By Justina Auta
The Federal Government, in collaboration with USAID, began a five-day training for physiotherapists on implementing physical rehabilitation services into the comprehensive fistula and maternity care.
The training was organised under the Momentum Safe Surgery in Family Planning and Obstetrics (MSSFPO) project, implemented by an NGO, Engender Health in Abuja.
Dr. Kabiru Attah, Nigeria’s Country Project Manager, Momentum Safe Surgery stressed the importance of physiotherapy to fistula treatment and management.
“We realised the need to strengthen physiotherapy services for fistula clients so that they will be able to restore their full bladder control and mitigate some of the issues they have around foot drop and walking properly.”
“So what we are doing currently is that we are looking at the human resource challenges, we don’t have enough physiotherapists in the country.
“We are hoping that we can begin to produce more, but what we are doing is looking at task shifting to some of the nurses.”
“Currently, we are having a train-the-trainers workshop with some of the physiotherapists, pulling them from different locations so that we can say what are some of the skills that we can transfer to nurses.
“And how can we pilot it to some certain locations, train these nurses and have them follow up and provide the needed care to the fistula patients,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr. Umeh Sunday, Deputy Director of Physiotherapy at the Ministry of Health said the ministry, with support from partners, was committed to reducing the burden of obstetric fistula in the country.
“Participants are to be trained to acquire basic relevant skills as physiotherapists as they are parts of the management of fistula.
“When someone has undergone fistula, there may be complications like muscles and foot drop.
“It is expected that after these five-day training, they will be equipped with skills and they will be able to transfer it, cascade down to others,” he said.
Also contributing, Dr. Henry Jumbo, Desk Officer for Obstetric Fistula, Department of Family Health (FMoH), said the participants would be equipped with emerging skills in line with emerging global trends in the care of rehabilitation.
“Most of our physiotherapists may not have been fully trained while studying to become physiotherapists because there are many emerging issues that have come up.
“So this training will bridge the gap that is in the system and also help the capacity of physiotherapists to manage fistula and bring back dignity to the women having fistula,” he said.
Jumbo, added that the government also counsels, rehabilitates, and empowers fistula patients with skills that would enable them to reintegrate back into society, void of stigma or financial burden.
Dr. Odio Bartholomew, Clinical Specialist, at Engender Health, said the organisation supports government efforts to provide safe obstetric surgery, cesarean delivery, postpartum, fistula prevention and management, and Female Genital Mutilation prevention and management.
Bartholomew also stressed the need for improved healthcare financing to improve the health status of citizens, especially the less privileged.
“If you look at the profile of fistula patients, they are very poor; most cases are uneducated, rejected, so even in managing them, you have to manage them from all surgical aspects is free and even feeding them.
“So you see, funding is a problem. People need to understand the major cause of fistula, which is prolonged obstructed labour.
“Stigma and discrimination is another problem associated, at the end of the day they are just written off and sometimes even the husband abandons the woman and she is left dejected, he said.
Dr. Laura Keuser, Physiotherapists and Co-founder MamaLLC, said, “This training is designed as a training of trainers for physiotherapists.
“And the goal is to help them train nurses, social workers, community health workers, and other providers to deliver some rehabilitation services, screen for, and recognise when some women need to go see a physiotherapist.”