By Ihechi Chigemeri-Uwom
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday inaugurated the Abia Tele-health initiative, otherwise known as “Dial-a-doctor, describing it as a commendable effort in the healthcare delivery system in the state.
Speaking at the event held at the International Conference Centre, Umuahia, Osinbajo said that Abia had blazed the trail in the utilisation of Global System of Mobile Telecommunication (GSM) in the delivery of quality healthcare to the people of the state.
He said, “This is an especially exciting project because it is leveraging on available technology, in this case, the mobile phone to deliver affordable healthcare to the people.”
He said that it had become expedient in Nigeria to embrace technology to close the healthcare gap between the urban and rural areas.
Osinbajo said that available records showed that Abia had about 1.5 million mobile phones.
According to him, the state has taken “the lead in utilising the potential that mobile phone has as a means for delivering healthcare for the people.”
“I am told that citizens can through a dedicated telephone line and affordable prepaid cards access medical care through a statewide network of doctors and communicate.
“The initiative would cut the time spent travelling to see a doctor or waiting in line to see a doctor in a healthcare facility.
“It will make Abia stand out in the healthcare delivery as a people-centered state that is open to life-changing innovation.
“This is a very commendable initiative,” Osinbajo said.
He, however, said that the success of the programme would depend on the willingness of stakeholders to take on feedback and make the adjustments necessary to meet the evolving needs of the target beneficiaries.
According to the Vice President, this initiative would be helpful to the state and other states that would want to copy it.
Osinbajo used the forum to restate the Federal Government’s commitment to the welfare of Nigerians, especially the poor and vulnerable.
He further said that the Federal Government had continued to render assistance to the 36 states of the federation, irrespective of their party affiliation.
He said that the gesture was a clear departure from the primordial practice, where past administrations at the centre always limited their assistance to states ruled by the party at the centre.
He said, “At the inauguration of the National Economic Council (NEC) in 2015, the president publicly declared that our own NEC will assist every state because poverty in our nation is no respecter of ethnic group, religion or party affiliation.”
The vice president said that in line with the decision, the federal government had so far supported states “without discrimination along party lines” to the tune of N1.91trilion.
He said, “Today we are feeding 7.9million children in our own school feeding programme in 22 states.
“We have employed over 200, 000 graduates in our N-Power scheme and 300,000 more awaiting funding.
“We are giving loans to over 300, 000 traders and we are heading for a million traders and artisans.
“We are giving 5,000 monthly to 300,000 of the poorest families in all the states of Nigeria without discrimination along party lines,” Osinbajo said.
He also spoke on the Federal Government’s School Feeding Programme, saying that 125,684 pupils in 724 schools in Abia were being fed, with no fewer than 2,000 cooks, handling the contract.
“This is one state where there is collaboration between the state government and the federal government in the school feeding programme.
“The federal government is feeding classes one to three and the state government is feeding classes four to six.
“This is exactly the way the federal government designed it to be,” he said.
Osinbajo further said that the federal government had given out loans to over 7,500 small businesses in the state.
“In the healthcare sector, we have the save-one-million lives programme, which has made available $1.5million to each state to improve the quality of basic healthcare, especially to women and children,” he said.
He assured Abia government of the unwavering commitment of the federal government to continue to partner and collaborate on any programmes designed to better the lives of the people.
In his speech, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu described the programme as “a dream come true,” saying “the initiative is the future of healthcare delivery in Nigeria and Africa.”
Ikpeazu said that the state government would leverage on the programme not only to improve life expectancy in Abia but surpass the average national life expectancy.
In a goodwill message, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, commended the state government for the initiative.
Adewole, who was represented by the Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, Dr. Chuku Abali, said that the programme had the potential to make healthcare accessible to millions of Abia residents, if properly harnessed.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr. John Ahukanna, said that the programme would make it possible for people to dial a dedicated GSM number and get medical attention from a doctor in the comfort of their homes.