Nigeria to introduce emergency medical, ambulance services

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To reduce the number of deaths caused by the delay in access to healthcare services, the federal government has announced plans to introduce the National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System.

This will provide prompt and efficient emergency medical services to the people, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said at the dissemination of the Nigeria Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child Adolescent and Elderly Health Plus Nutrition (RMNCAEH+N), 2021 Annual Operation Plan in Abuja on Tuesday.

Currently in Nigeria, ambulance services are executed by individual hospitals (public and private) as well as organisations and agencies.

According to Mr Ehanire, elimination of delays in access to healthcare can indeed reduce the high mortality rates recorded in the country.

“It is estimated that an efficient emergency medical treatment service can reduce mortality by nearly 50 per cent by reducing delays in physical and financial access especially at night,” he said.

He explained that the services will involve “prompt response to medical distress calls of all types with first responders, transfer to facilities, (and) assured first aid at the point of care at no immediate user cost.”

Mr Ehanire noted that the lack of functional and affordable health centres has been identified as an impediment to the attainment of the desired health and wellbeing of Nigerians.

He said the availability of these essential services is needed to combat harmful traditional practices and strengthen the decision-making power to seek appropriate health care.

Focus on women, children

The minister said low awareness on hygiene and poor choices in nutrition contributes to the poor diet of growing children in some communities.

He noted that such practices inevitably increase susceptibility to infections, slow down recovery from illness and contribute to preventable morbidity and mortality rates, especially among women, children and the elderly.

“Poor awareness of hygiene and sanitation, poor choices in nutrition that omit foods like eggs, beef and fish in the diet of growing children, ignorance of the benefits of modern health services and culturally determined gender role definitions, particularly impact the wellbeing of females and children in some communities,” he said.

The RMNCAEH+N platform was launched in October 2020 to improve the well-being of women, children, adolescents and elderly in Nigeria, according to Mr Ehanire.

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During the launch, he said challenges of the country’s health system are multidimensional and require an integrated, multi-sectoral approach.

While lamenting that the country’s health indices are poor and totally unacceptable, he said investment in the health of women and children will support the overall socio-economic development of the country.

“Our health indices are unacceptably poor and there are emerging issues around gender, public health emergencies and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

”Maternal mortality ratio of 512 per 1000 live births, Under-five mortality rate of 132 per 1000 live births and neonatal mortality rate of 39 per 1000 live births,” he said.

A 2019 report by the United Nation’s Children Funds (UNICEF) shows that Nigeria is the world’s number one contributor to the deaths of children under the age of five.

It said Nigeria recorded an estimated average of 858,000 under-five deaths in 2019.

The data, which covered a period of three decades –1990 to 2019 – showed that 49 per cent of all under-five deaths in 2019 occurred in just five countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

“Nigeria and India alone account for almost a third,” it said.

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