By Essien Ndueso
Many reactions have trailed the recent treatise by Senator Godswill Akpabio who came out hard last week through his spokesman, Anietie Ekong. At a time when the elections had since been lost and won, one cannot help wondering the rationale for this orchestrated bout, indicative of a steady grudge against a governor who has done everything within his power to avoid responding to vain tantrums.
From healthcare delivery sector, to education, industrialization and sports, Senator Akpabio in the diatribe saw no single good in his successor, and made scathing allegations that set the tone for a possible four years of constant jabs at the current occupant of the mansion on the hill. Among the allegations by Senator Akpabio against his successor, is his reference to the so-called statistics by the Nigerian HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Surgery (NAIS), portraying Akwa Ibom has the highest prevalence rate of HIV in the country. Akpabio claimed that the decay in medical infrastructure in the State, especially the dearth of primary healthcare facilities, as well as the non utilisation of Ibom Specialist Hospital, accounts for the so-called scourge.
It is no need repeating that on primary health care delivery in Akwa Ibom and the general state of medical healthcare, it was an all time low before 2015, because that sector had been completely abandoned by previous governments including that of Senator Akpabio. Governor Udom Emmanuel on assumption of office first established and signed into law the Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA), and constituted a board to ensure that a holistic approach to grassroots health care delivery system was activated. That led to intervention in several primary health care facilities across the state in the areas of reequipping, furnishing, fencing, renovations and among other things. Such interventions have been recorded at the Primary Health Center in Ndon Ebom, Uruan, Primary Health Center IDung Iniang, Eket, Primary Health Center Ibong Otoro, Abak and those of Ediene Atai, Ikono and Ikot Idem Udo, Onna, among others.
Not done, the Governor also made it a policy that secondary health care services must be restored in Akwa Ibom State. Before his advent, medical tourism was at its apex, because secondary health care facilities across the state had been abandoned; there were no secondary health facilities in the old Abak Division of Abak, Oruk Anam, Etim Ekpo, Ika and Ukanafun. Nothing to count for Etinan, Nsit Ubium and Nsit Ibom and Ikono/Ini, Uyo federal constituency, and for the coastal communities in Oron and Eket federal constituencies, no single standard secondary healthcare facility was in place.
The governor purchased a hundred containers of sophisticated modern medical equipment, and set to work in the area of renovation and reconstruction of these hospitals. Today, the hospitals at Ikono, Etinan, Ituk Mbang in Uruan and Ikot Okoro in Oruk Anam have not just been commissioned but also put to use; that of Etinan being commissioned by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The Story of the General Hospital at Ibiaku Ntuk Okpo was that which drew tears; directly opposite the hospital was is the campaign ground where the then Governor Godswill Akpabio stood on two different occasions, 2007 and 2011 promising the people of Ikono, that he would wrestle the hospital back from the clutches of reptiles and from the mouths of rodents. However, till he left office in 2015, not even a single needle was replaced in the hospital, which became more or less a haunted building for all manners of wild life. It’s unfortunate that Akpabio should be the one to complain about that hospital. Maybe he forgets how he tried in vain to explain to the people of the area how paucity of funds did not allow him to fulfill his campaign promise in the area, at the same period he buried tens of billions of naira in erecting a hotel that was not an immediate need of a neighbouring local government apart from monumental value. All the newly rehabilitated hospitals are digitalized, ,making patients’ referrals online, practicable. Patients’ data in one hospital is now accessible in newly refurbished secondary health centers.
Apart from this, Governor Emmanuel has constructed and put into use a special emergency infectious disease center at Ikot Ekpene to take care of emergency situations and infectious diseases. That was done within two years of his administration. The Eket and Oron General hospitals that had simply outlived their functions are almost ready, with ultra-modern equipment brought in from the best companies in the world. They too will soon join the league of digitalized hospital facilities in the state, courtesy of Governor Emmanuel’s interventions.
Do we need to talk about the various biomedical engineers who have been trained and retrained to maintain the new hospital equipment in the state? Need we also bring to notice that the five schools of nursing and midwifery were without accreditation until Governor Emmanuel arrived on the scene of governance? Should we also be reminded that it was this same Governor Emmanuel who has provided yearly training and residential quarters for ninety eight (98) house officers in the state hospitals, as well as University of Uyo teaching hospital since 2015? The moribund oxygen plant in the Ikot Ekpene General Hospital was also reconstructed and restored under the current dispensation, for supply of gas to all hospitals in the state.
