Amid numerous precautionary measures canvassed to contain the dreaded corona virus, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. (Barr.) Ekong Sampson, has called on the people of the state to pay serious attention to personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, even as the state government is set to clamp down on illegal felling of trees in city centres.
Healthcare delivery plays a critical role in the development of any economy and indeed the society at large. The World Economic Forum had in 2017 ranked health and primary education on the fourth pair of global competitiveness critical to the advancement of nations’ economies.
Perhaps, this explains why successive administrations in the state may have paid great deal of attention to healthcare delivery knowing too well that other sectors of the state’s economy may not yield the desired dividends without a healthy population of its citizenry. The massive renovation, reconstruction and revamping of secondary health facilities in the state are testimonies that the present administration of Deacon Udom Emmanuel prioritizes healthcare delivery. The governor has so far carried out interventions in secondary healthcare centres across the three senatorial districts of the state.
The present administration has equally sustained the free healthcare policy for children under five years of age, pregnant women and the aged, among other health programmes initiated by the wife of the Governor, Mrs. Martha Udom Emmanuel under the Family Empowerment and Youth Re-orientation Programme (FEYReP).
Irrespective of these interventions, a lot still needs to be done to confront the stark realities and challenges in the sector. The state health policy supports healthy living for sound body and mind as well as combating diseases through the operation of an accessible, affordable, efficient and integrated healthcare delivery system based on primary healthcare services.
The state of our primary healthcare centres leaves much to be desired and that is why many pregnant women in the rural communities still prefer to give birth at churches or in the hands of traditional birth attendants, not minding the resultant consequences. An inquest into the state of our health facilities reveals a number of factors why people still prefer to give birth in private hospitals, for those who can afford it, or at an alternative place, when the bills are above their reach. How on earth would the Health Management Board expect a pregnant woman to give birth in a health centre where there are no facilities for delivery, no good source of water, poor power supply and the worst of it all, unavailability of drugs? These and other factors may have given rise to poor attitude to work and at the worst case, the professional negligence among other negative conducts of health workers in the state.
One Stephen Noble from Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area who was a couple of months ago involved in an auto crash had written on his Facebook page how many patients were left unattended to at the Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang, which is one of the recently renovated hospitals in the state. In an attempt by an employee of the hospital to cover up their negligence, the staff explained that the situation was caused out of depression and frustrations of the personnel on duty, whom she said were understaffed. The staff revealed further that some of the medical equipment purported to have been supplied to the hospital by the state government were yet to arrive months after the commissioning of the newly renovated hospital.
Just recently, the Creek News paid an unscheduled visit to the recently renovated General Hospital at Iquita Oron, and the stories were just the same. While waiting to obtain approval from the hospital management in order to inspect the facilities donated to the hospital by the state government, our correspondent gathered that some of the equipment donated were refurbished and mal-functioning. Even though the superintendent had declined to speak to our reporter, insisting that he must obtain permission from the Hospital Management Board, some patients who spoke with our correspondent indicated their quest for an improved service delivery, devoid of the renovation work done at the hospital.
Though he commended the state government for the aesthetics, an heir of the Paramount Ruler, Prince Akwa Akan had longed for an improved quality of health service at the hospital. Prince Akan had raised concern about the power supply in the hospital of which he noted, last till 10 or 11pm, a situation he noted has dampened the spirits of patients who would have loved to patronize the health facility at night. He however called on the relevant authority to provide an alternative source of power to the accident and emergency units of the hospital.
Health workers among other stakeholders in the sector have in different fora called on government to do more than renovating or building health centres, but should exercise the political will to implement its primary healthcare policy for a healthier society. Despite government programmes, like the free healthcare policy for children and pregnant women, which has helped in reduction of infant and maternal death, the none implementation of primary healthcare policies in the state has given room to more challenges such as inadequate funding and lack of capacity by the implementing agency which in this case is the local government councils.
To overcome these challenges, the state government should be more committed to the implementation of its health policies by allocating more funds in its annual budget. Secondly, project implementation in the health sector must be given special attention to avoid sabotage of government effort. It is unacceptable to note that government has in the past, been shortchanged with near-obsolete equipment for brand new ones.
Hence, those in-charge must ensure proper monitoring evaluation and control of hospital equipment purchased for health centres.
Baring his mind on the way forward, the state Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Nsikak Nyoyoko called on the government to ensure that people of the state are made to enjoy the universal health coverage. He said this could be achieved by strengthening primary healthcare delivery system as well as putting in place a functional health insurance scheme that caters for all strata of society including the poorest and the most vulnerable. According to him, this is achievable, if the state health insurance bill is given an executive ascent and it is religiously implemented.
To address the critical shortage of specialized health workers, poor state of health facilities and equipment at various primary healthcare centres, medical practitioners in remote areas should be considered for specialized trainings to enable them confront the multitude of health challenges in the rural areas. On the other hand, the government should be ready to provide modern laboratory equipment to ensure proper diagnosis of ailments and provision of better healthcare to the vulnerable population.