Our goal is to close gaps in Nigeria’s healthcare system – Healing Stripes Hospital

Healing Stripes Hospital (HSH), established nine years ago by His Love Foundation, the CSR arm of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, offers primary care and community healthcare outreaches.

Pastor E A Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God

The hospital has had 64,000 discharges since it upgraded it’s facilities to become a functional and professional hospital, while it has had 9,104 free dialysis in the last four years. It recently won an award for ‘Outstanding CSR Health Project of the Year’. Dr Ezinne Onymere, Doctor-in-Charge, HSH, spoke withNkiruka  Nnorom on the award, healthcare services offered by HSH and the state of Nigeria’s healthcare system. Excerpts:

What is your impression of medical care in Nigeria?

My impression, truth be told is neglect. We have all it takes to offer the best but we just choose to ignore; we choose not to pay attention to what is happening in the health care system. This is because if we do, whatever is it people get from medical tourism, you can get better care if we focus to make our system work.

Does the church have all it takes to shoulder the responsibility of health care?

The church does not have all it takes but the church has put their foot forward to make everybody know that it is possible to close this gap in your little ways. So, we are not leaving it only for the government to do. Imagine every church trying to make sure that people have access to health care. If you make services free, it means someone is paying for the free services but it gives someone down the line access. The church can’t do it all but the church is saying, it is possible. It means you need someone to partner with government to close the gap in healthcare delivery.

Many Nigerians travels abroad for medical care including the president. What does it portends for our medical system?

What it does is further neglect and not knowing the pain points for fellow citizens because if we always have to jet out when we have issues, we will never get this system to work. So, it is a cycle and it continues. The day the president decides that he must get his healthcare here, he would know what the issues are and they would be fixed.

With regards to your interaction with patients and medical institutions, can Nigeria boast of quality health care in the country?

Quality comes with funding. We can if we are well funded. We know we have the problem of health care being under budgeted but the good thing about our situation now is that Nigerians are more enlightened and are beginning to speak up. This also will put pressure on the leaders to begin to do what the people wants.  People travel abroad for medical care because they do not believe in the system. Everybody would have stayed if the system is well funded.

Healing Stripes Hospital recently emerged recipient of the Nigerian Health Care Excellence Award 2019. What is your perception of the award?

This is the 6th time this healthcare award has taken place. We got the award for the Outstanding CSR of the Year. It was given to us in recognition of our efforts in offering free dialysis to the less privileged. We are excited about the award. Just in our own little corner here, we are alleviating cost burden for chronic kidney patients and we are beginning to get noticed. We have been doing this for the past four years, running the Dialysis Support Scheme. We are really excited that we are getting noticed and are willing to affect more lives. ”

It shows that whatever you put your mind to do is possible regardless of the circumstances. Health care system is really a complex system and it is something you can do if you are determined. The Dialysis Support Scheme, which is the reason why we won the award came through people choosing to help in their own way.

What does this award mean to you?

It means so much to us because there are so many people with chronic renal disease and very little access to dialysis centers. Yes, there are dialysis centers springing up, but there are patients that cannot afford care because each dialysis section costs between twenty five thousand to forty thousand. Imagine an individual having to do that three times a week from their salary. So, you see people come, they require this care but they can’t have access, so they just die. There is some imbalance. We do not have enough, the public system does not have enough but we have the platform of being a faith based organisation where we could reach out to the people and the people passionate about health care come up to assist these people to get their dialysis done.

Apart from dialysis, what other services are rendered at the Healing Stripes?

Our goal is to offer quality care and close the gap. We render out-patient services, which is about 80 percent of what we do here. We render in-patient services, but our services are mostly out-patients. We also render surgical services. We also have O&G, that is obstetrics and gynaecology. We see children, the paediatric thing. We are big on preventive health, so we don’t want people to get ill at all. We have preventive health clinic where we see people that are healthy and encourage them to do regular checks. Our goals is to look for gaps and close them.

What have been the challenges?

Of course, every good thing comes with its own share of challenges. For the patients, the challenge we have is that the money we get from donations is not able to cover everybody. That is our biggest challenge. If we have more people donating and if we have more people know about the scheme and we are accountable to them on what we use the funds for, the challenge of not being able to put people on the scheme will be taken care of.

There are more people needing the service than you can accommodate. How do you recruit patients that really require help on the Dialysis Support Scheme?

We do some sort of profiling of the patients so that we do not run the risk of everyone just coming in, even those that can afford it. So, we do profiling before we recruit patients on the scheme. The profiling checks patient’s status to know if the patient truly has the ability to pay or not. Meanwhile, the patient would have been in our system for about four weeks. We dialyse the patient for these period and watch how he or she pays. We interact with the person and if we see that the person is indigent based on our parameters, we offer to put the person on the scheme.

How do you react to biases of patients of other religion who think they would not get the service because they are not Christians?

There is no segregation in this hospital. It is called the Healing Stripes Hospital and not Healing Stripes Christian Hospital. It is just owned by the Redeemed Christian Church of God but we reach out to all.

If you are the health minister, what would be your recommendation knowing all the challenges in the health system?

My recommendation is simple. It is first to sit down and create a system that works. Our system does not work. Healthcare is a system. It is not private hospital, general hospital or government. It is a system. Once we are able to correct how the system goes from generating personnel to generating and maintaining the facilities, making sure that services are available and accessible and providing funding, the problems would be solved.

It’s not enough to say, doctors go on strike, there is reason for the strike. Its  not an isolated poor funding, why is there poor funding, it is not an isolation of the machines that are all broken down and the bureaucracy of changing them, it is in questioning why the bureaucracy is there. So, it is a systemic issue; it is knowing the problems and fixing them.

Would you fault Nigerians who engage in self medication rather than going to the hospital?

Yes, because, ignorance is not an excuse. No matter how minimal the services are here in Nigeria, you have to use it first. The health centre may not have all that is required to function well but you must visit the health centre . When you look at the rise in chronic renal diseases, it is still this indiscriminate self healthcare that is putting it on the rise. The government has provided health centres, so no matter how non-functional you think they might be, if you got a prescription and the right dose to take, it is better than self care. I still fault people because poor access does not mean no access.

Really, you have this health centers and you do not pay so much. I would also blame awareness because I don’t think people know they can get affordable health care in their vicinity than giving in to self medication.


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