The Federal Government has flagged off its first International training of trainers in Geriatrics in the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), and the launch of the Elderly Friendly Hospitals Initiative (ELDFRHI), with the theme: “Achieving Quality Healthcare for elderly in Africa”. The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire made this known at the occasion to mark the event in Benin City, Edo State. He informed that the training was first of its kind in sub-Sahara Africa, adding that a key challenge to healthy ageing is the lack of trained personnel to meet the specific needs of senior citizens.
The Health Minister stated that Nigeria launched the Healthcare Package for improving Quality of Care of ageing Population (HEPIQ-C) project, geared towards addressing health care and social issues of older persons through four thematic pillars which include Clincal Care, Training of Healthcare Workforce, Research and Development on Ageing and Health Social Support some others. Dr. Ehanire said that in December, 2018, the Federal government launched the Policy framework on Healthy Ageing in Nigeria which supported the Universal healthcare coverage through creating a non-contributory health insurance scheme.
Speaking further, the Minister reiterated that as part of efforts to ensure the implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s health sector agenda, of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), is to accommodate the provision for affordable health insurance through the National Health Insurance Scheme gateway, where all senior citizens above 70 years of age and older will be included throughout their life time on earth. He maintained that the Federal Ministry of Health is working assiduously with other partners like National Pension Commission, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to ensure that formal sector retirees retain the benefit of their NHIS up to 70 years, before switching- over to the National Non- Contributory Health Scheme.
Dr. Ehanire hinted that as part of the government efforts, the initiative is a commitment to achieve the objectives of the global decade for healthy aging adding that the health sector shall mount advocacy to make (UBTH) a regional center for geriatrics.
The Governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki who was represented by the Honourable Commissioner of Health, Dr. Patrick Okundia stated that an ageing population poses numerous social and economic challenges. However, he pointed out other challenges, which are broken down traditional family support system structures which have resulted in the erosion of the extended family system where the burden of care used to be shared. He added that children now seek for greener pastures outside Nigeria leaving their aged parents to cater for themselves or at the mercy of employed care givers.
Governor Obaseki hinted that Edo State Government is poised to creating in-home care for the elderly since elderly people’s home is still perceived as a ‘’Taboo’’ in Nigeria and often times the children are not readily available to provide the care and support needed. He stated that there should be provision of recreational facilities as a form of time out for the elderly.
The Chief Medical Director, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Prof. Darlington Ewaen Obaseki, stated that geriatrics is a healthcare specifically dedicated to meeting the healthcare needs of the older persons known as ‘’Senior Citizens ’or elderly in Nigeria and probably some other countries. He stated that UBTH is taking the lead in providing ‘’locally relevant and affordable training’’ of International standard to multi-disciplinary professionals drawn from the three levels of the health sector (primary, secondary, tertiary), private sectors and related disciplines.
Prof. Obaseki disclosed that according to research, older persons utilize the hospital services more the other group of individuals and this necessitated the concept of Elderly Friendly Hospital Initiative (ELDFRHI), adding that individuals, hospitals, religious bodies and commercial organizations should adopt the idea to make the older persons age gracefully and enjoy improved health and well-being.