Dr. Betta Edu, who is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Cross River State on Community Health, Director-General and CEO of Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency (CRSPHCDA) and the National Vice President of the forum of CEOs of all Primary health Care Agency and Boards in Nigeria, has revealed why Governor Ben Ayade appointed her to serve under him.
Edu is described by many people who know her as a renowned medical practitioner, who discharges her duties with passion and diligence. Having bagged MD. MBBCH, MSc in Public Health in London; Cert. Public Health (Harvard), LPA; FHNR, FICA, ADV.UHC (World Health Organisation (WHO), she is seen as a round peg in a round hole in the state’s Ministry of Health.
In this interview with the reporter, she speaks on her motivations, appointment, achievements and fulfilment as a public servant.
How did you find yourself in Cross river State Government?
Governor Ayade, on assumption of office, searched for committed young persons who can deliver on his lofty goals and vision for the state. By God’s grace he and his dear wife, Dr. Linda Ayade, who happens to be a practising medical doctor, chose me to lead the Primary Health Care revolution in Cross River. I am the pioneer Director-General of the Primary Health Care Agency, meaning that I started the agency from the foundation. I set out to change the rhetoric of health care delivery in the state. It has been a life-changing and learning experience for me.
What is your goal in serving in Ayade’s administration?
My goal is to help Nigeria and Cross River State achieve universal health coverage through the revitalisation of primary health care and health insurance. Building an agency from the foundation was a tough task which needed to be done in order for the services to be better coordinated and improved while communities benefit more from the health sector.
We set out to reduce maternal and child mortality in health facilities and we have done so by 23 per cent. Human Immune Virus (HIV) prevalence has dropped from 6.6 per cent to 1.9 per cent in the state. we set out to improve immunisation coverage, nutrition, family planning and several other primary health services, which have been significantly achieved.
By the approval of a committed the governor who understands the need to invest in health care, we have boosted our human resources with the employment of 1, 000 health workers. Before now health facilities used to be dark at night and women delivered with bush lamps. But today, we have introduced over 190 solar lightings in our health facilities. We have improved working environments and quality of service through the renovation and equipping of over 100 Primary health facilities.
We introduced portable ultrasound to help identify complications in pregnant women and manage appropriately. I am happy that I accepted the call to serve under Ayade.
And with the help of God and the commitment of the “talk and do” governor and his wife, Dr Linda Ayade, residents of the state are better for it. We wanted to touch more lives positively and we have achieved a lot by improving their health status.
Sometimes I wonder what the health sector would have become today without Ayade and his dear wife’s intervention. Having the vision of creating an agency that has today changed the entire health sector in the state is a great joy for me.
How has your position in the health sector affected the common man on the street?
His Excellency, as usual, showcases his love and desire to see that the residents of the state, especially those in rural and hard-to -reach areas live a-disease-free life through the creation of CRSPHCDA. Creating the agency was one step, but the governor ensured that he entrusted it in the hands of a very young woman, and by giving her all the necessary support to build the agency. For a lady with no previous experience in public service at the state level to have been handed over the responsibility of laying the foundation for the agency shows his confidence in me. The governor’s decision is rare and only a few leaders in Nigeria could do such in Nigeria. This shows how much trust and confidence Sen. Ayade has in Nigerian youths as the leaders of today. To the glory of God CRSPHCDA has today become the face of Cross River as far as quality health care delivery is concerned.
Has there been any major hurdle faced in your public office?
With great challenges faced from getting stakeholders at all levels to agree that the new baby should be born, and getting the Legislature to give its full backing through an appropriate legislation, I faced several pushbacks, which I managed to surmount. A lot of people called the governor at several points to discourage him yet he insisted that “nothing is cast on a stone let her try”. But today, the agency has been taken to a greater height, recording tremendous achievements within a short period of time.
How far will you say you have fared so far?
Through the creation of the agency, primary health centres (PHCs) have today reduced maternal and child mortality rate thereby improving child survival as confirmed by UNICEF, USAID, Pathfinder International and others. The centres have provided massive employment of health workers in Cross River strictly on merit to offer quality services at the agency. There have been massive removals of ghost workers from the payroll, thereby saving the government several millions.
With me at the helm of affairs, doctors have now been introduced to PHCs through government payroll. There is an improved technology in PHC as midwives, Community health extension workers now use ultrasound scan for pregnant women in rural areas among other innovations. The provision of tricycle ambulances for remote communities has boosted referrals so that people are not left to die in the villages. Frontline health workers have improved surveillance skills and can now respond to disease outbreak speedily using motorcycles and telephones as supported by WHO. The beauty of everything is that I am always present at different locations monitor work progress.
I have never failed to remind my team that hard work and professionalism, irrespective of the limited resources, should be our driving force. No wonder that communities through ward development committees can now participate fully in health decisions for their people as well as hold health workers accountable. In a short period and through a collective responsibility, there is an effective regulation of traditional birth attendant activities. This is geared towards reducing maternal mortality. Thank God the state has equipped all the facilities with modern equipment, thereby making them to function efficiently. And the moribund drug revolving fund has been revitalized in several PHCs where drugs are now available.
Another support that must be mentioned is from the wife of the governor, Linda, a medical doctor who previously practising in the United Kingdom (UK). She has through her non-governmental organisation (NGO), Mediatrix Development Foundation supported massive health outreaches in various communities and Local Government Areas (LGAs), where access to health care is a major problem. At least, over 100, 000 Cross River residents have benefited directly from free surgeries and medical care in a short period of time across the state.
I am using this medium once again, to express my deep appreciation to Gov. Ayade and his wife for believing so much in me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to showcase my love and passion for mankind towards achieving a disease-free state. I am particularly grateful for the platform that has enabled me to prove to Cross River people and the world at large that obviously with dedication, passion, hard work and commitment something can definitely come out of nothing.