Editor's note: Public affairs commentator, Samuel Brown, writes on how Akwa Ibom has evolved into the preferred destination for business and health tourism in Nigeria due to the massive investment on healthcare by the Udom Emmanuel-led administration in the state.
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Akwa Ibom state has evolved into the preferred destination for business and health tourism in Nigeria. However, there are a few who still wonder if what they read about the development strides in the state really exist.
Well, they need to visit the state to see for themselves as the saying goes, 'seeing is believing.' Without sounding immodest, I believe that these assertions were recently put to test against the dreaded coronavirus which continues to ravage the world, bringing very powerful nations, and Akwa Ibom state excelled.
A glance through the Covid-19 update by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, shows that in Akwa Ibom state transmission and fatality rates are consistently low compared to other states while the recovery rate is almost 100%.
If that does not give credence to the state of the state's health sector, then how about the declaration by the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, ranking health facilities in the Akwa Ibom as the best in the country?
Ihekweazu, who visited the State alongside officials of World Health Organization, WHO, on a working tour of medical facilities and assessment of the state government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said:
"This has been such an eye-opening experience both at Ibom Specialist Hospital and this Emergency Operating Center. We are jointly and pleasantly surprised at the opportunity this has presented to the country. This will probably be the best EOC in the whole country.”
He added that the facilities available and quality of personnel gave a good impression about the health care services enjoyed by the people of the state. Does this declaration by a team of health experts not confirm that Akwa Ibom state has recorded remarkable milestones after thirty-three years of creation worth celebrating?
Frankly, the promise of providing accessible, affordable and qualitative healthcare has been fulfilled. This is one other reason forward-looking Akwa Ibom people thank God for the emergence of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. He took over from where previous administrations stopped and in five years has totally revamped the state's health sector.
Unarguably, Governor Emmanuel's proactive intervention in the state's health sector prepared the state to meet any health emergency including Lassa fever and Covid-19.
When he embarked on rehabilitation of secondary health facilities across the state many were baffled. Some questioned his rationale in investing so much energy in the sector, but with a simple message: Health is Wealth, Governor Emmanuel, set about transforming long-abandoned and dilapidated hospitals into functional health care centre equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, manned by motivated personnel.
Soon, medical equipment imported by the administration, which arrived in two batches of 50 containers each loaded with items including electrocardiograph 3 Channels, colonoscopy (with halogen light), x-ray film processor, x-ray film viewer, gastroscope, operating theatre light (5-Spot light), operating table, anastasia trolley with ventilator and monitor, syringe pump, electrosurgical units, monopolar-bipolar operating instruments, suction pump and host of other state-of-the-art equipment including CT Scanners, Surgical microscope for eyes.
The iconic missionary hospital - St. Luke Hospital, Anua - Uyo, had the honour of being the first secondary health facility to be reconstructed and equipped. The hospital also received a 300-bed gynecology ward in honour of the reputable Irish Missionary, Dr Ann Ward. From there, Governor Emmanuel extended his Midas touch to public hospitals namely Etinan General Hospital, Ikot Okoro General Hospital, General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, General Hospital, Ibiaku Ntok Okpo, Emmanuel General Hospital, Eket and General Hospital, Iquita Oron, where he made sure they are rehabilitated and upgraded with state-of-the-art equipment. In the same vein, Governor Emmanuel has built and equipped Comprehensive Health Centre, Awa - Onna.
This development has helped to decentralize the state healthcare system and improve access to quality health care, especially for rural dwellers. Also, it has substantially reduced the pressure on the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, UUTH whose primary objective was for referral and research. With more than nine secondary healthcare facilities fully equipped and functioning, the sick and those seeking medical attention can easily access them close by without travelling long distances to Uyo, the state capital.
Akwa Ibom state-owned hospitals are today not what they were three decades ago. Aside from the greatly upgraded infrastructure and equipment, the case management principles have been modernized to meet the 21st century needs. Under Governor Udom Emmanuel's administration hospitals have been digitized and networked to aid effective healthcare delivery and ease tracing of medical records of patients. This is to reduce the workload and compensate for any shortage in manpower such that a patient who is registered in one hospital has his details on the state healthcare databank which is automatically available upon requests from other segments of the state health system.
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Governor Emmanuel complements his rehabilitation of health facilities with recruitment and training of health workers with incentives. There have been series of specialised training and certification of 100 health workers in Basic Lives Support and Advanced Cardiac Lives Support with Medical Energy Experts from the USA; Training of 20 Biomedical Engineers and agreed to regularly pay the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and CONHESS to medical and dental practitioners and nurses respectively.
As a result, there has been a noticeable decrease in child mortality and morbidity in pregnant mothers, affordable health care and a healthy population. Most importantly, he has made the state a reference point in healthcare delivery and improved life expectancy of Akwa Ibom people as such many citizens of neighbouring states visited the state on medical tourism.
While appreciating the feat recorded by Governor Emmanuel, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who commissioned the rehabilitated Etinan General Hospital on September 23, 2017, said:
“This is an extremely useful project, this is the type of project, I believe touches the lives of the people directly.”
Having repositioned secondary healthcare delivery to function optimally, Governor Emmanuel took a decisive step to reclaim and salvage the state-owned quandary health facility - Ibom Specialist Hospital and transformed it into a multi-speciality health care facility with experts in various specialised health care fields working there. With these achievements, the state is several steps closer to attaining self-sufficiency in health care as envisioned by the founding fathers.
So, as we celebrate the state's 33rd anniversary, let's pause to consider how far Akwa Ibom has come - from a pedestrian state to a preferred business hub. Today, through the industrialisation drive of Governor Emmanuel, the state is at the forefront of the global fight against diseases by exporting basic medical consumables, especially disposable syringes. Africa's leading syringe manufacturer, the Jubilee Syringe is located in the state. It offers wide employment opportunities to youths, provides a veritable source of revenue and boosts healthcare services in the state.
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