Joe Effiong, Uyo
In life, nothing seems to be absolutely bad; there is always a silver lining in the clouds of despair and anguish.
The global COVID-19 pandemic with its concomitant dreadful healthcare challenges and the depressing economic morass could be said to have broken the record of the global socio-economic evils. But from the labyrinth of social quagmires appears to have sprung up some health infrastructural renaissance in some states, which would enhance and put some semblance of modernity in their healthcare delivery system long after the coronavirus must have gone, if it ever goes.
In some parts of the country, there have been efforts to upgrade health infrastructure hardware, software and even human resources.
For Akwa Ibom State, which seems to be capitalising on each disease outbreak to lay some health milestones, COVID -19 is actually a multi-faceted problem to the government and people at present. But many have asserted that its health system would be better off afterwards.
Courtesy of COVID-19, a 300-bed infectious disease treatment centre, built in a record time of 30 days, is now a reality in the state. It was inaugurated to mark Governor Udom Emmanuel’s fifth anniversary in office. The centre, located on the premises of Methodist General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, in Uruan Local Government Area, is said to be equipped with a Category 3 virology and clinical lab capable of doing a wide range of blood fat and other tests. It also has PCR machines for testing COVID-19 and HIV as well as 20 self-contained rooms for health personnel and other workers.
While performing the inauguration of the facility, Governor Emmanuel announced that 25 more containers of medical equipment acquired by his administration had arrived and would soon be deployed to health facilities in the state. He decided to set up a PCR laboratory to handle COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, regretting that the Federal Government had not deemed it fit to set up any health laboratory or treatment centre in the state despite providing over 25 per cent of the country’s revenue.
He explained further: “The idea is that anywhere you are in Akwa Ibom State, you should be able to have access to 2020 medicare. We have acquired more ambulances and would acquire many more to be placed at strategic locations to transport people to any general hospital so that we can be well assured of effective health care delivery.
“Once you call any of our numbers, the ambulance should be able to take you to the nearest hospital or transport you from one facility to the other.”
Stressing that the facilities such as the situation room set up to tackle COVID-19 would outlive the pandemic and remain available for medical emergencies, Emmanuel thanked the Methodist Church for allowing government take over the management of the hospital and praised all those whose contributions had ensured the rapid transformation recorded in two years: “Two years ago, when I came here for renovation, I said that it would come to a time when 15 minutes and even one hour will be too much to travel out of this country for health care. There is no place like home and if you cannot develop your home, you will always have yourself to blame.”
He said, today, no senior citizen is able to travel outside for medical care and it would have been saddening if Akwa Ibom had not been ready for such an emergency.
He quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO) officials who visited the centre as describing the place as a miracle and assured that it would help the state in the battle to eradicate the pandemic.
To accomplish his vision of a hospital in each federal constituency, the governor explained that the remodelled Immanuel General Hospital in Eket would soon be inaugurated, even as work at the Abak and Ikot Ekpene general hospitals had reached advanced stages and contract awarded for the General Hospital in Ikot Abasi.
“All we have done and are doing is in the interest of the people and I know that, once I’m out of office, Akwa Ibom people will stand by those facilities to make sure they are protected and they stand functional for a very long time,” he added.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, while expressing delight at the existence of the world class facility, said it wasn’t the wish of government to see it filled with 300 COVID-19 patients. He urged everyone to continue to observe social distancing, personal hygiene, wearing of face masks, and staying at home except when absolutely necessary to go out.
Ukpong who is also the state chairman of COVID-19 Incident Management, said Governor Emmanuel had shown resilience, competence, passion, involvement, financial and spiritual support.
“The first isolation centre was built by this administration during the Lassa Fever outbreak, and the second was installed at the Ibom Specialist Hospital. This facility is the third that has been established to expanded capacity,” he noted.
Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Akwa Ibom State Chapter, Dr. Nsikak Nyoyoko, said the centre would also serve as a place for research and training in laboratory virology.
“This isolation centre is not just for treating infectious patients, but people will travel to Akwa Ibom State to carry out virology researches and trainings that will make our people to become world renowned. We are lucky as a people,” Nyoyoko said. He described the project as a visionary one by a visionary leader.
To the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Aniekan Bassey, Gov Emmanuel had kept his promise of making the health of Akwa Ibomites a priority. He said the facility which is in his locality shall be of immense benefit in tackling health care needs beyond COVID 19 era.
Following assessments of the achievements recorded by the governor in the state, the House of Assembly had earlier passed a vote of confidence on the governor, with the legislators pledging their continuous support to the administration.
“Governor Udom Emmanuel is a leader that is working with the fear of God. With wisdom, he has taken us this far and we know that we will overcome this pandemic. It is his leadership style that made us do something that has not been done in AKHA for a long time; we passed a vote of confidence on the governor,” Bassey said.
Mr. Henry Udofia, chairman of Uruan Local Government Area, thanked the governor for bringing development projects to Uruan.
“Under his leadership, we have been given a world class hospital in Uruan,” he added,
Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, lauded the governor for the vision and capacity, saying that all the facilities could not have been acquired during the international restrictions but for the foresight of the governor who had already acquired them.
After cutting the tape, the governor took a tour round the facility led by Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyangeyen, whose ministry supervised the construction of the project.