As Nigeria’s fragile health system struggles to recover from the effects of COVID-19, LEADERSHIP audits reveal that the high cost of diesel and poor power supply pose another phase of challenge.
Healthcare facilities, especially secondary and tertiary hospitals, need constant electricity for medical laboratory analysis, storage of medicines, samples and other healthcare services, LEADERSHIP has learned.
However, the poor power supply and high cost of diesel has become a source of concern for the healthcare sector, as pharmaceutical factories, medical laboratories and hospitals grapple with high production and service costs, while that already impoverished patients bear the brunt.
The President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), Prof. James Damen, told LEADERSHIP that it was very difficult for them to carry out a meaningful survey without electricity.
He said: “We do a lot of research and our samples are usually stored in the fridge at minus 80 (-80). When there’s no electricity it’s a major setback.
“For us to have a robust medical laboratory, electricity is essential. There must be a constant power supply and there must be a backup. For example, with this solar system that we already have, each laboratory should be equipped with a solar system.
Furthermore, the outgoing President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Faduyile, told LEADERSHIP that medical equipment needs constant power, saying the lack of stable electricity is having a devastating effect. on patient management.
He said: “It is unfortunate that we now have a very high price to pay for diesel. Our electricity is not stable, many of us depend on diesel for electricity. Medical equipment needs ‘constant feeding and I can tell you; it’s having a very devastating effect on the management of our patients.
“So what we need is for our government to make sure that we have uninterrupted electricity because a lot of our hospitals are now rationing electricity and that is having a lot of negative effect on the management of our patients .”
In the same vein, the National Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm Gbenga Falabi, said that in Western countries, the energy cost of the components running a factory is around 3%. on average, but in Nigeria it is over 27% to date, due to the high cost of diesel and poor power supply.
Unfortunately, he said the cost goes into the cost of the drug. Consumers bear everything. “Consumers who are already impoverished with inflation and exchange rates are further impoverished with high drug costs,” Falabi said.
Explaining the effect of electricity on drug storage, Falabi said for example that a mega drug distributor uses diesel purchased at 700 N/litre to maintain the temperature of where drugs are stored in the tank. warehouse, adding that the effectiveness of drugs from this warehouse will be higher than those on the open market that are exposed to the sun.
He revealed that drugs exposed to the sun tend to expire earlier than the expiration date. “It advances the expiration date. The expiration date of each medicine is calculated at a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade. So when you expose the medicine to a higher temperature, it advances the expiration date and it does not There is no way for consumers to Although on the label it says for example June 2025 as the expiration date, if this drug is taken to the lab for stability testing, this product may have an expiration date of 2022 due to sun exposure.
He recalled that NAFDAC had been given the green light to start local vaccine production, but was concerned that issues such as energy cost and poor power supply could negatively impact local vaccine production. “It may even be cheaper to import than to produce locally,” he said.
Speaking further, he said the availability of dollars for pharmaceutical manufacturing companies is always a challenge. “It is absurd for the Nigerian government to expect pharmaceutical companies that produce drugs for their health to go to the black market to buy dollars for the import of the materials used in the production of drugs. Although we can access dollars through the bank, but we don’t always get what we need It takes a long time to prepare the documentation and then disburse the money from the bank.
“The era of COVID-19 has shown us the danger of importing drugs. The problem is not getting Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) from China or India and then producing the tablets here in Nigeria “That’s not a problem. We have the expertise to produce drugs and we produce, but our local production accounts for about 34% of our consumption.”
“We also have starch to produce medicine and we have foods in Nigeria that contain starch. Foods like yams, rice, cassava, etc. Unfortunately, with the level of production, if the pharmaceutical industry depends on local starch, there will be a food shortage of these foods in Nigeria, because these are our staple foods.
“If we are to do this, we would need to do an assessment. What is the current amount of starch required by the pharmaceutical and other industries in Nigeria? What is the current production of yams, cassava, etc. in Nigeria?Then we have to look at the strategy, how can we increase production, so that we can have enough for those who will eat them and those who will use them for production.
“At some point, we all have to wear the patriotic hat, so we can start looking within to see how we can help build a better Nigeria, because no one will do it for us,” he said. he declares.
Still on local production, the President of AMLSN said: “We are thinking inside, what can we do as professionals in the country to be able to produce diagnostics. Diagnosis is a reagent that you use for testing. As it is now, everything is imported, we cannot grow as a nation based on imports.
“Actually the government should charge the professionals, enough of all these imports, can’t we produce something and export? You will see simple test kits like pregnancy test kits, hypertension test kits are all imported.
“We are all making efforts to strengthen the health system. When we have equipment that is produced in the country, it is an indication that we are really making progress. There are areas that we need to look at to ensure that we are moving forward.
“The government also needs to support us because, whatever your experience, if there is no enabling environment created by the government, you know you are very disabled.”