According to Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, many Nigerians travel abroad for medical care due to the filthy conditions of some of the best hospitals in the nation.
The inadequate sanitation and hygiene conditions in some government hospitals, including general hospitals, federal medical centres, and teaching hospitals, were bemoaned by Dr. Ehanire yesterday.
Since water and vector-borne diseases like cholera, malaria, and diarrhoea are the leading causes of death in children under the age of five, he urged hospitals, communities, and families to prioritise the issue of proper water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) by providing adequate water and hygiene facilities and commodities.
Ehanire announced this in Abuja at the National Guideline for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Services in Health Care Facilities launch event organised by the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with WaterAid Nigeria, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and other partners.
The purpose of the policy is to institutionalise WASH in all facilities in order to provide high-quality healthcare services. It calls for effective monitoring and integration of WASH with other national services.
He said: “It is sad that health facilities that are supposed to provide treatment for diseases are themselves not free of agents of diseases. It is terrible that you have a health care facility that is not practising disease prevention the way it should be.
“It is critical that we have a professionally dug borehole with clear water in every primary health care centre. It is sad that even teaching hospitals in some places do not have these very simple facilities that we are talking about.
“If you go to a very well-established tertiary hospital, you might be the best doctor or the most qualified, if a patient comes around and wants to see the doctor, but once he sees the sanitation and hygiene situation, he turns around, and we wonder about why people are going for medical tourism.
“Most of the time, it is not because of lack of equipment, trained doctors, but simple things such as housekeeping. Housekeeping drives people away from our hospitals, that is, water facilities for hand washing, sanitation and a hygienic environment. That is the first thing a person looks at when they get to a hospital. Poor Hygiene and sanitation rubbish the work of the health workers and facilities.”
The Chief of WASH for UNICEF, Jane Bevan said: “This is a process that UNICEF has supported throughout. I think we must not rest on our laurels to ensure that the guidelines are disseminated and utilised.
“We have supported the country to look at hygiene and WASH. We need the support of all the Ministries to ensure safe WASH in institutions. We are relying on our health institutions to be clean and safe. WASH in Nigeria is hovering around 20 per cent.
“I urge all to ensure this is given high priority to make sure they are regularly clean.”