The state of Medicare in the South East: When health delivery is threatened who is safe?

By eddie onuzuruike

The founding fathers and thinkers and others who worked assiduously in the interest of representative governance which has given full definition to democratic practice of the day, took valid steps for the present democratic reforms to survive multiple generations.

The feeling of insecurity facing the people and multiple groups in race, ethnicity and religion, most times are confronted with the questions: ‘whom do we run to? Who will go for us?’ Answering these questions led to the theory of Social Contract, a veritable line of thought in power dynamics. Even in bible times, Israelites operated theocracy as a form of government, but unfolding world view, especially with their hostile neighbours and operations forced them to request for a king as reported in 1st Samuel 8: 5. This request infuriated Samuel who was the theocratic head at the time and the people in defence of this agenda argued that ‘we want a king to lead us to war’ and probably, speak for us and be like other nations.’

This came to the fore on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 in the National Assembly when the Chief Medical Directors of University Teaching Hospitals in the South East, after a hot budgetary session with the Senate Committee on health paid a courtesy call on Sen. T. A. Orji (Ochendo), member of the Senate Committee on health.

The short meeting was highly revealing. Health is wealth they say and it may not be an accident that Sen. T. A. Orji is a member of the Senate Committee on health having made sweeping innovations in the Health sector as governor of Abia State from 2007 to 2015.

From these egg heads who alleged that they have grown grey hairs overnight due to multiple problems, it was shocking to realize that there is no radiography centre for cancer patients in the whole of South East. Poor appropriations seem to be the biggest hurdle facing these unit heads. Many of them are simply magicians as they took off without starting grants when they moved from old to new sites. Short falls in the overheads, personnel and other horrendous conditions are their daily headaches. UNTH Enugu needs Radiotherapy badly, clinical buildings and have realized that waste management without an incinerator could be disastrous. The Nnamdi Azikiwe in Nnewi will do well with a specialty Clinic, internal roads and the general outpatient department. The Fed Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, needs an auditorium and adequate finance to operate the completed theatre. Staff welfare ranging from salary, allowances, promotions and accommodation are threatening epidemic satiations for all three.

They may not be the only states suffering same situation nationwide but most of these are necessary, like properly equipped theatres, steady power supply and funds for diesels. Issues like surgery, dialyses operations need uninterrupted power supply. While they briefed him, he nodded understandingly. They were not telling him what he did not know having learnt firsthand while on the saddle in Abia.

In 2006, when he presented his manifesto as governorship aspirant, a particular aspect of this small book was received with great ovation. ‘Medicare will be available, accessible and affordable from womb to old age. ‘This did not take long to manifest. Ochendo then as governor took an irrevocable decision in September 2007, few months after his inauguration as the third democratically elected Governor of Abia State. He decided to replicate what he saw at Jon Hopkins, Howard University Teaching Hospital in United States of America, where all units of medical facility were available in one location. This led to the partnership with Me-cure of India which started with the most up to date in diagnostic laboratory. Furthermore he unfolded his health master plan which reengineered, reformed and rejuvenated the state of health in Abia.

Before 2007, dialysis machines were strange medical contraptions to the extent that if they were sent free of charge to most hospitals in Nigeria, people will push it aside as there were no skilled manpower and personnel to operate it. As it was, people in the South East who had renal ailments had to book for sessions in UNTH Enugu or travel abroad at huge costs for attention and comprehensive analysis. Abia Specialist and Diagnostic Complex came of age operating in three locations. The Ochendo administration acquired a total of seven dialysis machines. One serves as standby spare, another set aside for HIV patients, while Hepatitis sufferers have one to themselves. The remaining four are left for normal patients to avoid complications which may result from contamination of blood.

Bio-Chemical and radiological diagnostic investigations are equally offered. As it is well known and established, a good investigation leads to good diagnosis which will give grounds for accurate care or control as the case may be. These consist of mammography which can scan the female breast and detect cancer at the earliest stage. Computed Tomography, CT scan for short, is a medical technology that uses x-ray and computer to gives three dimensional images of the human body. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), medical diagnostic technique that combines strong magnetic fields, radio waves, and computer technology to create images of the body using the principles of nuclear magnetic resonance is there for total scanning.

Amachara Specialist Hospital got better with seven new buildings to cater for different needs including an administrative block, resident doctor’s quarters, a modern chest centre for TB patients. Exceptionally cheering is the accreditation to train house officers by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. There are other things too long to be enumerated like the 100 bed hospitals in nine LGAs and upgrading the Primary Health Centres from 250 to 710. With these development, many came to partner.

MTN Eye Foundation in synergy with the Abia government issued over 5000 eyeglasses free of charge to people and carried out upwards of 2000 surgeries. This revealed that there were piled-up cases where a lot of people either due to financial inability or lack of confidence on the side of the providers decided to live and die with their ophthalmological ailments. Among other strange cases, filariasis, cataracts, refractive problems and other painful conditions bayed our people like wild dogs. Just like miracle, it happened that too many people, men and women, adults and children, old and young, all benefited to the extent that those who came groping on swagger sticks and leaning on wives and grandchildren as guides, gallantly hopped home thereafter. These fulfilled his constant avowal to be the governor of healthy people.

Among so many awards in all sectors, Ochendo, on Friday, 19, 2013, was honoured by The Nigerian Optometry Association as the Prime Ambassador of Health-care during their 37th annual conference in Abia.

The issues presented by the CMDs were painstakingly taken, properly articulated and there is bound to be a massive improvement from this gruesome past.

For what we know Ochendo for, especially as a team player, he will rally South East Legislators to ensure that Health should be wealth in the South East sub region.