Health is central to human happiness and well-being, it makes important contribution to economic development as a healthy population lives longer, is more productive and safe.
It is in this context that nations of the world try to bring quality and affordable health care delivery to their people.
Since the creation of Akwa Ibom in 1987, successive administrations have made cogent efforts to bring quality health care to people in the state.
It would be recalled that before the creation of the state from the then Cross River State, the people of this part which was known as the “mainland” relied on the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital and nearby states to get health services, especially in referral cases.
The situation was a huge burden to the people as they usually embarked on long distance journey to access health care which at times resulted in death of patients.
Then, available health institutions belonged to the missions, these include: the St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua, Uyo; and St. Mary’s Hospital, Urua Akpan (Catholic Church); Methodist General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, Uruan Methodist Church, and Immanuel General Hospital, Eket (Lutheran Church). The rest are: the Qua Iboe Hospital, and Qua Iboe Leprosy Hospital, both in Etinan.
In its own effort, the government established few comprehensive health centres and polyclinics.
Although the military regime succeeded in taking over the missions health facilities which were inadequate and in deplorable state, their efforts were not enough to improve the health sector for the benefit of the people.
However, it was the military administration that established the School of Health Technology, Etinan; Psychiatric Hospital, Eket and the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Ikot Ekpene. Nonetheless, the late head of state, Gen. Sanni Abacha upgraded available health facilities in the state when he approved the establishment of the Sanni Abacha Hospital in Uyo, the state capital.
The referral institution was renamed Federal Medical Centre. It has now grown in leaps and bounds to become a tertiary health institution named the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH). When the second civilian governor of Akwa Ibom, Obong Victor Attah, came on the saddle, as a man with a vision and pragmatic leadership style, he made concerted effort to transform the health sector than he met it.
The administration of Obong Attah left behind indelible marks in the health sector as demonstrated in the upgrade and expansion as well as the establishment of new health institutions, particularly the three secondary health facilities strategically located where such were lacking in the three senatorial districts of the state namely: Ikpe Ikot Nkon in Ini; Amamong in Okobo and Ukpom in Abak. Indeed, these facilities have served the purpose they were intended as the communities have been relieved of the trauma of searching for health care elsewhere.
The administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio which took over the mantle of leadership in 2007, was synonymous with uncommon transformation. In the transformation agenda, the administration established a state-of-the-art referral health institution to reduce medical tourism.
Initially, it was named 20th Anniversary Hospital to mark the state creation anniversary after 20 years in 2007. Now it is called the Ibom Multi-Specialty Hospital. Besides, the government in its drive to expand health facilities established cottage hospitals in Ukana Ikot Ntuen in Essien Udim, Ika, Ibeno and Ukanafun Local Government Areas. It also renovated and provided modern equipment to existing general hospitals for optimum services which the benefitting health institutions were: General Hospital, Iquita Oron; Immanuel General Hospital, Eket and General Hospital, Ikot Ekpene.
Towards the control of the outbreak of diseases, the administration demonstrated proactiveness as health personnel were placed on surveillance in the 31 local government areas of the state.
Impact was also recorded in the fight against malaria with the acquisition of drugs, long lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLITNs), training programme for staff on malaria prevention and treatment, especially on the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kit for malaria test before treatment. It is in this wise that the administration of Gov Udom Emmanuel has given priority to health care since his assumption of office in 2015.
The drive for quality health care is recording a huge transformation in various spheres in the present administration, ranging from building of new hospitals, massive rehabilitation and re-equipping of existing ones for efficient and effective services. In realization of the importance of health to the citizenry, the governor did not wait to improve on the sector.
The first beneficiary of the revolution in the health sector by this administration is the St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua in Uyo. The hospital facilities were dilapidated and in his bid to provide quality health care, the governor immediately swung into action to give the institution a facelift.
In the exercise, units like the administrative block, wards and equipment as well as a new 300-bed gynaecology block which is named after Dr Ann Ward, an Irish female gynaecologist and reverend sister who served in the hospital, until her retirement.
The state government purchased N5 billion worth of equipment to boost services at the Ibom Multi-Specialty Hospital. This is in addition to the payment of N400 million quarterly to offset bills incurred for medical equipment supplied to the referral institution, now under a new management, Clinotech Group, Canada.
So far, the state government has remodelled, rehabilitated and re-equipped three secondary health facilities. These are General Hospitals at Ikot Okoro in Oruk Anam, Etinan, Ikono and Iquita, Oron, while that of Immanuel Hospital, Eket is ongoing as well as the building of a comprehensive hospital at Awa, Onna Local Government.
Another primary health facility has been inaugurated and put to use by this government at Obio Akpa in Oruk Anam. The facility was donated by the family of the late Prince Benard Idiong in memory of the late lecturer by the wife of the governor, Mrs Martha Emmanuel, alongside her sibling, Prince Ubong Idiong, the chairman of Oruk Anam Local Government.
