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Oyo state Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde has on Wednesday commissioned the first ever solarised medical oxygen plant and newborn unit facilities at the Jericho Specialist Hospital, Ibadan.

The edifice marks a significant milestone for the state’s healthcare infrastructure.

The donors of the facilities, the United Nations International Children Fund (Unicef), in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IHS handed over all the documents of the facilities to the state governor for public use.

Governor Makinde who personally commissioned the facilities lauded the initiative as a substantial step toward improving the quality and accessibility of medical care, especially for mothers and newborns in the state.

The governor, who appreciated UNICEF, Federal Ministry of Health and IHS, among other agencies partnering with the state in the health sector, said he had given the approval to recruit more doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to address the personnel shortage in the system.

According to him, the launch of the strategy for scaling up medical oxygen in health facilities across the state fits perfectly with the agenda of his administration to not only build infrastructure but also to put in place institutions that will endure and help the state to run smoothly in years to come.

He said: “Any project that will improve the health care system in Oyo State is important to us, because it fits into our administration’s plan to move the people of Oyo State from poverty into prosperity.”

“As you may have known, healthcare has remained one of the pillars of our administration in the Roadmap to Accelerated Development, 2019 to 2023, and now the Oyo State Roadmap for Sustainable Development, 2023 -2027.

“Today is the fifth anniversary of this administration coming into being or the first anniversary of the second tenure and in the last five years, we have done our best to prioritise projects in the healthcare sector.”

“A lot of projects are ongoing in the primary healthcare sector and, so far, we have rehabilitated and upgraded not less than 210 PHCs across the state.

“To accomplish this, we had to increase the budgetary allocation to our health sector to the average of about eight per cent in the past five years.”

“In 2020, which was exactly one year of coming into office, we were faced with COVID-19. It was then that the facility out there was upgraded, equipped and we were using it to isolate very important people at that time. People came from Lagos to be housed in this facility and we did not lose anyone to COVID-19 in this facility. We survived it.

“People came and said we should spend our money to turn Lekan Salami Stadium into an isolation centre because it was the same thing they were doing all over the world. But we said no. We told them that if they wanted to help us, they should put their money into our facilities so that we would still be using those facilities after COVID-19. Now, we can see the evidence here.”

While appreciating donor agencies that supported the project, Makinde said, “Your partnership with Oyo State in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and NACA, IHS as well as others brought this project, which is being commissioned today.”

“This project will accommodate the Newborn Unit, Laying-in Ward and Labour Room and it is highly commendable. You have even gone ahead to install a solar system to support the plant. Not only that, you provided the manpower needed to run this intervention. We say thank you.” Makinde said.

In her address, the country representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Ms Cristian Munduate, said the commissioning of the projects was a very important step taken in revolutionising the country’s health sector especially in the area of care for newborns.

She noted that the facilities are needed because Nigeria has one of the highest neonatal deaths in the world and with Oyo State recording about 35 newborn deaths in every 1000 births, thus making the state a good place for the facilities.

Ms Munduate who also congratulated the minister of health and the state government, emphasised that the facilities came within the framework of the sector-wide approach being led by the minister and also in the state by the governor, with a huge commitment and implementation from the state ministry of health.

She said: “Today we are doing the launch of a very important milestone in the country. This is the first ever oxygen plant with solarized power that is being established in the country, along with a newborn level 2 health facility in the Jericho Hospital.”

“This means the babies, the newborns of one day, one week, one month, will have the opportunity to survive because neonatal death is one of the highest in the world in Nigeria. So here in Oyo State, we have more or less 35 newborns that die for every 1,000 children that are born. So it is needed.”

“We congratulate the state authorities and the federal authorities. This comes within the framework of the sector-wide approach being led by the Honorable Minister of health and also here at Oyo State, led by the Governor, and with a huge commitment and implementation from the State Ministry of Health.”

Ms Munduate, who gave the reason for the solarisation of the facilities, said it was necessary due to epileptic power supply which could hinder the effectiveness and efficiency of the facilities.

She highlighted the major benefits of the polarised facilities by stating that patients would no longer experience delays in accessing medical care due to power outages, adding that the solarisation of these facilities has effectively removed any obstacles related to power disruptions, allowing for constant and reliable access to healthcare services.

“You know, there is a lot of electricity cut and whenever you have an emergency for a child, you cannot wait until the light comes.” She said.

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