Provost, College of Medicine at the University of Benin, Professor Wilson Sadoh, says 80,000 children are born every year in Nigeria with heart-related problems, aside from the acquired cases seen in clinics and emergency rooms every day.
This came to light as experts and stakeholders in the health sector converged to celebrate a colossus of pediatric cardiology at 70, Professor Samuel Omokhodion, at a symposium entitled ‘Developing a Sustainable Cardiac Programme in a Resource –Constrained Environment’ at the Ibadan College of Medicine.
The stakeholders, however, said a sustainable cardiac programme would ensure that these children with congenital heart problems can assess appropriate treatment they require.
Professor Sadoh stated: “Unfortunately, the majority of them cannot access healthcare. Some of them even when they can afford it, there is a very long queue to access it in Nigeria and those who have the means to go abroad take millions of Nigerian naira, monies that can be put together and develop our cardiac programme.
“The current status of paediatric cardiology services in Nigeria is promising, but we can optimize and sustain the programme by encouraging continuous training and providing incentives to staff to keep them.
“We should have maintenance agreements even as we get our equipment to ensure that there is no disruption in services. We should have backups where financial backing is available. Collaboration between centres is very important as a starting point to ensure provision of services.”
Professor John Okeniyi, also a paediatric cardiologist at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital and Complex, (OAUTHC), Ile Ife, said congenital heart diseases are a major malformation, and are deadly.
He said it is disturbing that only children from wealthy families survive heart diseases in Nigeria, stressing that there is a need to come up with better and sustainable ways for funding heart surgeries in children.
“We need to move beyond health insurance funding to community ownership and community funding. If we are able to do this and have funds assured, then we will be able to move further,” he said.
Professor Okeniyi, however, noted that a sustainable paediatric cardiac programme also requires a change in curriculum, investment in preventive cardiology, synergy within the local workforce for training and collaboration as well as advocacy for policies on heart repairs for children.
In his opinion, Dr Bode Falase, a paediatric cardiologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), said dependency on government funding and cardiac missions from abroad as well as limited public awareness of heart repairs in children are the bane of the programme in Nigeria.
At the occasion, vice chancellor, University of Ibadan, Professor Kayode Adebowale; provost of the Ibadan College of Medicine, Professor Yinka Omigbodun; Professor Femi Jaiyesimi and many dignitaries eulogized the contribution of Professor Omokhodion to the development of paediatric cardiology in Nigeria.