BusinessDay

Experts urge FG to tackle poverty as measure to combat antimicrobial resistance

...call on banks to increase healthcare financing

Medical experts have urged the Federal Government to address the high poverty rate as a measure to combat antimicrobial resistance in the country.

They made this known at an event to mark the 2020 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) adding that the major causes of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) to include non-availability of new antibiotics overuse of existing antibiotics, poverty and lack of funds for the medical industry.

The event was organised by the ST.RACHEAL’S Pharmaceuticals, Lagos on Friday.

The slogan for WAAW 2020 is “Antimicrobials: Handle With Care” while the theme for the human health sector for WAAW 2020 is “United to Preserve Antimicrobials’’.

According to the report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS about poverty and inequality in Nigeria from September 2018 to October 2019, said 40 percent of people in the continent’s most populous country lived below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) a year or N11,452 in a month or N381.75 per day.

This represents 82.9 million people in poverty and inequality in Nigeria.

“To tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance, we need to tackle poverty in the patients and funding the healthcare industry. I urge our national and subnational governments to institute free medical care for the poor people,” said Akinjide Adeosun, chairman/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ST.RACHEL’S Pharmaceuticals.

According to Adeosun, “one percent of the profit of companies should be legislated to fund this scheme at the national level and one percent tax from contractors at the sub national government.

“For it to be sustainable, I call on governments to make provision for free medical care in the annual budget and i also want to use this medium to encourage the banks to improve financing to healthcare organisations,” he said

He added that a bank for healthcare is suggested to be set by the Federal government to cater for the strategic needs of the health care Industry at Low interest rate of five percent.

According to him, this will help the private sector to improve on the hard and soft infrastructures of the healthcare industry adding that only an educated workforce with sound health can be productive thereby leading to the prosperity of Nigeria.

He therefore advised Nigerians to stop self-medicating and buy antibiotics only on doctor’s prescription, adding that they should handle antimicrobials with care.

“One of the major objectives of the week is to create awareness on antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training.” said Adeosun.

Also speaking Mutiu Bamidele, a consultant clinical microbiologist, warned that misuse of antibiotics could lead to accelerated emergence and spread of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

Bamidele, who works at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), spoke on “Antibiotic Resistance in Nigeria: A Call to Action’’.

According to him, AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change overtime and no longer respond to medicines, making common infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

“COVID-19 is now one of the causes of antimicrobial resistance.

“The impact of COVID-19 will increase the use of antibiotics because when people get fever and they don’t want to stress themselves by going for a COVID-19 test, they use antimicrobials, and overuse or use of drugs which may or may not cure the sickness causes antimicrobial resistance.

“Even in parties, people give out antibiotics so that their guests won’t get stomach upsets; this is wrong,’’ he said.

Bamidele said that multiple factors including overuse of medicines in humans and livestock as well as poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, had accelerated the threat of antimicrobial resistance worldwide.

According to him, there are recommended four necessary actions to prevent antimicrobial resistance.

“They include preventing infections and the spread of resistance, tracking resistance patterns and reporting back to medical and hospital staff, developing new drugs and diagnostic tests and improving antibiotic prescription and stewardship,’’ he said.

Tomi Coker, commissioner for Health, Ogun, said that the state government had begun a basic healthcare provision fund of the National Health Act, 2014, giving assurance that it would provide free healthcare for the vulnerable, elderly, children and pregnant women.

“Health financing would improve the quality of care and provide drugs in the health facilities. Also the use of data and research in hospitals to improve health outcomes,” she said.

The commissioner said that emergence of COVID-19 had helped in the use of software for capturing results and data of COVID-19 patients.

“I believe the health system is changing and will be relying more on technology and software so that states will be having digitised records which make it easy to draw out data analysis.

“For us in Ogun State, we will be digitalising our health records in all hospitals. From my office, I can press a button and know where my outbreaks are and what is causing them; that is the vision,’’ Coker said.

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