Opinion

Healthcare: Rivers Enters a Golden Era

By Paulinus Nsirim

Friday, June 11, 2021 marked another remarkable day in the annals of Governor Nyesom Wike’s robust and comprehensive efforts to ensure the provision of qualitative healthcare infrastructure for the people of Rivers State, with the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, RSUTH.

The flag-off and foundation laying ceremony for the Renal Centre was performed by former Transportation Minister, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who echoed a familiar sentiment, when he noted that Governor Wike has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that is positioning the State as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.

He added that the Rivers Governor’s achievements in the health sector in particular, has already surpassed what former Governors of the State had done.

Governor Wike, while emphasizing the decision of his administration to give priority to qualitative healthcare delivery by providing state of the art equipment and enduring infrastructure for the health sector, stated that his administration has appropriated about 40 percent of the 2021 budget into the sector and about N9 billion had already been expended in the rehabilitation, equipping and comprehensive upgrade of the RSUTH which is progressively transforming into a world class health institution for academic and medical services.

“As we came in here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9 billion in this teaching hospital. If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the state government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget,” Governor Wike said.

The Commissioner for Health, Professor Princewill Chike who aptly explained that the Renal Centre was for the treatment of Kidney related conditions, lauded Governor Wike for his committed attention to the health sector and noted that the Centre, when completed, will become another landmark developmental project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney related ailments.

Dr. Friday Aaron, the Chief Medical Director of RSUTH, commended Governor Wike for approving the renal centre.

Shedding more light on the need for the specialist centre, he explained that chronic kidney disease is a major burden globally and Nigeria has an estimated 14 million cases, with over 240,000 of these cases requiring renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.

The CMD who left no one in doubt that kidney problem was a very present and serious health issue affecting many Nigerians today, said the centre is expected to be completed in six months and will house the hemodialysis unit with eight hemodialysis machines and the surgical component comprising most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant.

Dr. Aaron also confirmed that Governor Wike has released the funds required to build and equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.

Healthcare watchers and analysts will confirm that Governor Nyesom Wike has not only stressed consistently that his administration will give priority attention to the health sector, but has walked the talk by releasing comprehensive funding to implement and deliver the desired results in the sector.

It will be recalled that Governor Wike confirmed, during a courtesy visit by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative for Nigeria, in December 2019, at the Government House Port Harcourt, that his administration increased the budgetary allocation for the health sector in the 2020 budget because of his commitment to universal health coverage in the state.

He said: “We have increased the budgetary allocation for the health sector in the 2020 fiscal year. We have placed priority on health. We are expanding our health facilities for the benefit of our people. The issue of health is critical to the development of the state. Without health, other sectors will suffer. Therefore, we will continue to invest in the health sector,” Governor Wike had declared at that meeting.

Indeed this second term of Governor Wike’s administration can quite conveniently be regarded as the consolidation of the Governor’s golden era in the holistic agenda of providing accessible and qualitative healthcare to address the health challenges and expectations of Rivers people, both in the areas of standardized infrastructure and capacity building.

The foundation laying ceremony for the Renal Centre in RSUST was thus a fitting finale to a robust series of health and medical related activities which also witnessed a commissioning, the historic flag-off of the construction of several medical structures and a grand matriculation ceremony of arguably the fastest growing medical university in the world.

On Friday, May 21, 2021, PAMO University of Medical Sciences, Rivers State, held its 4th Matriculation ceremony in a colourful and well organized gathering, replete with all the academic formalities and grandeur synonymous with such events.

Governor Nyesom Wike, was the Special Guest at the ceremony and used the opportunity to shed more light on the Scholarship scheme which the state government was fully sponsoring for 500 students to study medicine and other related courses at PAMO University, which is creating access to education for most indigent students.

Still on medical scholarships, Governor Wike, on Saturday, June 5, 2021, announced the award of scholarship to all 55 students of Faculty of Medical Sciences of Rivers State University.

The announcement was made during the inauguration of the Senate Building of the Rivers State University and the foundation stone laying for the construction of the Faculty of College of Medical Sciences building, comprising of Faculties of Basic Clinical Sciences, Clinical Science and Pathology of the University.

The scholarship, according to the Governor, will last the entire period they will be on the programme. He also directed the management of the institution to refund all fees already paid by the students and forward their details to his office for computation.

“Today, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof. Innocent Ujah as our special guest, performed the foundation laying ceremony for the building of a Faculty of Clinical Sciences, a Faculty of Basic Sciences and a Pathology building for the Rivers State University, College of Medical Sciences.

“To ensure the speedy completion of the project we have released the sum of N7.6billion to the University for the establishment of these faculties. This covers for the faculty buildings, their furnishing and the installation of the best available medical equipment,” he stated.

And on Monday, June 7, 2021, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was in Port Harcourt, to flag off the N25.9 billion Dr.Peter Odili Cancer/ Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre and noted with delight that the centre would augment the assets available to treat and reduce Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) not only in the South-South but the entire country.

