Udom’s New Hospitals and Medical Tourism in Akwa Ibom State
By Uwemedimoh Umanah
The wellness of the people of Akwa Ibom is topmost in the stratum of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s priorities. During his electioneering campaigns in 2015, he promised the people that he would only make people- centered policies. He enunciated a 5-point Agenda of Poverty Alleviation, Wealth Creation, Job Creation, Political & Economic Inclusion and Infrastructure Expansion & Consolidation.
One critical factor that would reinforce the success of these agenda is the healthcare delivery system. The United Nations captures the imperative of global health in its Sustainable Development Goal 3 thus: ‘ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages’.
These agenda are inextricably intertwined because it’s ‘only a healthy populace that can be productive and produce quality leadership. In economic terms, any country without a viable optimum population is bound to suffer stagnation, poverty and underdevelopment.
This, perhaps, has influenced Governor Udom Emmanuel’s radical intervention in the Health Sector. His involvement has been so penetrating that analysts envisage the growth of medical tourism in Akwa Ibom State. Al Jazeera International Network and other assessment institutions have reinforced this view during their recent visit to some hospitals in the state.
His policy on health is best captured in his words: “When the significant sectors of the population are healthy and educated, they can be more productive, innovative and thus the country can boast of a work force that is better positioned for global competitiveness; a workforce that will drive the economy and provide an improved quality of living for the masses.”
The Governor’s reasoning and humane disposition aligns with that of the world’s greatest humanitarian, Mother Theresa of Calcutta : “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo expressed similar opinion, when performed the commissioning of Etinan General Hospital on September 23rd, 2017. “This is an extremely useful project, this is the sort of project, I believe touches the lives of people directly. I really congratulate His Excellency, because this is the sort of thing that makes governance worthwhile because it impacts the lives of people”.
Responsiveness is a key objective of National Health Systems. Invariably, a responsive healthcare system anticipates and adapts to existing and future health needs, thus, contributing to better health outcomes. That is the story of the reinvigorated health sector in Akwa Ibom under Governor Udom Emmanuel.
How has Governor Udom Emmanuel approached the wellness of the people of Akwa Ibom? He is doing so by engendering a Responsive Healthcare System which include among others, health infrastructure clean- up, provision of world class equipment for timely service delivery, On -The -Job Training/ welfare enhancement for medical personnel in the state and Health Crisis Response Mechanism.
Governor Emmanuel’s engagement in healthcare delivery first became manifest in St Luke’s Hospital Anua, Uyo, one of oldest hospitals in Nigeria, established about 81 years ago. Due to its age, most of the equipments and infrastructure had dilapidated and needed urgent upgrade. Therefore, he took the bull by horn by remodeling the hospital few months after his inauguration in 2015.
The Governor constructed a brand new 300 -bed Gynecology ward, in honor of Dr Ann Ward, an Irish Missionary who dedicated decades of selfless and quality service in the hospital. His midas touch has given a new face to the Pediatric, Children, Male and Female Wards. He also prevented an ecological crisis/ disaster by controlling the gully erosion which threatened the School of Nursing & Midwifery.
Other Secondary Health Facilities where the Governor has made commendable mark are, General Hospitals, Etinan, Ituk Mbang, Ibiaku Ntok Okpo and Ikot Okoro. Furthermore, an impressive turnaround is being made by the Udom – led administration in Immanuel Hospital, Eket, General Hospital, Iquita Oron and Comprehensive Health Centre, Awa, Onna. For timely response to emergencies, an Oxygen plant, which supplies oxygen to hospitals in the state was recently built and completed in Ikot Ekpene General Hospital.
The depth of work in these new and reinvigorated hospitals and facilities is far reaching. They are also carefully tailored to suit the healthcare needs of the operating environment in particular and the state in general.
Interestingly, infrastructure in these hospitals were completely overhauled. Through the Inter Ministerial Direct Labor Coordinating Committee, new buildings such as wards, Accident & Emergency Department, Maternity, Administrative blocks, Theatres and Road Network had sprung up to replace old ones, while the landscape are designed to create ambience. It is pertinent to note that the state government has not compromised on the quality of structural work in these hospitals, as proper supervision, monitoring and evaluation.
