Raphael Ede, Enugu; Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Mr. Ifeanyi Ogbodo’s son, Emmanuel, had suffered from congenital heart disease that gave the family sleepless nights.
Similarly, Mrs Jane Anusiem, from Anambra State, but resident in Lagos, recalled how she had slumped on her way from office in 2013. The civil servant said that since then, she had been in and out of hospitals.
Interestingly, the duo and 23 others recently received lifeline from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Ituku/Ozolla, Enugu State, which operated on them during its free open heart surgery.
The surgery was carried out by POBIC Heart International an Italy-based charity organization in collaboration with Gift of Life Rotary International which funded the surgery 100 per cent.
The cheering news in Enugu came as 300 indigent patients in Ebonyi State started benefitting from free surgery sponsored by the T. Y. Danjuma Foundation at the second phase of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA II).
Daily Sun gathered that 75 children jostled for the 12 slots available for children at UNTH, but unfortunately, one of them, brought all the way from Yenegoa, Bayelsa state died even before help could come his way.
Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UNTH, Dr. Christopher Amah, said that 16 adults had earlier been operated upon by another foreign partner, “So the nine newly operated brings to a total of 25 persons successfully performed in the last one month”.
He disclosed that the UNTH had done more surgeries in the last five years than in 36 years when the first open heart surgery took place in the country. According to him, about 120 open heart surgeries were carried out from 1974 to 2003, after which the programme was suspended, “but we have from 2013 we resumed till now, done over 400 cases.”
The CMD also revealed that the UNTH has held talks with a team from Sweden, who came to see how they could begin neurosurgery in hospital.
He however, explained that the concern of the hospital was to up the level of local input in the whole process; which Daily Sun learnt that the hospital personnel made up over 60 per cent of the team this time around.
Amah said: “Of course, the hospital has foreign partners; but what is the Nigerian content? This should be the interest and indeed it is what the hospital management is thanking God that soon the surgeries would be done completely by Nigerians. This is my interest and interest of the management of the hospital.
“The whole idea is that we are looking for a day when Nigerians will start operating on Nigerians so that our people will stop roaming round the world looking for where they will carry sophisticated surgery and the hospital stop having to regularly bring teams from overseas.
“Even though the team fund themselves, the whole idea is better to have our own people; nurses and healthcare providers taking care of our patients; it will be cheaper and better for everybody and that is our target.”
Nigerian cardiac nurses and doctors, according to him, now have the proficiency in that the foreign partners, POBIC Heart International, merely came with a surgeon, anaesthetic, a cardiologist, a physician and a biomedical engineer.
“We are hoping that by the time those we sent out to train in Bedfast Royal Hospital comeback, we will be ready to take off fully by our own people”, he joyfully announced.
He therefore, appealed to government and wealthy Nigerians to pay attention to the country’s healthcare system to ensure that Nigerians get the best of care.
“We really need to see what is happening to our people and think about what we can do to save life because anybody can be affected.
“We cannot thank enough Rotary International because it is their partnership that makes it possible for the patients getting free surgery. The children that were operated here both investigations and everything is free. Their parents will not spend a kobo.
“This is why you see this number. Even if we are to charge money, as low as N100, 000, many will not have it and they will not come. So, you will think that this condition is not common,” he stated.
While conducting newsmen round the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the CMD, further happily announced that 85 per cent of the equipment in the place was donated by VOOM Foundation, which had provided them with technical and other logistics support.
Meanwhile, in Ebonyi, Chief Executive Officer of TY Danjuma Foundation, Mr Gima Forje, during the flag off ceremony said the organisation has since inception in 2009, delivered 2.5 million projects across the nation.
“We work based on research and since the foundation was founded in 2009, we have delivered 2.5 million projects throughout Nigeria. We conceived the idea to take the project to Ebonyi because our deliberation favoured same”, he said.
Former Minister of State for Health, Fidelis Nwankwo, who was chairman of the occasion commended the former Minister of Defence, Danjuma, for his kind gesture especially his decision to extend the free health outreach to Igbo land.
Nwankwo, however, decried the poor state of healthcare delivery in the country. He lamented that the National Health Act promulgated in 2014 which provided the setting aside of one per cent from the consolidated revenue fund for the purposes of improving the health system for Nigerians was yet to be implemented.
“The failure of the primary healthcare has heaped pressure on secondary healthcare centres”, he lamented.
Also, FETHA CMD, Dr Emeka Ogah, applauded the foundation, and expressed their readiness to provide every needed support to the team to enable them execute their task successfully.
Governor David Umahi, whose people’s burden the foundation had come to lift praised the founder/promoter of the foundation.
Represented by his deputy, Dr Kelechi Igwe, he said that already, his administration was making efforts to transform health facilities in the state by renovating and reconstructing the 13 general hospitals and 171 primary healthcare centres in the state.
Our reporter could not confirm the number of cases so far attended to by the team as at yesterday, but the FETHA II, venue of the free outreach programme brimmed with patients.