Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
Diligence to ones duty with the sole mandate of saving lives and improving on the infrastructure already on ground, were the motivating factors that propelled the former Chief Medical Director of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Prof. Eugene Okpere.
Unknown to him, he was being observed keenly by those who would set a day to appreciated his services to humanity, having successfully ploughed in 35 years of his life into the medical profession as a consultant Obstetrician Gynaecologist at the UBTH.
Following his numerous contributions and exploits as the then CMD, professional colleagues from the UBTH put everything on hold recently to honour him. Stethoscopes, syringes and other working paraphernalia went on momentary break as they held a sent forth party for him at the Doctors House, Benin City.
The sent forth party also coincided with his 70th birthday. It was a moment of commendations, encomiums and attestations to his medical prowess, managerial skills and ability to see tomorrow and invest in it.
Incumbent CMD of the hospital, Dr. Darlington Obaseki, said Okpere saw the future and invested in it and today, the hospital is reaping the dividends of his investment.
“During his tenure as CMD, 14 schools were built to train middle cadre man-power for Nigerian health sector.“As we speak, the UBTH Paramedic School, to train Paramedics, is the pioneer in the country. School of Health Information Management, School for Audiologists, so many of them and, of course, the secondary and the primary school.
“These are schools that were set up to train middle cadre manpower for the health sector in Nigeria; and right now, they are doing very well. They are all well utilised and they are also providing source of funding to enable us run the hospital because, like he said, healthcare today in government hospitals, it is more or less like a social service.
“We are not doing it for profit but we have to look for money to keep it running,” he said.
Dr. Obaseki described Okpere as mentor, advisor and wished him a blissful retirement. For the Edo State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Chairman, Dr. Valentine Omoifo, Okpere has done a lot for the medical profession in the state and beyond. So, in appreciation of his contributions to the profession,the association decided tore name the Doctors House after him.
Dr. Okpere, who was full of excitement and gratitude to God who gave him the enablement to contribute his share to humanity, said his driving force was his love for his patients.
He also said he believes that nobody has the monopoly of knowledge and that there is every need to work together as a team and also give everybody the opportunity to demonstrate their capability in an assigned job.
“I feel very good and fulfilled. It is not usual for a man to be praised this much by everybody 10 years after he has left office. I think God has been good to me.
“I always believed that nobody has the monopoly of intelligence or morality but if you are honest in what you are doing, the true blessings God can give to you as a leader is the ability to identify those who can do the job, ability to select them irrespective of tribes and religion and more importantly, even they may not be your friend but the final ability is to be able to get these people who are hitherto not necessarily your people to believe in you, work with you and regard themselves as part of the success story and I think that is how we did it.
“The first one is, be honest with yourself. Whatever decision you are taking,you must be honest, look at yourself in the mirror, and ask, are my taking this decision because I want to improve my pocket? I want to be popular? I want people to help me? Or doing it because you definitely feel that what you are doing is good for the people you are leading?
“I was always clearing my mind. Any the decision I want to take, I say to myself,how will this impact on the entire patients? That is the bottom line. The patient is the most important person in the hospital.
“I wanted to train people but I also saw that we need money to run the hospital by making money from the schools. I am actually able to reduce the cost of running the hospital. When I came in, the number of beds were about 340 but as at the time I left, it was 650 beds, we doubled the hospital.
“The Federal Government never gave me a penny, we got it from the IGR and the more beds we had, the more patients we had,” he said.