A medical doctor in our team, Dr Irene Luke said all what the state needs is sustaining the momentum recorded so far in healthcare delivery. In her words, “So far, we have been to General Hospital, Ikot Okoro, Etinan, Ikono, Ikot Ekpene and Ituk Mbang, and I’m quite impressed with what I saw in some of them, especially the equipment and the new buildings. Comparing what’s on ground with what I saw in other states, we are doing very well but with the renewed passion government has for healthcare, I want us to do better by not relenting because in medicine and health, changes take place everyday”.
What this implies is that Governor Udom Emmanuel is in tune with current health realities and challenges and is poised to taking the plunge for the betterment of the state.
Government has continued to strengthen the state Quaternary Hospital, Ibom Specialist Hospital to handle referrals from with and outside Nigeria. A Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed with a Canadian consortium for the management of the hospital, according to international best practices.
There is no gainsaying the obvious that the quality of a health facility depends, among other things, on the class of equipment at its disposal. Governor Udom Emmanuel has not spared anything in ensuring that hospitals in the state are adorned with state-of-the-art equipment of which 25 containers recently arrived the state from the United States of America.
This was confirmed by Dominic Ukpong, the Commissioner for health. in an interview with Team UwemUmanah. “As we speak, the state Government placed an order for 100 containers of sophisticated medical equipments and 25 have arrived the state, while the remaining 75 containers are expected to berth the state in July 2018…”, he said.
Udom’s ‘new hospitals’ are embellished with 21 Century- compliant equipment such as, electrocardiograph 3 channels, colonoscopy (with halogen light), X-Ray film processor, X-Ray film Viewer, Gastroscope, Operating theatre light (5-spot light), operating table, Anastasia trolley with ventilator and monitor, Syringe pump, electro- surgical units, monopolar-bipolar, operating instruments, sunction pump, defibrillator, patient monitors, oxygen concentrator, gynecologic couch, delivery beds, examination lamp, uterine aspiration set, fetal monitor, CT scanners, surgical microscope for eyes, laparoscopy system with instruments for general surgery, patient trolley, incubator neonate, bacteriological light, refrigerators, incubator laboratory, and many more.
If these cutting- edge equipment must be efficiently used, some personnel must be trained and refreshed. In this regard, medical personnel in Akwa Ibom undergo specialized trainings, courses, conferences and seminars within and outside Nigeria. Recently, 20 Biomedical Engineers were trained/ refreshed for maintenance of hospital equipment in the state. This is aimed at keeping them in top gear vis-a-vis the evolving trends in the profession.
The Governor’s job creation endeavor has found a confluence with the need to recruit more nurses and doctors in the new hospitals which were grossly inadequate. A proposal has been presented to to the Governor for the recruitment of more nurses, totaling 200 percent and medical consultants. It is expected that this audacious step would yield greater result in terms of managing any influx of patients into the hospitals, and emergencies.
Similarly, to boost quality manpower in the ‘new hospitals’ and provide them with the requisite experience and exposure, Governor Udom Emmanuel recently approved the recruitment of 50 Doctors for House Job/ Internship. He also approves on regular interval, Residency Programs and other professional development programs for doctors as required by the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria.
This magnanimous gesture would help produce more consultants for public hospitals in the state, thereby complementing the Governor’s healthcare policy. It is instructive to note that this action is unprecedented, as the state presently has one of the highest number of state- trained resident doctors and house officers in Nigeria, thanks to the Governor’s magnanimity and humanistic disposition.
Furthermore, the Governor places premium on the welfare of doctors, nurses and other paramedical personnel. The state regularly pays the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and CONHESS to medical and dental practitioners and nurses respectively, and ensures that hazard allowances, housing and other benefits are duly paid.
For instance, the state government has provided residential quarters for 98 House Officers in both secondary health facilities and the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital. This is aimed at boosting the morale of medical personnel, which would inadvertently impact on the quality of services provided by hospitals in the state.
To this end, it can be observed that the ongoing revolution in the healthcare delivery system has restored confidence in public hospitals. With the prevailing migrations from other states into Akwa Ibom for better medical treatments, a foundation has been laid for the evolution of medical tourism. It has also increased patronage in these hospitals from within the state and beyond, thereby, gearing up life expectancy and the life -span of the people.
By possible extrapolation, and in conclusion, Governor Emmanuel has touched the poor, the dying, the lonely and the unwanted through his humble work and the grace of God upon his life.
Uwemedimoh Umanah is a Public Affairs Analyst