This year, the governor graciously approved the employment of 25 medical doctors and 100 nurses into the state civil service.
While approving the training and certification of 100 doctors and nurses in Basic Live Support and Advanced Cardiac Lives Support with Medical Energy Experts from the USA, he has equally facilitated the training of 20 biomedical engineers. In the area of incentives and remuneration, the state pays regularly the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and CONHESS to medical and dental practitioners and nurses.
Interestingly, Governor Emmanuel in his industrial drive has invested in the production of hospital equipment with the establishment of a Jubilee Syringe factory, the first of its kind in the country. The product of Jubilee Syringe are the best in terms of quality and safety as were confirmed at the trade fair organized by Syringe and Needles Association and Allied Matters in Germany.
To further enhance quality health care in all the health institutions, the state government has taken delivery of some of the 100 containers of medical hardwares procured for equipping of the Emergency Response Centres (ERC) in the state.
Some of the equipment delivered to hospitals in the state include: automated beds with ultra-sound scanners, electro-cardiogram machines, spot vital signs devices, fatal anomaly scanners, endoscopes, hoyer lifts, oxygen concentrators, etc. Realizing that the provision of sophisticated facilities cannot deliver robust healthcare without manpower, the governor unreservedly approved the payment of Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) to medical and dental practitioners in the state with effect from June 2015.
He has facilitated regular training of house officers and the sponsorship of professional development for ophthalmologists to attain the mandatory requirement by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, which is a requirement for the annual renewal of licence to practise.
Still on this, the governor has conducted basic life support training for doctors, nurses, drivers and porters; ensured that trained personnel are engaged at public functions; ensured the participation in Nursing and Midwifery Council final qualifying examination for general nurses and midwives in which Akwa Ibom scored 100 per cent in both; trained 272 registered nurses and midwives in the state under the Mandatory Continuing Professional Development Programme (MCPDP) as well as the registration of paramedical staff nurses and private clinics, etc.
Barely a month ago, the state government in partnership with Union Medicals, United States of America ( USA), organized a one week residential training for health workers.
In the area of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the government has started with the unveiling of health insurance for the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). The scheme which is to be facilitated by Axa Mansard and Premier Medical Services, was unveiled by the commissioner for information and strategy, Mr Charles Udoh, at the NUJ Press Centre, recently.
On immunization of children against early childhood diseases, the administration is not backward compared to other states of the federation. Already, arrangement has been concluded to undertake meningitis type A vaccine after state-wide training of fascinators in the 31 local government areas.
Besides, it has acquired equipment for its detection, just as surveillance is mounted across the state to prevent the spread of the disease. Unwavering awareness campaign on non-communicable diseases is mounted in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), communities, markets and churches on causes, treatment and prevention of hypertension, sickle cell disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, malaria, HIV/AIDS and surveillance of diseases targeted for elimination and outbreak control.
On the malaria control and treatment, the government has intensified effort in the fight. Last year, 33 million long lasting insecticidal treated nets (LLITNs) were distributed to households in the state. Other measures in the combat include the supply of free anti-malaria commodities such as malaria rapid diagnostic TEST (MRDT) kits for testing before treatment, Arteminisiain- based combination Therapy (ACTS), and IV Artesunate for effective management of malaria.
As managing of health evolves important actors, Gov Emmanuel’s administration has facilitated various partnerships with international organizations, donor agencies and corporate bodies in the sector. Some of the partnerships include: the co-ordination of a 21-day free eye care outreach in collaboration with MTN Foundation.
In the exercise, 15,350 people were screened for various eye diseases, 1,150 eye surgeries with 2,000 free eyeglasses distributed; floating of a mobile ambulance service in partnership with Nestle Nigeria Ltd. The service which is a pilot programme is targeted at pregnant women and children of five years of age and below, including ban on drugs hawking and control programme.
Also, the government, in collaboration with the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) supported by the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), and the Child Blind Mission (CBM), is targeting to provide over 250,000 children with free eye treatment and glasses, in designated centres at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), General Hospitals, Ikot Ekpene and Iquita Oron.
Recently, the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the KNCV Foundation organized a programme tagged: “Photo Vision Exhibition” for survivors of tuberculosis where they gave testimonies on the pains and stimatization that surround the disease and the need for patients to defy stigmatization by coming out for treatment Within the last four years, primary, secondary, referral institutions and special disease treatment centres have been provided with basic hospital materials.
Moreso, interventions have been done on numerous cases such as the treatment of 4,038 moderately malnourished and severely malnourished children and the celebration of World Breastfeeding Day, to remind mothers of the need to breastfeed their babies for nourishment.
All these achievements in the sector are possible because there is a round peg in a round hole in the person of Dr Dominic Ukpong as the commissioner for health.
Health is costly and most priceless gift from God necessary for living a purposeful life. It is based on in this prism that the Udom Emmanuel-administration has not only provided quality and affordable health care but ensured that road infrastructure which gives access to health facilities are provided.
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