The multi- billion naira medical facility embarked upon by former Governor Godswill Akpabio just before he left office in 2015 is now like a white elephant project such that it is giving the current administration sleepless nights. ESSEH IKORA writes.
When the foundation of Ibom Specialist Hospital Uyo was laid on September 25, 2007 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom state, the joy of the people knew no bounds as they were confident of effective and standard health care services in the state at considerable cost. However, little did they know that the hospital was not for everybody.
The government’s intentions was to provide affordable and specialised health care services locally to cut down on the alarming rate of capital flight associated with medical tourisms abroad.
When the hospital was inaugurated in May 2015, the daunting challenge faced by the state government was how to assemble a management team to handle multi billion naira project.
The hospital was initially managed by Cardiocare Medical Services Limited. In September 2018, it was, however, shut down owing to alleged poor management and lack of accountability by the consultant. Investigation by Blueprint reveals that at some points, Governor Udom Emmanuel was said to have been visibly angry as to why a government would engage a consultant for the hospital the former governor, now Senator Godswill Akpabio tagged world class when its services are not affordable by the people it is meant to serve.
Gov’t expresses concern
Disturbed at colossal cost of running the hospital, Governor Emmanuel at a meeting of Akwa Ibom Patriots in Uyo, lamented that the government spends an average of N800, 000 monthly on diesel to power the operations of the hospital.
He was enraged that his administration also spent over N500 million in a space of six months to maintain the hospital but got nothing in return. It was therefore said that the state government was left with no other option but to employ the services of a new management team, Clinotech Group of Canada. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was therefore hastily signed between the state government and Clinotech.
Clinotech, according to report, is the only solution partner to the Federal Ministry of Health with the mandate to build hospitals of international standards in each of the geo-political zones and manage them.
Speaking during the MOU ceremony, Governor Emmanuel congratulated the company for emerging successful in the bidding process, noting that serious criteria were put in place by the government to ascertain the best among the bidders.
The governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, said, “Technical capacity, hospital management experience and competencies as well as financial implications were considered when the Commissioner for Health, Dr Dominic Ukpong and his team assessed the entries and capacity of bidders.”
Emmanuel reminded the company that they did not arrive at the position of a new manager out of sentiment. He encouraged them to be ready to work and meet the objectives of the huge medical facility. The governor explained that he pays a great deal of attention to health care delivery because all his drives in the area of industrialisation, agriculture, education, political and economic inclusion, infrastructural development, poverty alleviation, wealth creation and job creation which will not yield the desired dividends without a healthy population of Akwa people.
The commissioner for health, Dr Dominic Ukpong described MoU ceremony as a red letter day for the ministry, noting that the build-up to the formal signing of the agreement was painstaking.
Dr Ukpong who recalled the unpleasant experience with the previous managers, stressed that, “The agreement has ensured that we will be together to make it succeed. We do not have any reason to fail.”
He explained that the objective was to offer highly specialised medical services to members of the public, reduced morbidity and mortality through prevention and treatment of cases that are beyond the capabilities of secondary and tertiary health care systems.
According to him, “Nigerians spend billions of dollars on medical treatment outside the country. Clinotech Group has the capacity to use the well equipped Ibom Specialist Hospital to reverse the trend.”
In his remark, the president and chief executive officer, Clinotech Group, Harrison Ofiyai, said they were attracted to the state to work especially on professional basis and promised to manage the facility professionally and profitably.
He pledged to collaborate with the engineering team, contractors and others to bring about speed and other desired results.
“We will do all our very best within the shortest possible time. We had also thought that we will resume work given the short time frame to deal with certain segments of the hospital. He stressed the need to fix power as the facilities in the hospital cannot run without constant power supply.
Blueprint recalled that the new management last year recorded a major breakthrough in health care delivery with a successful neurosurgery carried out.
Dr Ukpong, while briefing journalists about the development, said since resumption of services at the hospital, many patients have received adequate solutions to their ailments with the latest being the brain surgery carried out by a renowned Neurosurgeon Dr Okezie Kanu and others.
The acting medical director, Dr Ini Etukudo said the hospital has witnessed significant increase in the number of patients being referred to the hospital and expressed confidence that the hospital is set to fulfill its core mandate.
He thanked the state government for the passion in ensuring that health care delivery system is given priority attention.
The special assistant to the governor on medical services and consultant Government House clinic, Dr Ignatius Akpabio, said that the equipment at the specialist hospital competes favourably with those in the other climes.
He said after a thorough investigation the patient required a neurosurgery and thanked the consultant neurosurgeon for the prompt response.
Blueprint learnt that the intimidating building of the hospital scare patients from approaching it for medical needs. To further compound the plight of intending patients, the former consultant, it was learnt, employed the services of foreigners even as receptionists, thereby making it difficult for the locals to visit the hospital and express themselves.
At the moment, while the management of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital(UUTH) is grappling with the challenge of managing hundreds of patients who besiege the hospital daily with one form of ailment or another the management of Ibom Specialist are permanently on holidays.
A visit to the hospital by Blueprint on April 1 reveals a sorry state as the imposing edifice looks lifeless except for two receptionists and two young men who looked like visitor. Also, the ambulance gate was weedy and permanently locked.
On inquiry, investigation shows that patients pay as much as N15, 000 for consultation card before being allowed to see a doctor.
A lady receptionist who spoke on condition of anonymity said patients pays N5, 000 to see a doctor and another N10, 000 to see a visiting consultant.
According to her, “The people are just scared of this place; nobody wants to come here for treatment. We stay here all days waiting for patients. To see a doctor here is only N5, 000. You only pay additional N10, 000 when it becomes necessary to invite a consultant for further examination.”
The hospital, according to investigation, also offers whole body checks which at the cost of N150, 000. The comprehensive body test, according to Clinotech, “Provides more extensive and detailed assessment of health by including more specialised tests and specialist consultations. The health package is recommended for men and women who require a comprehensive health checkup”.
A local resident, Obong Philip Orim, expressed regret, saying, “The hospital is in our community but we prefer to visit other government hospital for our medical needs. At a point, patients were asked to pay in dollars. Most of the doctors there are paid in foreign currencies. The hospital is built for the elites and the rich.
“The hospital is built from tax payers’ money but too expensive. Akwa Ibom is a civil service state; nobody can afford to pay the cost of consultation. When Senator Akpabio had need for medical assistance, he was flown abroad, yet while commissioning the hospital he said it is world class”.