“I observe that this project has been named after someone, who has built a reputation, not just as a medical practitioner, but as a former governor,” he said.

He commended Governor Wike for his vision and achievements in the health sector, stressing that he (Wike) had shown his commitment and determination to add value to the state’s healthcare system.

The Mother and Child Hospital had also been commissioned and is ready for use.

The 132- Bed Hospital which has an on site quarters for doctors is furnished and fully equiped with 50 Delivery Rooms, 6 Modular Operating Theatres, Invitro Fertilization Equipment, Fluoroscopic Equipment, Mamography Equipment and other equipment for leading pediatric and gynaecology practice.

Prior to these landmark ceremonies, the former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, had commissioned the ultra-modern Government House Clinic and Administrative Building on Friday, March 5, 2021.

The State Commissioner of Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, gave a comprehensive summary of the impressive components of the new clinic.

“The Clinic is fully equipped with Operating Theater, with a Monitored Recovery Room; C-Arm for Fluroscopy; Top End Anesthesia Ventilator and Equipment; One Fully Equipped ICU Room with Isolation requirements, latest ventilator and monitoring system; two Emergency Rooms, with Oxygen and Compressed Air outlets, monitoring, defibrillator, and portable ventilator; Consultation Rooms; fully equipped Endoscopy Suite for intervention in all endoscopes (gastroscopy, colonoscopy, and bronchoscopy), with Electrocautery and Argon Gas and coagulation; fully Automated Cleaning and Drying Of Scopes, to minimize infections and prolong longevity.

“The new Clinic also boasts of the latest 1.5 Tesla MRI General Electric; 64 slice CT scan General Electric; Ultrasound with different probes (cardiogy, abdominal, vascular, OBS); Digital X-Ray; fully equipped Laboratory, independent with high tech machines for haematology, chemistry, hormonal studies ELISA and Chromatography, cultures, microscope, blood bank, and many other tasks.

“It also has a well-stocked Pharmacy with medication storage area; a friendly facility for disabled/physically challenged people; sterilization autoclave machines; automated water treatment machine UV and De-ionizer; One OBS room; four double bedrooms (total 8 beds), all equipped with a portable monitor with telemetry real-time transmission of all patient’s vitals to the central nurse station in the ward; One VIP lounge and a room with continuous monitoring Wi-Fi as well as 24 hours ambulance service.

“All the equipment, monitors, and desktops are connected through a computerized integrated system linking the Radiology with the Laboratory and the Electronic Patient Records, that can be checked and managed on-site, but also remotely, anywhere in the world, using an authorized access.

“Finally, the new clinic parades a dedicated team and personnel that has undergone orientation/training on the use and working of the facility /available equipment.”

It will also be recalled that in 2018, Braithwaite Memorial Teaching Hospital (popularly known as BMH) was upgraded, completely equipped and converted to serve as the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital and is today, not only reckoned to be one the largest and best Teaching Hospitals in the country, but now enjoys full accreditation for the programmes of that facility for the training of medical students by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

It is also on record that when Governor Wike assumed office in 2015, the workforce in the primary healthcare community was on strike, and the secondary healthcare sector was either shut down or facilities were dilapidated.

Unlike his predecessor who owed the workers a frightening backlog of salaries and other emoluments. Governor Wike quickly recalled the striking Primary Health workers to work and also paid House Officers at the then Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH) their outstanding dues and allowances, deliberately owed them for months by the previous administration.

As Governor Wike’s administration enters its sixth year, one thing that even his detractors will agree with is that he has steadily and successfully overhauled the healthcare system in the state, both in quality infrastructure provision, human capacity development and prompt payment of remunerations to health workers.

Renovations and upgrades of major hospital structures and facilities have been quite regular too. Last year, the Rivers State Executive Council approved the reactivation of the Kelsey Harrison Hospital and the Dental and Maxillofacial Hospital in the State, by a special committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo.

The unexpected global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was to provide the definitive platform on which Governor Wike’s golden era of quality healthcare delivery to Rivers people was cemented and consolidated.

His focused, proactive, determined, courageous and humane leadership, which often saw him leading from the frontline, ensured that mandated protocols were observed.

It was little wonder therefore that the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt, having deemed him to have passed the Four-Way Test in his leadership of Rivers State for the past six years, especially on his management of the
pandemic, conferred the 2019/2020 Good Governance Award on Governor Wike, on Friday, May 7, 2021.

There is certainly no doubt that the bold, impactful and enduring legacy projects which Governor Wike had delivered in the Health sector have made tremendous impact on the lives of Rivers people.

With many more to come before the end of his tenure, the Governor has not only underlined his determination to address the critical health needs of Rivers people but indeed, to prepare and position the sector with maximum capacity, to cope with emerging health issues and challenges.

Governor Wike has already pledged that only the best is good enough and will be delivered to Rivers people during his term as Governor.

With what has happened in the Health sector since 2015, Rivers State will not only be providing well trained manpower to address the medicare gap locally and nationally, but will now be poised to attract unprecedented medical tourism that will compete favorably with the rest of the world, in line with global best practices.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State

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