Addressing the problem of snake bite in Gombe
Snake bite is a major health hazard afflicting the rural communities of the savannah region of West Africa and this include Nigeria, the Kaltungo Local Government Area of Gombe State situated in the rocky highlands of the Benue valley.
This area has been infested with dangerous and poisonous snakes such as the vipers and cobras for many years. The area according to research has one of the highest incidences of snake bite in the northeast sub-region.
This necessitated the designation of the Kaltungo General Hospital as one of the National Snakebite Research and Treatment Centres by the Federal Ministry of Health in 1988.
Since then the hospital has continued to offer treatment to snake bite victims from the northeast and even beyond.
The Snake Bite Treatment and Research Centre, Kaltungo in Gombe State has a long history. It was first started by the then Sudan Interior Mission, a group of missionaries who settled at Kaltungo, in an effort to bring succour to the people.
In 1994 the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health set up a committee under the leadership of Nasidi Habib, who pioneered the project to find a lasting solution to snake bite in the area. It was later abandoned, but revived in 1998 through the then Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
In 2011 the Federal Government stopped sending drugs to the hospital. But with the coming of the present administration in Gombe State under Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo the state government took over the responsibility and continued supplying anti-venom drugs which cost N25,000 per dose.
It was also gathered that the hospital receives at least 12 snake bite patients on daily basis.
When the hospital was established, it had only one small ward shared by patients suffering from other tropical diseases.
And years after, no single block was added to the hospital, by previous governments in the state despite increase in the number of patients who were constrained to patronize it for medication.
This precedence continued until last two weeks when Dankwambo came and rescued the situation with the foundation laying ceremony of the 200-bed capacity befitting snakebite hospital at the cost of N519,265,329.83 in Kaltungo.
Speaking during the foundation laying ceremony of the hospital Dankwambo, said the hospital being constructed by the state government will assist in decongesting the snake bite wards and expand the scope of services rendered to victims and also promote research in the treatment and management of snake bite victims in the country and the West African sub-region in general.
He said the hospital will provide comprehensive treatment for snake bite victims as well as research into snakes, snake bites and would address the issue of snakebite in the country.
Dankwambo urged the federal government to explore the possibility of collaborating with investors to produce locally made venom especially in kaltungo as the production of the anti-snake venom in Nigeria would bring down the cost which is beyond the reach of majority of the victims and doing so will help conserve foreign exchange.
According to him the state government has been collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Health to ensure the availability of potent anti-snake venom to ensure the continuous treatment of victims of snake bite.
“It is in this regards that I gave a standing approval for a mandatory quarterly release of N8million for the purchase of anti-snake venom. From August 2011 to date the state has spent the sum of N89.83million for the provision of potent anti-snake venom to the centre. In 2013 alone, government expanded N32.0 million for the purchase of anti-snake venom, while the Federal Ministry of Health provided anti-snake venom worth N25.75million to the centre. All snake bite victim coming to the hospital are provided with the ant-snake venom free,” Dankwambo said.
As a result of the state government’s intervention for free provision of the anti-snake venom, there has been an alarming increase in the number of victims that avail themselves with the services of the centre from 3, 116 patients in 2011 to 3,823 in 2013.
Available statistics have shown that in the year 2013 only 48% of victims treated are from Gombe State, while the bulk of 52% are from the neighbouring states of Adamawa, with 11.7% .Bauchi with 15.7%, Taraba having 15.6% and other states 9.1%.
However, Dankwambo appealed to the minister of health to consider the possibility of increasing the supply of antisnake venom to the centre.
He said though, the minister of health has directed the Federal Teaching Hospital Gombe, to recruit a consultant physician and two other specialists for the Kaltungo Snake Bite Hospital. The state government through the effort of the Dankwambo administration will provide befitting accommodation for the specialists when they are recruited to enable them discharge their duties effectively.
According to him, the state government is considering establishing a Renal Dialysis Centre at the State Specialist Hospital Gombe in addition to the procurement of four dialysis machines and two dialysis chairs for the Federal Teaching Hospital.
The administration has also constructed an intensive care unit at the maternity unit of the Specialist Hospital Gombe, to cater for the increasing number of pregnant women and children who come to the hospital on daily basis for medication.
Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo at the foundation laying ceremony of Kaltungo Snake Bite Hospital.