When Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State launched his shared prosperity agenda detailing infrastructure, education and health care as priority, some cynics dismissed it as one of the political gimmicks geared towards hoodwinking the populace to score cheap political points.
But when on Wednesday, September 9, 2020, the governor rolled out 10 mobile clinics to take health care delivery to the doorstep of the sick, even the doubting Thomases knew that the governor was simply walking his talk.
Although there exist several health centres in the 27 local government areas of the state, not many rural dwellers actually access them owing mainly to logistics and inefficient service delivery. In order to bring succour to such helpless members of the society, Governor Uzodimma came out with that novel and bold initiative to ensure that whenever they are sick, the people need not stress themselves before accessing medical care. First of all each of the mobile clinics is stocked with drugs. It also has a full complement of medical personnel, including doctors, nurses and laboratory scientists. It is also equipped with modern laboratory equipment for investigation of cases. In short, it has every other thing a hospital should have except that it operates on wheels.
As a compassionate leader who in his private life had assisted many indigent citizens to access health care free of charge, Uzodimma believes that the initiative will curb avoidable deaths which are common in the rural areas that are bereft of standard health care. Also arising from the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor does not want a situation whereby common ailment such as malaria to be the scourge of the people.
Explaining further on why his administration undertook such a novel initiative, the governor said the administration targets to make health care delivery to the rural dwellers not only efficient and prompt, but also actually mobile. He disclosed that the mobile clinics are tailor made to take health care to the people, especially those in the rural areas instead of allowing them to continue to wallow in the elusive search for functional health care centres.
In other words, the initiative is designed to make life easier for the aged, the vulnerable, the poor and those who ordinarily cannot even afford to access health care outside their domain. Because the scheme is free, the question of some people being excluded on account of poverty does not even arise. If anything, government ensures that drugs and other consumables are promptly replaced as soon as the mobile clinics return to base after their runs to the rural areas.
Again, the government has taken proactive measures to guard against abuse and underhand dealings by the personnel managing the mobile clinics by simply handing over the day to day operations to the churches.
Not wanting to hear stories of diversion of drugs, nepotism in the coverage of communities or outright theft of essential materials, the government decided to partner with the churches who actually are in a better position to identify and reach those in need of the services of the mobile clinics. By partnering the churches, Uzodimma is also insulating the scheme from politics and politicians as he is the governor of the entire state.
Just as the mobile clinics are moving to the rural areas to reach and cater for the sick, the governor also entered into partnership with the United States Aids agency, USAID for mobile testing of the rural populace against the COVID-19. While some states are struggling to set up laboratories in the capitals for testing of COVID-19, the Imo State government went ahead to take the laboratory to the rural areas to ensure that the people access the services also free of charge.
The mobile laboratory that is housed in a truck is equipped not only with the testing machines, but an isolation centre to temporarily hold COVID-19 positive cases until the person is taken to Owerri. All other COVID-19 protocols are observed in the mobile truck, and the good news is that the people in the rural areas are responding and the majority of them are testing negative to the virus.
It is instructive that the governor has taken this initiative of free health care for rural dwellers at a time that others are complaining of paucity of funds to take care of their basic responsibilities.
Quite alive to keeping his promises of shared prosperity for Imo people, he has made the health of rural dwellers a priority. He does not want to domicile all the good things in the state capital. Rather, the aged, the vulnerable and the poor are meant to stay in their homes and enjoy the services of government.
Because governments primarily exist to cater for the welfare of the people including the security of their lives and property, there is no doubt that the emphasis on health care delivery by Governor Uzodimma is one that has struck a right chord among the people. The Igbo adage that he who is well is prosperous fits perfectly well to the governor’s initiative. That is why everybody, especially the church who are involved in the operations of the free mobile clinic of the government must take it seriously so that the beneficiaries will have cause to thank God for this well-articulated programme that is being witnessed in Imo State for the first time since its creation in 1976.
•Udemba writes from Owerri