By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
By standards of wisdom, good health is something humans must value next to conscience because health is the second blessing from God to humans that money cannot buy.
In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel-led administration in the above line of thought also, has no doubt, made noticeable efforts to revamp the secondary healthcare sector in the state within the last six years of his administration.
The transformation drive in this sector, Governor Emmanuel said in his 6th anniversary broadcast is borne out of the belief that a healthy population is one of the parameters to measure a working government.
The intervention is seen in the transformation of some erstwhile reptiles infested general hospitals in the state to standard ones, having been remodelled and equipped with up to date facilities.
While the Governor’s target is to remodel these health facilities in all the ten federal constituencies of the state, General Hospitals in Etinan, Oron, Ikot Okoro, Ituk Mbang, Awa and Eket can compete favourably with similar facilities anywhere in the world, while those of Ikot Abasi and Ikot Ekpene are awaiting commissioning.
At the quarternery healthcare level in the state, Governor Emmanuel at same broadcast had explained that aside the highly trained medical professionals in Ibom Specialist Hospital, the facility is equipped with the most modern medical facilities, complete with an ICU, adding that the equipment were useful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He described the 300 bed Infectious Diseases Control Centre equipped with one of the best PCR laboratories and an 18-bed ICU and HDU centres as the ‘Miracle of Ituk Mbang’.
The Governor mentioned that the newly commissioned Medical Gas and Vacuum Plant, has the capacity to supply one thousand beds with oxygen and perform suction functions for one thousand patients at the same time, saying the facility is the largest in size in the nation today.
He added that the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of Akwa Ibom State University Teaching Hospital in collaboration with ASR an BUA Group of Companies is another feat achieved by the government in the health sector.
Emmanuel maintained that medical professionals in the state have been scheduled on regular trainings to bring them at par with modern approaches in health care management.
However, the state of Primary Healthcare facilities in the state, which is closest healthcare facility to the rural populace, has suffered terrible decline in the last decade.
A visit to some of these centres by our correspondent revealed that apart from reptiles which have taken over a good number of such centres, some of its roofs are either leaking while others have been completely pulled out.
Apart from the few active PHCs in Uyo, the state capital, most primary health centres in rural communities have been abandoned to the cleaners who merely sit to refer pregnant women to Traditional Birth Attendants.
At the Primary Health Centre Ikot Akata, Mkpat Enin, roof of the quarters for medical workers had long been removed by the wind, while the main centre has lost all its doors, windows and the main hall leaking heavily, there was no presence of any health worker as at time of visit..
At Ikot Iko in Ibesikpo Asutan Local government, the only government primary healthcare centre in the community was met in ruins. The access road to the centre was in bad shape, in addition to poor quality of health-care services.Unfortunately, health care services in this community is relatively at a very low quality and inaccessible to majority of the people.
The state of the only Primary Health Centre at Mbiabong Community in Itu local government area, is deplorable. When visited, the Centre has not been renovated nor equipped with drugs for a long time amidst low patronage of patients
A staff who spoke on condition of anonymity described the place as a ‘glorified Centre’ with little or nothing to show for It as a medical Centre.
“There is nothing much taking place here. The drugs are always in short supply and that is the situation we have found ourselves for a long time now. So, we prescribe for patients and ask them most at times to purchase from pharmacies outside. And talking in terms of renovation, you can see for yourself,” the source said.
The story was however different when visited some PHCs in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, while some were overgrown with weeds, a few others had active presence of health workers. One of the Health Centres admitted to have benefited from donor agencies and NGO.s including Maria Stopes, Helen Kela, and Bill/Milanda Gate,
The Abak Primary Health Operational base, on its part complained of epileptic electricity supply, lack of water supply, lack of good toilet facility for patients and health workers,
The Health Centre at Barracks Road, Uyo appears to be the best in the state as it receives influx of patients on daily basis. This center is however under serious threat as it is bordered by a fast encroaching ravine. The unhealthy environment therefore attracts legions of mosquitoes to the center.
But a visit to Primary Health Centre off Uruan street also in Uyo, Ewet Housing Estate axis showed that the Centre is in dire need of help. It lacks the capacity to provide essential health-care services, in addition to having issues such as poor distribution of health workers and essential drug to administer to patients at any given time.
A Senior Healthcare worker at the Centre who craved anonymity revealed that patients stopped coming to the facility because of poor quality of health-care services, poor condition of infrastructure, and lack of essential drugs.
At the Primary Health Centre at Ifa Ikot Okpon, Etoi also in Uyo which has a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) home located opposite it, it was observed that the TBA has heavy patronage by pregnant women instead of the PHC.
When inquired about why the TBA was prefered against the PHC, one of the young women and mother of five children replied, “I am Mrs. Glory Peter. I have five children and four of them were delivered here. I love being here anytime because Mma is very nice and experienced in maternity services.
“If you ask all of us here, you will be surprised to hear everyone speaks good about this Mma. She is caring and pays serious attention to all of us during and after labour once you are here. Her fee is quiet affordable though varies according to personality of persons involved.
“Even when one has no money to pay and in labour, she won’t reject you but accommodate you, attend to you and ensure you have a safe delivery of your baby. From my experience so far, Mma is not so particular about making too much money from this home but more about saving lives. All these are what you cannot find in government hospitals so I can say that God send her to us, especially the poor”, she said
For the 65 year old Mrs. Ibanga, (Mma), the proprietress of the TBA home, she said that though she was an illiterate with a little formal education because her parents did not value women education but was able to study up to Elementary Six.
According to her, she was trained as a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) at Assurance Maternity & Clinic in Port Harcourt in 1980, a place she studied and emulated the heart of showing kindness towards patients from her Madam, and proprietress of the Clinic.
Her words, “I am an illiterate and pay attention to my patients and treat them very well. In government hospitals, they are graduates and so they feel too big to take nonsense from patients (pregnant women).
“Again, eventhough I am poor as you have seen me here but as a child of God I value the life of my patients and their children and they in turn, love coming to me eventhough this place is a family compound and has little space for them.
“My Madam was always a humble and loving person, and I am emulating her life in managing this home. I don’t fail to the pregnant women here to prayer seeking God’s mercy for a peaceful delivery when labour will come because my faith is in God and without Him, it is impossible to have the grace.
“I have been doing this for many years now and I can’t count the number of women, especially young girls who most times were driven out from home by their parents that when they come here I received and took care until they deliver their before I sent them, ie those whose parents still refused to come for them”, Mrs. Ibanga stated.
Our Correspondent who later visited the PHC met a Nurse and few others on auxiliary services and administration, who complained that the facility’s electricity supply was disconnected due to non-payment of bills.