CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI @ 5 AND THE HEALTH CHALLENGES OF RIVERS STATE – AN OVERVIEW OF AN INSIDER
~ By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
According to Daisaku Ikeda, “A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind” while to Lewis F. Korns, “The history of the human race always has been, and most likely always will be, that of evolution and revolution”. These great minds in making their great statements must have had Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi the Executive Governor of Rivers State and Chairman of the Governors Forum in Nigeria in mind particularly the October 25th, 2007 historical Supreme Court ruling that installed him as the Governor in the stead of his cousin, Sir Celestine Omehia who was acting as Governor before this date; an incident that has brought not only change but revolution in Rivers State by any standard anybody will like to define revolution.
25th October, 2012 therefore will mark the 5th anniversary of the coming to power of Gov. Amaechi as the Executive Governor of Rivers State. Having studied events of this historical date and the administration of Gov. Amaechi this past five years and now that some critic and Cynicism’s perception and rating of the administration seems to be at its lowest ebb; it becomes imperative to critically x-ray the Health challenges and how this administration has gone in addressing some of these challenges and see if this perception is in order or not.
In this regard,, efforts will be made to discuss the achievements and flaws if any of this administration in the area of Health in last five years under the watch of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Serious step taken by his administration in tackling the sorry state and comatose health sector in the State prior to October, 2007 was setting up the Primary Healthcare Management Board and sending the Executive bill on Sustainable Development Amendment Bill No. 1 of 2008 to the State Assembly which was later passed and signed into law by the Governor.
According to Virgil, “The greatest wealth is health” and in realisation of this; The Rivers State Government under the leadership of Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi adopted a system of health care whose thrust is anchored on Primary Health Care with the following specific objectives: 1. Provision of quality and standard health facilities.2. Provision of efficient, effective and affordable health services. 3. Availability of well qualified and motivated staff at all health facilities.. 4. Provision of health services to vulnerable groups at government cost. 5. Preparation of the Bill for the establishment of Primary Health Care Board already implemented.
The following steps was adopted to achieve this vision
1. Re-orientation workshop for Heads of health establishments (Ministry, Hospitals, Health Units in LGA) held from 4th – 8th August, 2008 as first step.
2. Re-training 0f all categories of staff in the Health Sector of the State.
3. Recruitment of equipped staff to address the severe manpower shortage in the Health Sector.
4. Construction of Karibi-Whyte Mega Hospital at the cost of $98 million.
5. Maintenance contracts are being instituted for different equipments in the Hospitals
6. Government has embarked on massive infrastructural development all over the LGAs
7. Governor Amaechi took this up personally and met with Doctors in the State and set up a Committee on Health Policy.
8. The State government is in the process of starting the State Health Insurance Programme.
According to Jack Goldstone, “revolution is an effort to transform the political institutions and the justification for political authority in any society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilization and non-institutionalized actions that undermine authorities”. Without fear of contradiction, I make bold to state that if there is any Government or institution in Nigeria that aptly demonstrates these definitions of revolution that person is Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the action and visionary Governor of Rivers State. In supporting this assumption, I intend to highlight just the Health sector out of the many laudable achievements Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi is doing in Rivers State and to convince any doubting Thomas of this truism.
In Rivers State under Governor Amaechi’s watch, tremendous revolution in Health service and delivery is taking place. The State Government is offering free health services to all her citizenry in all government owned hospitals or health centres. To achieve this, Government has constructed over 160 Health Centres in all the LGAs and construction of 1000 bed specialist hospital is on the card with other special intervention programmes in this area. These facilities are available free of charge to both indigenes and none indigenes residing in the State according to Dr Sampson Parker, the Health Commissioner.
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every revolution was first a thought in one man's mind” and putting this into action and throwing more light to the ongoing revolution in the health sector in Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi the brain behind the revolution has this to say “we have wonderful primary health care facilities. I was told by my Commissioner for Health, and it was confirmed at a meeting held with all the Doctors in the State, that you cannot have a sound secondary health care without basic foundation which is basic primary health. That is where we are mainly focused. We have the plan to build 160 primary health centres. We have completed 100 and they are functioning. The 100 that have been completed have Doctors’ quarters, nurses’ quarters and they should live there. Why I said they should live there is that I have visited those hospitals but, most of the time I have gone there, all the doctors were not found there after 4 pm.
