Friday, June 14, 2024


By Olukorede YISHAU

He had a dream that one day all the billions of dollars we lose every year to medical trips abroad will become a thing of the past.  And he sunk a fortune of Akwa Ibom’s fortunes into it. He felt we needed a hospital that can run at international standard. Not a teaching hospital, but a quaternary hospital, which is higher than a teaching hospital.

Ibom Specialist Hospital was what Godswill Akpabio, ex-Akwa Ibom State governor and now a senator, called it. He equipped it, I am made to understand, in such a way that cardiologists from around the world can hook up to the theatre and see real time what is going on and make their contributions. He felt government cannot run such a facility. So, to private hands he handed it over. But government was still to offer financial assistance at the teething stage.

So sure of the hospital was Akpabio that he declared: “The days of flying outside Nigeria to Europe, America, India and other places of the world for medical attention are over. Those days are behind us now. Why would anyone think of flying abroad for medical treatment when the best is at your doorstep? I have confidence in this hospital that is why I have come to do my routine checkup here, and with the quality of medical personnel here, our people and visitors are surly saved. Let others talk about it, not me. I am just here like many others, for medical checkup. What I know is that this is the best Hospital in Africa.”

Akpabio’s medical visit to the hospital was after he had demonstrated what many considered as lack of trust in the hospital for flying abroad after a car crash. At the time of the crash, the hospital had been inaugurated. I am not sure all the required hands were on hand though.

With about 380 suites, so many operating wards, one of a kind MRI system, fantastic CT scanner  and 150 expatriates on hand, it was like Nigeria was about to start taking its share of medical tourism.

But less than two years after it was inaugurated, the Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo is closed.  The multi-million dollar hospital was shut down last month after its foreign managers, Cardiocare Medical Services Ltd, terminated their contract with the state government. Only security officials now occupy its massive enclave.

This was a facility that held a lot of promise.  Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole, after a visit to the hospital, said: “With facilities at Ibom Specialist Hospital, medical tourism abroad can be reversed”.

He went on: “Visiting the hospital complex today is an eye opener and as far as I know, there is no such complex like this anywhere in Nigeria.”

Interestingly, Adewole’s enthusiasm is not shared by Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, who in June said the hospital was not capable of delivering the much-expected cutting-edge medical services.

His Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, in a recent media interview, gave an insight into his boss’s thinking: “The whole thing wasn’t totally completed. The dialysis section didn’t come through. Three modular theatres were not yet completed. Some of the areas were not completed because the contractors did not have all their money”.

These shortcomings notwithstanding, before it closed shop, a first timer to the hospital was bound to feel he was about entering a five star hotel.  It unfortunately had to run its expensive equipment, such as the 640- slice CT scan, Magnetic  Resonance Imaging, (MRI), x-ray with digital radiology, mammogram machine  and BC5380 Mindray machine, on generator because it was not connected to national grid.

I understand that in its short lifespan, it did brain surgery for a six days old child. It removed tumour from a young child skull   and treated successfully patients who broke their spine or neck, hip and back in an accident. It also removed tumour in the brain of a patient referred from the National Hospital Abuja.

It carried out operation without opening patients up. This is called laparoscopy surgery.  It carried out no less than six of such surgeries. Its gynaecology unit also carried out several surgeries through endoscopic procedures, such as laparascopic myomectomy and hysteroscopic.

From its confines, fibroids were removed without patients being opened up. The doctors simply made a hole and through that, they got out the tumour.

I also gathered that no less than 30 plastic surgeries were carried out  every month before the deal with the Akwa Ibom State government broke down.

For me, this hospital is a dream that must not die. The Federal Government must come in and partner with the state government to ensure the hospital is re-opened for it to fulfil its objectives. It is a shame that at the slightest excuse we still run abroad for medical attention. For Adewole, who was Chief Medical Director at the University College Hospital (UCH) to describe the facilities at the hospital in glowing terms, he obviously was not playing to the gallery.

Unlike the Aso Clinic, which has no syringe and other consumables as confirmed by First Lady Aisha Buhari, the N30 billion Ibom Specialist Hospital, according to Adewole, is second to none and has all it takes to stop the shameful practice of Very Important Persons (VIPs) running abroad for ailments that could be managed in Uyo.

If what the VIPs are looking for is class, this hospital has it. The wards, the private rooms, operating theatres and so on are irresistible. Whatever remains unfinished there can be done to meet their standard. And if what they want is experienced doctors, the ones who left as a result of the termination of the management deal can be brought back.

I believe part of the challenges the hospital faced was the cost of powering it.  A report said   N10 million was expended monthly on generator maintenance and diesel. The Federal Government can help with this. A small power plant may not be a bad idea for it.

The dialysis section, the three modular theatres and other things the state government said are missing can also be added so that it can meet its expectation.

My final take: If I were President Muhammadu Buhari, I would visit this hospital, inspect its facilities and enter a partnership with the Akwa Ibom State government. I will not be bothered by the fact that Governor Emmanuel  is of a different political party. In matters like this, politics should not have any role. I will ensure that the expatriates who dumped the hospital return. Another option may be to encourage some fantastic Nigerian doctors who have had the opportunity of the best medical facilities abroad to come run the equipment at this medical wonder.

The president should also demonstrate faith in the hospital by going there for his medical check-ups. If he does this, his ministers and other top government functionaries will be bound to use the facility and not jump on the next available flight to see their doctors overseas.

Until we demonstrate faith in our own things, we will not go anywhere. We will remain stagnant and eventually die. A river that refuses to flow is bound to dry up. (Source: THE NATION)



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