President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the State House Medical Centre (SHMC) revert to a Clinic to serve “the first and second families and those working within and around the Villa.”
Why it matters: Permanent Secretary, State House, Jalal Arabi, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs for the 2019 budget defence on Monday said reverting the medical centre to an exclusive clinic “is to make sure that the facility is functional and serves the purpose for which it was established, ab initio.’’
- Arabi subsequently told journalists that ‘‘the overstretching of facilities at the Medical Centre by patients” is a challenge because “it wasn’t meant for that purpose.”
- He said since the services in the clinic are free, it wholly relies on appropriation from the federal budget.
- ‘‘Whatever comes is what you utilise and if the last patient comes in to take the last drugs based on the last budgetary release, that is it and we have to wait till another release is done. But this new development means that services will be streamlined to a clinic that will serve those that it was meant to serve when it was conceived,’’ he said.
The 2018 Budget Performance for the Clinic: The total budget approved for the clinic in 2018 was N1.03 billion, of which N698 million was capital expenditure and N331.7 million was overhead cost.
- Recurrent expenditure performance was 99.9 percent. N331.7 million was released between January to December 2018.
- Capital expenditure performance was 33.2 percent. N231.9 million was released.
The state of the State House Medical Centre: Arabi’s leadership of the State House Medical Centre has been criticised in the past few years, notably by both the first lady, Aisha Buhari, and the daughter of the president, Zahra Buhari.
- Zahra Buhari on her Instagram Page (October 2017): “Why isn’t there simple paracetamol, gloves, syringes why do the patients/staff have to buy what they need in state house clinic?” Zahra said. “More than N3 billion budgeted for state house clinic and the workers there don’t have equipment to work with? Why? #statehousepermsecplsanswer”
- Aisha Buhari at a stakeholders’ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Nutrition, Child Advocacy and Health and Nutrition, RMNCAH+N (October 2017): “There is a budget for the hospital and if you go there now, you will see a number of constructions going on but they don’t have a single syringe there. What is the purpose of the buildings if there are no equipment there to work with?”
- Arabi’s response: “It will be foolhardy and madness for anybody in his senses to defraud a medical centre of a kobo and toying with people’s lives. No sane person will do that,” he told members of the House of Reps. He said that the free services offered at the Centre has taken a toll on the subvention it receives from the government.
- He proposed at the time that the Centre begins to commercialise its services and charge fees to boost revenues. However President Buhari has directed a change of strategy for the clinic to now cater for only the first and second families, as well as workers in and around the villa.
Food for Thought: With the first family hardly ever using the clinic, what’s the purpose of limiting its use? President Buhari takes frequent medical vacations to London. His son who had a bike accident was flown abroad as well.
P.S. The budget proposal for the entire State House in the 2019 budget is N14.3 billion, slightly down from the N15.47 billion budgeted last year.