With series of medical feats by the state-owned Delta State University Teaching Hospital, DELSUTH, Oghara, and the attainment of Goal 5 of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, ahead of the 2015 target date, Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan has set an enviable record and demonstrated that with a combination of will and commitment, quality healthcare can be delivered to the doorstep of the people
The scene at the Urban Primary Health Centre in Ughelli, Delta State when the magazine visited sometime in May tells the story of the healthcare programme of the Delta State Government. Scores of women, each hugging her bundle of joy, were gathered that early morning at the infant welfare clinic, taking their turns to have their babies examined by the nurses. Juliet Oye, Director of Nigeria Nursing Service at the primary health care centre explains: “It’s an everyday thing, from Monday to Friday. These women, for them to have good health, they need to come to attend to their babies. When they come, so many things are done like immunisation of their children and health talk on how to take care of these babies. We weigh them; that’s how we know whether the children have weight problem, whether they are thriving. And we also do HIV test for both the mother and babies”. The beauty of this however is that for all these services, the women don’t have to pay anything so, there is nothing holding them back from visiting the clinic any time they have to. Oye says “we charge no fees; it’s free”. With a feeling of job satisfaction, she enthused “it’s a wonderful thing to be in this profession”
It was the same scenario at the newly commissioned 100-bed Mother and Child Hospital at the Central Hospital, Warri. A visibly appreciative Rachael Ekpah’s strong desire is to see the governor, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, to personally express his immeasurable joy and gratitude for his free maternal and child health programme. “Every service is free. If I see the governor, I will tell him thank you because he has done a lot for us”. While lauding the good services at the hospital, she however complained that “the population is much” but was quick to add that “however, the workers are trying their best to make sure that they attend to everybody”. For the governor, a medical doctor turned politician, being able to bring healthcare to the pregnant women, nursing mothers and their children up to the age of five at no cost to them at all, gives him a feeling of great accomplishment as a governor and a medical doctor.
As he is wont to say, the governor reiterated while responding to the speech by David Ashikodi, Chairman Accord Party, when he hosted leaders of all the political parties in the state to a dinner May 28, 2014 as part of the Democracy Day celebration that his free healthcare and free education programme meant more to him than what others considered his greatest achievements. According to him, “I’m particularly glad that he (Ashikodi) did not talk about what people seem to be using as a yardstick to measure my achievements. He did not talk about airport, roads; he talked about things that affected the ordinary person. For me, I keep saying these are the things that are dearest to me. A woman who, because she cannot afford hospital bill has to be turned back, but today is able to have a safe delivery in an hospital environment she is happy with, for me, that’s very close to my heart. It is as important, if not more important than the construction of an airport”.
Apart from being influenced by his personal experience as a practicing medical doctor, Joseph Otumara, Commissioner for Health, said the free maternal healthcare off the programme was also borne out of his desire to achieve goals four, five and six of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs which he noted seemed to be the focus at the international level. The goals are to ensure that maternal mortality is reduced to a quarter of what it used to be before 2015, and to ensure that the mortality rate of children that are under five years of age are also reduced by two-third. According to Otumara, “in trying to accomplish this, the Delta State Government, under Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, declared a free maternal healthcare programme on November 27, 2007. He, being a medical doctor, knows that there is a problem of access, both geographical and financial. So, having addressed the problem of geographical access, he focused his mind on tackling the problem of financial access which seems to be more crucial. As part of the ways to address the problem of financial access, he initiated a policy of free medical care for pregnant women and nursing mothers up to six weeks after delivery. With this, the cost of medical care throughout all the period of pregnancy and birth, from ante-natal, laboratory investigation, ultrasound scan, HIV test and all that it takes until delivery, even if it involves a caesarean section, CS, until six weeks after delivery, is waived and it comes to free of charge to every woman in Delta State”. By November this year, it will be seven years of running this programme and the women, the direct beneficiaries, bear testimony that it is not a fluke and the result is most cheering.
