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Chuks Udo Okonta
The Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp) in partnership with selected Non- Government Organisations (NGOs) have given Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Nigeria a boost as about 1000 elderly people have been targeted to receive free treatment for various levels of ailments in Lagos.
The week-long exercise, Code named Project Gray 2.0, which is tied to the ongoing World Elderly Day celebration, and expected to run from Monday, October 5 to Friday, October 9, would see about 1000 elderly people treated of various ailments such as prostate cancer, hernia, breast lump, diabetics, and general surgeries conducted by specialist surgeons, gynecologists, oncologists, nurses and other medical experts.
PenOp the umbrella body of all Pension Fund Operators in Nigeria, has thrown its weight behind the project by collaborating with a Non-Government Organisation, Orange Health Initiative and Legus Foundation, owners of Veteran Hospital to provide free medical treatment for the elderly people of 60 years and above.
The retirees on the Contributory Pension Scheme are majorly the beneficiaries of this noble initiative as they expressed appreciation to pension operators involvement in the course that has put smiles on their faces.
According to one of the retirees who declined his name mentioned noted that the new pension scheme couldn’t have been better. He said even when his pension has been paid regularly by his PFA they have gone out of their way in giving them free treatment of this magnitude.
For him it is rare in Nigeria’s 55 years history to have such gesture from the system. Our source who was diagnosed of diabetese said: “My sincere appreciation goes to PenOp for inviting me to partake in this programme .I have been diagnosed of diabetese and the doctors have told me what to do next, which of course, the organizers are going to take financial responsibility for the entire treatment. I am glad and I give thanks to God for making it happen right in my presence. It couldn’t have been better.”
PFAs have, so far, sent over 250 elderly people in their registers to obtain free medics during the exercise, the course that received applaud from the retirees under the CPS. With the target of over 1000 patients to be treated during the programme many others are on their way to partake, according to the PenOp spokesperson.
The Executive Secretary of PenOp, Susan Oranye, added that the significance of Project Gray 2.0 cannot be overemphasized as it focuses on the health and wellbeing of the elderly. Operators understand that having a pension to fall back on in retirement and good health is the main focus of many elderly men and women. It is this commitment to the wellbeing of old people that led to PenOp’s collaboration with the Orange Health Initiative in ensuring that these people have unhindered access to medical checkups and treatments for this week.
She said: “The Project Gray 2.0 is an initiative that celebrates the World’s Elders’ Day. Now, it is important that as a country and as a people we take care of our elderly, make sure that in retirement they can, at least, maintain a decent standard of living. This is the ethos that guides the pension system in the country.”
Oranye added that “PenOp is exceedingly excited about this programme because this project marks the kickoff first Geriatric Hospital in Nigeria and this is something we are passionate about.
Acknowledging the creativity of the Orange Health Initiative headed by Dr. Kunle Megbuwawon, she said the NGO is working very hard to focus on the welfare and the healthcare of the elderly and that the operators are keen to work with them.
She disclosed that the Orange Health Initiative had deployed specialist doctors from all over the country to take part in this programme and were also in partnership with Expartcare Health Ltd, a well structured HMO.
“This is the future of pension industry in Nigeria and that is why the Operators are working so hard to ensure that they get as many people into the Contributory Pension Scheme so that when they retire they too will have funds to pay for their medical bills. We make sure that they are able to take care of themselves and loved ones when they retire from active service.
“PenOp is passionate about this programme because a country that does not have catered for its elderly does not respect its history enough. We believe Project Gray 2.0 is a worthy cause that deserves our support. Operators have already sent in over 250 retirees to be checked and treated in this programme,” the Executive Secretary added.
Dr Kola Adeyina, Chairman of Legus Foundation and Founder of Veteran Hospital located in Lagos Metropolis where the elders are currently receiving treatment told newsmen that the project slated to last for 1 week is conducted by specialists from different medical callings.
The medical expert who said he has been treating Nigerian children free since 1977 disclosed that the project would cost the organizers over N20million within the 5-Day exercise.
Dr. Adeyina who is a one -time chairman of World Bank health project in Nigeria, was delighted that the project conceived three years ago during which skeletal services was provided has finally seen the light of the day through some young consultants who came together to fulfill their dream of caring for the elderly.
He was very appreciative to PenOp for their support both in funding and sending in retirees under the Contributory Pension Scheme to join the Project Gray 2.0.
Adeyina said he had to surrender his hospital for the purpose given the fact that they are sharing the same ideal, vision and objective which is to cater for the vulnerable, elderly and the children in the society.
“They have got no hope, we are going to give them hope, they’ve got no helper we are going to treat them free today so we are asking for well wishers to come together to assist this noble project. We have volunteer physicians; psychiatric doctors, surgeons, oncologists, orthopaedic doctors and nurses who are here to help. Remember the World Elderly Day coincides with Nigeria’s Independence Day, 1st October, so we choose this week to celebrate it. We will continue to provide this service every year for our elderly. We are diagnosing various ailments and offering treatmentsin areas such as Cataract, glaucoma, giant hernia, breast lump, prostate cancer, diabetic.We are sending all of them to laboratory and then we are going to commence surgery where necessary,” he said.
Coordinator of Orange Health Initiative, Dr. KunleMegbuwawon, who believes that getting to the golden age is a privilege that eludes many, said that the goal of the programme is to take care of 1000 elderly people with about 50 of them undergoing surgeries, while at least 15 of them are expected to undergo cataract operation and can go home smiling at the end of the exercise. He said Project Gray was borne out of the passion for elderly people in the society and aims at turning the Legus Specialist Hospital into the first Geriatric Hospital in the country.
Dr. KunleMegbuwawon, the Coordinator of Orange Health Initiative said; “Our goal in this program is to take care of elderly people especially retirees. We believe that to get to that golden age is a privilege, not a right. I saw that if I was dead I wouldn’t have been privileged to do what I am doing. That is how the Project Gray started.
“For this year we are looking at treating 1000 elderly people, we are looking at doing 50 surgeries, 15 Cataract surgeries we have various experts, orthopologists, psychiatric, general practice surgeons, neo-surgeon, that are on ground to help people,” Megboawon explained.