How about the hundred doctors and nurses who were trained and certified in basic and advanced cardiac life supports, with medical emergency training experts from the United States of America? The outstanding consolidated medical salaries owed by the government of Chief AKpabio since 2014, such as CONMESS for doctors and CONHESS for nurses were cleared by the Udom administration. For the first time in the history of this state, the state government procured automated external defibrillators and ECG machines for use in emergency response to reverse cardiac arrests. These machines have been installed in ambulances in the state hospitals.
Did this governor not intervene and restore the services at Ibom Specialist Hospital after the abandonment of the place by the former management of the hospital? Talking about Ibom Specialist Hospital, is it not shameful that the hospital that was commissioned in 2015 were uncompleted buildings, as none of the two buildings lying side by side had been roofed? Yes! A walk to that vicinity, will expose one to a crane still hanging above one of the buildings, while the actual roofing of the first structure which is in use right now, is currently ongoing courtesy of Governor Emmanuel.
Now, whoever could believe that in this 21st century, a medical facility could be put to use without a simple thing as a roof, which is a basic necessity of all humans? When one talks of shelter, what comes to the mind first is a roof over the head. In the case of the so called international hospital, there was no roof. It is Governor Emmanuel who has taken it upon himself to provide a roof and complete at least one of the two structures. It is always very easy to assume that because the external view of a building is cladded with ostentatious coatings, that possibly the inside is also completed. It is important to note that only the first floor of the hospital is in use because the second floor is still not completed. That’s the sad tale of the misdirection of Akwa Ibom State resources. That itself is a story for another day. And then that bring to question why the former investors had to leave. That was an unfortunate scenario where people who came to manage the Ibom Specialist Hospital without a penny, were under an obnoxious agreement with the previous government. The agreement painted the picture of government as a Santa Claus feeding the professed investors at every stage of their dealings. They were to continue reaping from government at all times for running a facility where they brought no contribution. In order words, while getting free shelter from government, getting monthly paid, getting government to provide and replace equipment, they were not expected to account for whatever they generated from the facility.
Lest we forget, where are the dialyses, MRI and the CT scan machines that so much noise were made about? Why did Governor Emmanuel have to purchase those machines for the hospital? How come the asset sharing process of the Specialist hospital was such that the investors who came to manage came with nothing and yet were supposed to make all the profits into their pockets, while the Government continues to run and finance it without gain? Governor Emmanuel has been renowned worldwide as an expert in the management of people and finances. It would have been very surprising if he had fallen prey to that trap, where the resources of the State would just be thrown into an endless pool for a few briefcase wielding investors, who have no record elsewhere apart from coming to sip our common wealth dry uncommonly.
I doubt how easy it would be for this administration to get a good investor who will take over that facility which has gulped over 40 billion naira of taxpayers’ money and run at a profit. If one were to make a comparative analysis of the quality of bed and equipment at the Ibom Specialist Hospital and that of Etinan General Hospital, one would be forced to wonder which between the two is actually a quaternary hospital, because the equipment at the Secondary health care facilities put in place by Governor Emmanuel can compete favourably with the most modern equipment in the world, as against the standard set at the ostensible quaternary hospital.
Despite all the investments in the health sector noted here, the Governor still runs a free and qualitative heathcare service to children under five years, the expectant mothers and the aged. This service now finds more expression in the availability of facilities in all the federal constituencies of the state, as against what obtained before where the only two or three health facilities, cracked from poor facilities, non-availability of adequate medical personnel, and population explosion on the few bed spaces.
At a time that Governor Emmanuel is scattering records with unimaginable feats in attracting visible industries to the state, every responsible stakeholder has a duty to promote the image of the state and help create opportunities for our young ones. It is unfortunate that Chief Akpabio is still sponsoring people to launch uncharitable lines and de-market his state, to score political points. If the state was not the highest ‘breeder’ of HIV/AIDS during the locust years of poor healthcare delivery system, what indices could account for this sudden rise? Little wonder the general belief that the stats in this case may have been politically brewed to frustrate or even ridicule the efforts of the Mr. Emmanuel.
But for Governor Emmanuel who is too busy to respond to such tantrums, his vision is to make every Akwa Ibom person have unfettered access to health care services; to him the industries, the social infrastructure and free education by government will make little or no meaning if there is dearth in quality healthcare facilities in the state, after all it is generally believed that a healthy population is a wealthy population.