The excuse they give is that, how many patients do we receive in a day? Maybe 10 to 20 and so what are we sitting down for? That is the excuse. But you are paid to stay there. You are hired to be there, you are not paid to be in Port-Harcourt. You are told you will live at the rural areas. There are generators attached to every hospital. Of course, there are management problems but we are addressing that. We will pay the health centre for every patient they see. We will pay the bill. So if you talk about primary health centre, we currently have a very robust primary health care. We intend to complete the 60. If possible, expand on the 160. At the secondary health care level, we are refurbishing some hospitals. The old Niger Hospital is renamed Prof. Kelsey Harrison Hospital and is completed, furnished, equipped and will soon be commissioned for public use. We are furnishing the dental hospital too. But we intend to renovate 24 of the secondary health care centres so that if anybody needs to be referred from the primary health care at least, there is one secondary health care institution in every local government you can go.
We are encouraging negotiation with people to complete the construction of one of our major hospital projects. It is supposed to be a medical tourism. Initially, the vision is to be 1,000 beds but it shows you that we were new when we had that vision because we did not ask basic questions. That is why it is good to have consultants. When we brought consultants, the basic question they asked showed that we didn’t do our work well. The first question they asked was, do you have feasibility? No sir. How do you know you need 1,000 beds? Who are the patients? What are their financial capabilities to pay for the service? How do you sustain it? So their recommendation is, out of 1,000 beds, we go for 500 beds. In fact, modern technology does not even allow a patient to stay more than one week in the hospital so if you plan for 1,000 beds and the patients stay for one week; you notice a lot of the beds will be empty so we have reduced it to 500 beds instead of the 1,000.
In fact, the early recommendation was, if you like the name 1,000, bed hospital, then establish a medical school as the Rivers State University of Science and Technology because the university is actually close to the school. Then, build 500 beds for them where they can use that as teaching hospital. If not, if I were you, the one they are building here can also act as teaching hospital to the university because it is very close to the hospital. So, we are dealing with primary health care, secondary health care and then tertiary. If we do have the money by God’s grace, we would complete the rest of primary and secondary health care and we hope that we would be able to raise a huge bond.
The man behind the conceptualisation of the revolution of Health service and delivery in Rivers State that will not only make other states in the Federation green with envy but also make the Rivers state a medical reference point in Nigeria and indeed the sub region. He also hopes to make Rivers State a Mecca of sort to anyone seeking professional medical help from any part of the world.
On if the present Administration has achieved much in the Health Sector, Dr Parker the Commissioner for Health stated, “We are about surfacing. All along, we are trying to create a solid foundation for the medical sector that what we are doing and that is why you hear us talking about primary Health Care, and the structures of the primary Health Care and all that. By the time we finish and go to the secondary and tertiary and make the enabling laws that will bring about the sustainability of this, is when we can call it success”.
The two major areas this administration is concentrating on according to Dr Parker are Health and Education; “To me, I always say this, the highest achievement of this government is nothing but re-establishment of the educational system. It is not about health, it is not about anything. My own is that, if we have achieved education, we have achieved health care. My challenges in the health sector are because of the illiterate population because they hardly understand what you are saying. But, if we achieve education in the way the Governor is going about it, pushing it, establishing it, making enabling laws to protect it for sustainability, I think the people that will come after us will benefit from it”.
On the achievements of this administration on the Health Sector, “I said that in all the things we are doing, the major thing is about primary health care system and that including the infrastructural development and the programme that make up the primary health care. That is the system and the utilization of such programmes. We have the robust HIV system and we are now the pioneer warriors against malaria. That is part of the primary care system. We have gone from what the country and Africa has been doing in the control of malaria. We have the Roll back malaria, Malaria Control Programme. We are taking the bull by the horns and said that we want to eliminate malaria. That is part of the primary health care system. We are not only eliminating Malaria and we are building a factory for it, so that there will be sustainability of this war and also provide employment. The Health sector today is about one of the foremost employers of labour in Rivers State. These are the things we have on ground. We have gone so much into the medical industry. Right now, we are about developing an area in part of the Greater Port Harcourt city, where we called the Medical Industrial Region where we have the syringe factory, the malaria diagnostic and test tube factory. So we hope to be servicing the medical industry here”.