Rukevwe Ugwumba, a medical doctor from the Diaspora, and Special Adviser to the governor on Health Monitoring, is excited that the programmed had achieved the purpose for which it was introduced. “Nigeria was given 250 for 100,000 maternal mortality ratio. In 2012, we (Delta State) got 226. In 20113, we had 192 per 100,000. We achieved our millennium development goal in 2012. So, for that, they didn’t give us a number per se for child mortality, but reduced infant mortality. We have one of the lowest in the country. Preventable infection, HIV, we have the lowest in Nigeria, if not second lowest”. Because of increasing demand for the free medical services, the government considered it expedient to expand facilities. Ugwumba said that was what gave birth to the 100-bed Mother and Child Hospital in Warri, which is an addition to the existing 64 hospitals in the state. Kingsley Agholor, the Medical Director of the Central Hospital, Warri, said since the commencement of the free maternal programme, “We had seen an increment of about 50 per cent of our delivery rate and antenatal care”. According to him, “delivery rate in 2006-2009 was 2000 per annum, compared to 4,000-5,000 in 2013. So, there was a need for us to expand our services because our services were over-subscribed. So, eventually, His Excellency looked at it and decided to look at the need to build this edifice here”. As far as Ugwumba is concerned, “this is really more than a secondary centre. I would say it’s another tertiary institution commissioned this year”. It was commissioned February 13, 2014. Agholor hinted that another of such edifice is going on at the Ekpan General Hospital, noting that “these things are going to ensure that the free maternal services are met at various points”.
Ikechukwu Nweze, a doctor and Senior Registrar at the hospital testified to this. He described the hospital as “a teaching hospital now for O and G and Paediatrics”. Nweze who had been involved in the free maternal programme since the past five years and had been in the services of the Central Hospital, Warri for about a decade, attested to this. He told the magazine with a sense of job satisfaction that “they sent me out to the University College Hospital, UCH, to practice and I thought that was the best. But when I came back here, it’s a different thing altogether. This place is many times better than UCH in terms of facilities and the comfort you work with”. According to Nweze, “You don’t really notice work anymore; the tension or pressure of calls, because you sleep in an air-conditioned room. Two hours of sleep and you are already refreshed to go back to work again. The staff is well taken care of, the patients too and they attest to that. Nobody is complaining. We have all the facilities to work with”.
If the Mother and Child Hospital is the best, according to Nweze, what will one say about the newly unveiled refurbished Eku Baptist Hospital described as Chike Ogeah, the state Information Commissioner, as “one of the great monuments” where most people in their 60s were born; and of course the flag-ship tertiary health institution, the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, DELSUTH, Oghara? These hospitals boast of state-of-the-art medical equipments that are second to none anywhere in the country. Otumara says, “without mincing words, the caliber of equipment we have at the teaching hospital, Oghara is the best in the country. Anybody who comes to Oghara usually marvels at the equipment we have there, whether they are from LUTH (Lagos University Teaching Hospital) UCH or a private hospital; they usually tell us that we have done a good job”. In the past few years, the DELSUTH, Oghara had always been in the news for very good reasons. Medical feats in the hospital, has become a second nature. Leslie Akporiaye, Chief Medical Director, CMD, of the hospital, as far as August 2012, told the magazine that the hospital had been doing special orthopaedic procedures such as artificial replacement of the knee and hip-bones; and then urology joint as well as series of minimally invasive surgery or keyhole surgery. Akporiaye explained that “this is where, without opening the abdomen, you can take out the gall bladders and you can take out the appendixes”.
At the time, (August 2012) Otumara and Akporiaye had hinted that by the end of the year, the hospital, formally declared open June 19, 2010, would do its first kidney or renal transplant. But it took almost another two years for that dream to become a reality. Early this year, the hospital carried out its first two kidney transplant with the governor being part of the historic exercise. Ugwumba said “the two patients didn’t pay a dime because this was the test cases meant to show that we can do it”, adding that “there have been unprecedented flow of patients and we have scheduled another three to be done any time from now and these people will not pay more than two million naira”. According to her, this is the cheapest anywhere in the world. Ugwumba said because of the high volume of patients being attracted to the hospital, “the governor has now extended Oghara by 300 beds and they’ve drawn the design and work is stating right away”. (See box interview)
Apart from the physical health infrastructure, the governor has also not ignored other support services that has made healthcare delivery a total package and world-class. Such interventions include provision of ambulance service to aid evacuation of accident victims from accident scenes, free help lines all over the state and command centre for emergencies in case of referrals when a premature baby is about to be born at any healthcare facility, and even in case of emergencies at home. Other interventions include the rural health scheme whereby with mobile clinics, medical teams go round to carry out surgeries, operations, seeing out-patients and testing them. The Drug Revolving Fund also guarantees seamless supply of drugs to the various health facilities in the state. And of course the training and retraining of medical personnel had been a constant exercise in the health sector.
Ogeah believed nothing less could have been expected from the governor as a medical doctor by profession. He said, “Look at the critical things he has done in Health. You know he’s a doctor; and of course you will always see the biases in his profession; like what Fashola was able to do with the courts, the welfare of judges, and all that. This is how this man has been able to deliver first-class healthcare infrastructure”.Follow Us on Social Media