revised National Strategic Health Plan in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and hearing conservation programme for industries in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment.” Set Targets Towards achieving set targets, Dr. Bakari is working towards providing modern laboratory equipment, MRI, CT scanner and Intensive Care Unit (ICU), in addition to ensuring an upgrade operating/hospital equipment. Part of the plan is to upgrade and construct physical facilities to a suitable standard and the introduction of community based Ear Camps/Research. The Centre is also working on the introduction of community based ear camps for the prevention and treatment of ENT diseases in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) postulation that 50 per cent of the causes of deafness are preventable through preventive measures, early detection and treatment of ear diseases. In this wise, Dr. Bakari said the Centre in collaboration with state governments, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and international agencies, such as WHO, UNICEF, the Christoffel Blindel Mission (CBM), among others would be organizing such Ear Camps to sensitize ordinary Nigerians on the preventable causes of Deafness and also treat such and other Nose and throat cases in the community and in the process train local primary health care providers on primary ear care. Outlined Roadmap As part of implementation roadmap for the outlined programmes, Bakari said there is need to register the Centre’s ethical committee with the National Health Research Ethics committee in the first six months and also conduct community-based National survey on Prevalence of Deafness and publish the Data. Similarly, part of the plan is to ensure others are made to conduct community based research on ear, nose and throat diseases aimed at preventing deafness and other ENT diseases through the ear camps; train and encourage personnel on the art of applying for local and international grants to fund research on Ear, Nose and Throat diseases. Training Prospects According to Dr Bakari, aside from improved training, the objective is to construct a Surgical Skills Complex before the end of this year (2016) as well as commence training of trainers workshops for Consultants/Resident Doctors in Advanced Endoscopic Sinus Surgery, Temporal Bone Dissection, Cochlear implantation & phono surgeries in collaboration with colleagues in the diaspora and major Ear, Nose & Throat equipment Manufacturers. “Other objectives of the programme are to increase intake of ENT Resident Doctors, Audiology Technicians and Post Basic ENT Students per session and run primary ear care locally for state and Local Governments. To Develop Human resource through training, skill acquisition, continuous re- orientation and ENT seminars for the general public as well as continuous medical education (CME) workshops for Doctors/Nurses to improve knowledge and awareness of the services offered by the Centre. “There is also the need to strengthen internal capacity, efficiently and effectively manage service delivery for an Integrated Ear, Nose and Throat care by December 31st, 2017. The objectives are the Maintenance of existing faciliticies, increase Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by increasing the number of consultation and surgeries, Increase in Training programmes and students enrolment and Expansion of revolving schemes through target settings and incentives. Others are the provision of adequate means of Mobility and Communication, upgrade our personnel number to 1000 by 2017 (from the present 500), have fully computerised the hospital services and to Strengthen internal control mechanisms by Prioritizing Procurement, Encouraging bulk purchases through committees and ensuring Proper requisition/material management and control. “Other objectives are to provide conducive and adequate office facilities for the Top management, Admin and Clinical Staff and to strengthen customer care system by making every member of staff to become customer friendly, making the SERVICOM unit more active and improving customer complaints/redress mechanisms for prompt attention. Management still remains focused on those Goals that I set for myself two years ago. However, with the recent global financial difficulties we must admit that we may not be able to achieve all in the remaining two years but we remain optimistic,” the Medical Director emphasized. The Centre, established by the Federal Government of Nigeria as a response to 1995 World Health Organisation (WHO) Assembly resolution for the diagnosis and treatment of Ear, Nose and Throat diseases, is presently conducting and coordinating researches into the prevalence of deafness in Nigeria as well as training of manpower for ENT specialty and has remained committed to rendering needed quality services particularly in the area of patient care to the deaf, hearing impaired, nose and throat patients in Nigeria and Africa in general. Defined Strides However, getting Dr. Bakari to talk on his records of achievement was an uphill task as he prefers every doubting Thomas to visit the Centre and see things for his or herself, insisting he believes in the cliché that: “seeing is believing.” After a guided tour of facilities at the Centre, Forefront finally cornered him to speak on the facilities and state-of-the-art equipment already put in place by the management. Reservedly, he said; “The centre has recorded modest achievements within the past two years since my appointment as Medical Director. These include: Procurement and installation of a Brand new 32 slides CT Scan Machine, Construction of new Audiology Block to create conducive learning condition for Audiology Technician students.” The soft spoken Associate Professor, who initially rejected Forefront’s moves for first hand information about the Centre, eventually opened up saying; ‘’I have also within this period embarked on upgrading the Central Stores to a befitting facility, procurement of solar street lights, office furniture for staff and two utility vehicles. I have also ensured procurement of Operating Theatre equipment, completion of CSSD Block and Laundry, construction of new block for Haematology, completion of Radiology Blocks and the construction of new two storey buildings to accommodate surgical skills laboratories, Audiology unit and consultants’ offices are in progress. There is also renovation of OPD and Male ward that have been completed while male and female wards are in progress. “There is the maintenance of industrial harmony in the Centre since my assumption of office, improved staff welfare and presently there are no outstanding arrears. The Centre is hoping to get approval for the General Outpatient Department to provide some primary Health care services by the NHIS. Community Ear Camps successfully conducted on the 3rd Day of March every year. We have approached the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to partner with us to carry out such camps across the country. There is the urgent need for increase in the number of Post Basic ENT school students’ enrolment by Nursing and Midwifery Council due to improved training facilities. Three Resident Doctors passed their Part two and are now consultants. Primary Ear Care courses were successfully carried out. The course trains primary Health Care workers such as Community Health Officers and Community Health Extension Workers on Primary Ear Care. “The Centre sponsored five staff for training as procurement officers and they all passed the conversion examination and are duly certified by the Bureau of Public Procurement. Initiation of Collaboration with the department of ENT, University of Manchester UK on postgraduate training,” Dr. Bakari enthused. Pull Him Down However, despite the giant strides recorded and being sustained by the Centre, some fifth columnists, not comfortable with the achievements witnessed in the last two years, are up in arms against the Medical Director for some inexplicable reasons. This group has been fingered as the brain behind those dishing out false information, half-baked truths and some concocted official documents used to deceive unsuspecting members of the public. The Facts But existing official documents and state-of-the-art facilities in place at the Centre obviously point to the contrary and put a lie on allegations by spin doctors at work.