Dr Monisola Adanijo is the Medical Director at Naveen Healthcare. With experience spanning over 20 years, she built her pathway in medicine working in reputable medical centres in several states in Nigeria, boasts of a Diploma in Leadership and Management from the University of Washington, USA. As a Continuous Medical Education (CME) provider, she is doing her part in contributing to good health and wellbeing, a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3) of the United Nations in her own little way. In this interview, she talks about staying safe in the midst of a pandemic, how the health sector can be improved upon, why the localized spread of Covid-19 should worry us and what the government can do to curtail the spread of the disease.
A lot of Nigerians these days are understandably worried about their health, what would you advice them to do in these uncertain times?
The first thing is to try not to panic and get healthcare news from only verified sources. Do fact checks on the Internet with the information you receive before taking any action or forwarding to others. While at home, keep up healthy practices like light exercise, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables or if these aren’t readily available due to the lockdown, vitamin supplements may help. Try to avoid over-eating and taking alcohol. If you are hypertensive, diabetic or have other long-term illnesses, please make sure you are taking your medication religiously. This way you can avoid health complications not even related to coronavirus.
Would you say you’re satisfied with the measures put in place by the government to curtail the spread of the virus so far?
We need to understand that the healthcare sector in Nigeria has been neglected for a long time and this disease came upon us suddenly. I would say that within the limits of available infrastructure, human capital and funding, the government has responded well in terms of screening, case detection and management. The other measures like the movement restrictions would help in reducing the spread of the disease; as it is very contagious and easily spread in crowded places and human contact. However I think more can be done in the area of food distribution to vulnerable people and those low income families that rely on daily wages to survive, as these group of people would obviously would not be able to feed themselves while they stay away from their petty trading and so on.
You talked about our health sector suffering neglect for long, as a key stakeholder, how can we improve things especially in the face of the ongoing pandemic that is placing even more strain on it?
I have always had a different outlook with respect to healthcare services delivery in general. This pandemic has somehow proven my inclination by exposing the general weakness in healthcare services delivery the world over. Although every country has goals and plans to deliver the best care to its citizens, implementing these goals has always been the challenge. That said, I don’t believe that any two countries can implement the same cocktail of services with equal results. We might be amazed that even in Nigeria, not all states can implement the same exact solution with equal results.
Obviously, our health sector needs resources, human, funding and equipment. The problem is the strategy to deploy the resources and derive concurrent benefits like affordable quality service, job creation, improved efficiency, training, health data management and so on. For example, we know that without ancillary services, primary physicians and medical professionals would not be able to function effectively. In the same vein, supply of medical equipment alone without other supporting elements like professionals to operate them, training, clearly defined processes, automation and most importantly, data, would not deliver effective results. In summary, practical and innovative implementation of healthcare services is necessary.
With the growing number of cases daily, how best can the government check this virus spread?
The government has to continuously educate people. The people need to understand WHY they need to stay at home, avoid gatherings/ crowds of people, wash their hands and cover their mouths and noses when going out and so on. Government is already doing this via the media and other avenues, but I think we can still do more. Once people understand why we are asking them to stay home or socially distance themselves when in public and the need for hand washing, it will be so much easier to get people to comply with all these preventive measures and reduce the spread of the disease.
Reports have emerged that the spread is now localised, does this worry you and what can Nigeria do?
Local spread is worrisome especially in densely populated areas as all it takes is one person with the virus to infect hundreds and potentially, thousands. No healthcare system can cope with an overwhelming Covid-19 infection, as evidenced by what is happening even in more economically advanced countries. It is so much easier to reduce/stop the spread by all the preventive measures I had earlier outlined. So we as healthcare stakeholders need to continue reinforcing preventive strategies. We also need to provide continuous training for our healthcare personnel in the management of patients with Covid-19 infection, wider patient testing, adequate provision of protective wear for health workers, providing good compensation for frontline healthcare workers, and equipping hospitals with necessary tools to manage these patients.
With many people in self-isolation, how can we take care of our mental wellbeing?
Avoid over saturation with Covid news and get accurate healthcare news from only verified sources. Try to focus on the good news, for example more people have survived this illness than those who have died. That should be a form of encouragement to most of us. Try to engage with friends and family members to encourage each other. Spirituality and prayer have helped some people, and generally trying to focus on positive behaviours.
A lot of herbal concoctions and remedies are being touted as cures for the virus; what’s your opinion on this?
Till date there is no scientifically proven herbal remedy to cure Covid-19 and until when we can scientifically test and validate any of these “cures” I’d advise we stay away, especially because a lot of these herbal cures have proven damaging effects on the heart, kidney and liver.
Would you say your career has been most fulfilling so far?
My career has been fulfilling, especially when a patient I manage gets better or when one of the doctors I trained/mentored goes on to make great progress in their career path. It gives me so much joy.
What does being a CME provider mean?
It simply means I teach other doctors current trends in management of clinical conditions to help them improve their practice and overall patient care.
A lot of Nigerians are unaware of basic things such as BP monitoring and so on which can lead to bigger health problems in future, how can we change this?
What we really need is awareness. Nobody wants to die; many people just don’t understand the implications of not knowing they have hypertension or not treating it especially because it is not giving them any discomfort. So they present when it’s too late. We have to keep talking about early detection everywhere.
In running your health care outfit, what would you say have been the major challenges you faced?
Long term funding. As a very innovative healthcare business, we understand resource optimisation and creative use of technology to drive down costs and have practiced this way since inception. Availability of long term funds will enable us seek further creative and innovative methods to make access to quality healthcare available at an affordable rate and keep the business profitable. Also, gender bias is another challenge, but once people realise you are knowledgeable, they take notice.
What are some things you personally have done to improve the health of Nigerians?
Donations in cash and patient consultation services in outreaches and screening in low income areas of Lagos. I do outreaches in mosques, churches and schools as well as offer health talks and public awareness.
What last words do you want to leave for women reading this?
Women are smart and resourceful; we are naturally creative beings. A woman can create substance out of nothing. Remember “who” you are and “whose” you are, your dreams and goals are valid, you deserve success and yes, you can have a beautiful family and a fulfilling career. “For as a woman thinketh so is she and as she continues to think, so she shall become.