Since the coming on stream of the Senator I’shaq Adebayo Salman-led board and a new management team propelled by a renowned chief consultant paediatrician, Dr. Kingsley Achigbu, the negative narratives at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State, have changed for the better. This development is attributable to the mantra of the medical director, which hinges on four key areas of openness, transparency, team spirit and integrity. Combinations of these principles have brought out the best in the staff of the oldest medical facility in southeastern Nigeria, having been established in 1903 by the colonial administration.
As soon as they came on board, they hit the ground running and, in a little over two years since the management and board were inaugurated, enormous progress has been recorded. As an Imolite who resides in Owerri and who is abreast of the history of the centre, I have decided to write this piece so that Achigbu and his team can be commended for their giant strides, bringing sustainable peace and harmony to the hospital.
Before now, the unions and associations in the FMC were constantly at loggerheads with the former management. Unions such as the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Health Workers Union and National Union of Allied Health Workers and the management are now partners in progress. They have bought into the vision and methodology of the medical director in repositioning this major medical faculty in Imo State.
An ambiance of conviviality and institutional peace among the staffers and management was exhibited during the 2018 Christmas Cantata hosted by the chief executive. Every department showcased their choir. For the board, it was a sign of good tidings for the institution. It showed that the FMC had become a united family. And it could only be possible where the management and board have a human face.
Today, workers are no longer in camps. Through prudent management of scarce resources, Achigbu and his team have been able to turn around the fortunes of the FMC. Research and training are going on ceaselessly. Doctors and paramedical graduates are being recruited for their internships. Only recently, hundreds of workers were engaged after a competitive recruitment process. The new management is envisioning a centre that will present to an average Nigerian the answers to health challenges so that medical tourism will be curtailed.
With harmony in place, the management and board embarked on the attraction of new projects that would enable the medical centre play its tripartite mandate of training, research and rendering health care services to the people of Imo and bordering states. Some of these monumental projects include: the ultra-modern trauma centre, first of its kind in the South-East geopolitical zone. When completed, it will cater for the medical needs of accident and trauma victims within and outside the state. It will house a helipad for emergency evacuation and an intensive care unit when functional. In the quest to arrest the recurring epileptic public power supply, the centre is connecting to a 33KVA power line to improve power; when complete, it will ensure at least 22 hours stable electricity. To achieve the wellbeing of the workers, a yearly sports fiesta is being introduced and the football pitch has been renovated for this purpose. On staff welfare, the medical director does not joke with such matters. All the junior and senior staff who were due for promotion were promoted.
To Achigbu, for service to be meaningful and enduring, it has to be beyond self, beyond the realms of mercantilism and must transport one to a level of altruism where the immediate objective is to make a positive difference in an environment where one finds him or herself.
Other ongoing projects are the construction of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic and Maternity Ward, new renal dialysis unit, and construction of specialist out-patient complex. Worthy of mention is the construction of an isolation unit for infectious diseases, and reconstruction and tarring of the road leading to the Histopatology, Accident and Emergency Ward 10 and 11, among others.
As Achigbu attracts these mega projects, with frugal application of internally-generated resources, he has been able to repair dilapidated equipment and machines, with new ones purchased, where necessary. Solar powered electricity has been procured for the accident, emergency and main theater. Already, the ultra-modern diagnosis centre in the hospital has become functional. The centre’s C &T scan and fluoroscope will soon be operational. Outreach services at Umunama, Ezinihitte Mbaise and Izombe are also functional to bring health care delivery much closer to rural people.
The medical director has is not resting on his oars. Through collaborations, he has attracted sponsorship of medical equipment from Medshare and Coca-Cola/SBI. And from Zinox/NCC Wireless I Cloud system. Not left out is the Japanese government, which donated Nissan ambulance with emergency resuscitation equipment through the Federal Ministry of Health.
With these unprecedented achievements by the Achigbu-led management, Imolites will be most delighted if the Federal Government upgrades the centre to a teaching hospital, to enable them perform more medical feats. For Achigbu, this quantum leap at the medical centre would not have been possible without the support of the Health Minister, the board and staff of the hospital. Certainly, they will not rest on their laurels until health care delivery becomes qualitative and accessible by everyone around here.
•Ogaraku writes from Owerri