Gov Emmanuel’s Healthcare Agenda: Yawning Gap Between Promise And Reality

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel

June 10, (THEWILL)- No doubt, the six years of Governor Udom Emmanuel as the Chief Executive Officer of Akwa Ibom State has recorded tremendous efforts in revamping the secondary healthcare sector within the 10 Federal constituencies in the state. But between talk and the walk there appears to be a huge gulf.

The feat, as disclosed by Emmanuel in a recent broadcast, is hinged on the belief that a healthy population is one of the parameters to measure a working government.

THEWILL reports that intervention at that level of healthcare delivery has rescued some of the abandoned and reptile-infested general hospitals to standard ones, having been remodelled and equipped with up-to-date facilities.

While the Governor’s target is to remodel General Hospitals in all 10 Federal constituencies, those of 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 quaternary healthcare level in the state, Governor Emmanuel 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 equipments became 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 and BUA Group of Companies is another feat achieved by the government in the health sector.

He maintained that medical professionals in the state have been scheduled on regular training to bring them at par with modern approaches in healthcare management.

However, the state of Primary Healthcare facilities in Akwa Ibom State, the closest healthcare facility to the rural populace, has suffered a terrible decline in the last decade.

A visit to some of these centres revealed that apart from reptiles, which have taken over a good number of such centres, some of the 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, the 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, Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government, the only government primary healthcare centre in the community was in ruins. The access road to the centre was in bad shape, in addition to poor quality of healthcare services. Unfortunately, healthcare services in this community are relatively at a very low quality and inaccessible to the majority of the people.

The Health centre barracks road appears to be the best in the state as it receives an influx of patients on a daily basis. This centre is however under serious threat as it is bordered by a fast encroaching ravine. The unhealthy environment therefore attracts legions of mosquitoes to the centre.

A visit to Primary Health Centre off Uruan street in Uyo, which is in Ewet Housing Estate, showed that the centre is in dire need of help. It lacks the capacity to provide essential healthcare 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 told our correspondent that patients stopped coming to the centre because of poor quality of healthcare services, poor condition of infrastructure, and lack of essential drugs.

The state of the only Primary health Centre at Mbiabong community in Itu Local Government Area is deplorable. Our Correspondent who visited the place reports that the centre has not been renovated or equipped with drugs for a long time amidst low patronage of patients

A staffer 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. The drugs are always in short supply and that is the situation we have found ourselves in for a long time now. So we prescribe for patients and ask them 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 our correspondent visited some PHCs in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. While some were overgrown with weeds, a few others however had active presence of health workers. One of the Health Centres in Ikot Ekpene admitted to have benefited from donor agencies and NGOs, including Maria Stopes, Helen Keller and Bill Melinda Gates.

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,

At the primary health centre at Ifa Ikot Okpon, Etoi in Uyo Local Government Area of the state, which has a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) home located opposite it, our correspondent observed heavy patronage of the TBA by pregnant women instead of the PHC.

When inquired about why the TBA was preferred 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 quite affordable though it varies according to the personality or persons involved.

Our correspondent who later visited the PHC met a nurse and a few others in auxiliary services and administration, who complained that the facility’s electricity supply was disconnected due to non-payment of bills.