With his reappointment into the State Executive Council in the second tenure of the government of Gov Amaechi, Dr. Sampson Parker said that his focus this time around is to improve on service delivery in the health Sector. He disclosed that about 100 medical Doctors have been employed to staff and manage most of the Health Centres in the rural areas. The Rivers State Government has currently embarked upon the exercise to eradicate malaria vectors from the State. The Health Centre at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology will soon be opened to the public. The State was lauded last year for its daily commissioning of a health centre over a 60 day period in 60 communities in its 60-60-60 initiative. The Dental Hospital located in the Garrison area of Port Harcourt will soon be opened. All of these will also generate employment amongst the youths in the State. He stated that the ongoing Malaria elimination project is not only targeted at malaria but other mosquito borne infections like dengue fever, yellow fever and filariasis. The Universal Free Medical Care programme whereby the state government is to pick the medical bills of all residents in the state is on though beneficiaries must register and urged all members of staff to register into the programme.
Dr Parker said that the existing General Hospitals will be collapsed into Six Zonal Hospitals to cater for referrals coming from the Primary Health centres, not just to reduce the work load of the BMSH but to reposition it to be more focused as a tertiary hospital.
Today in Nigeria, India stands as the medical haven and end spot when it comes to provision or rather health deilvery to Nigerians that when a simple headache happens to any of our leaders, India comes to mind. To stop this madness, Governor Amaechi in his health revolution in Nigeria has now decided to bring India to Rivers State. According to the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, “my administration has begun talks with Indian authorities on how to establish a new medical school in the state. The collaboration is aimed at providing manpower for the school. “Once we are sure that Indians can supply us with the teachers then we will be ready to establish it. “Because it is not good to establish a medical school without qualified teachers,” he said. Amaechi said the state branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) will also contribute in providing teaching staff, pointing out that once the new college takes off, it will provide the required manpower to man the numerous health facilities being built by his administration.
The fact remains that if this is achieved then any Nigerian going to India for medical attention will be going there for a jamboree as Rivers State will be in position to provide similar services obtainable in India.
Today, Rivers State is the only State in Africa that has established a worthwhile Auto Disable Syringe factory that currently produce 160 million syringes annually based on the Rivers State health revolution, the Federal Government has banned the use of all conventional syringes in the country with effect from 1st October, 2012 and had signed a bulk purchase agreement with the Rivers State Government.
Amaechi being whom he is, always going for the best has concluded arrangement to expand this factory at a cost of 210 million Euros to be funded with equity participation between the State Government and the Export Credit Agency (ECA) of Germany and Austria. According to Dr Sampson Parker, the ECA is bringing in 85% of the funds for machinery and Equipment, while the Rivers State Government is putting in 15% for machinery and Equipment including the civil works up to the completion of the project.
Building project for the plant is expected to be completed by August 2013 while procurement and installation is to be completed within 24months of the commencement of expansion project. When the expansion of this project that will put Nigeria as a producing nation than as a consumable nation it is well known for, the plant will be producing one billion syringes, annually, one million litres of IV Solutions (drips), drip giving sets as well as one billion hypodermic needles for injections annually. One may not be shocked, if the State will not start to export some of these equipments to other African countries.
Finally, if the efforts of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on health delivery in Rivers State are not revolutionary then I need to be educated accordingly. And if constructing 60 Health Centres and donating them to 60 communities within 60 days is not revolutionary and world-shattering then something is wrong with me!
In celebration of the coming into power of this unassumingly but achieving leader, I intend to run series on the various areas of this administration to ascertain its success or otherwise in the last five years in saddle as the Executive Governor of Rivers State on the giant strides the administration has made in the critical areas of the state’s economy be it in Health, Education, Transport, Works, Commerce etc will be the major focus of this drive.
~ Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt.
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