Ad­dress­ing the prob­lem of snake bite in Gombe

Daily Trust - - HEALTH - From Adamu Saleh, 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.

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