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Much ado over Ibom Hospital’s closure





Controversies, disappointment and blame games have continued to trail the closure in September of the much touted ‘world class’ 308-bed Ibom Specialist Hospital, Itu, Akwa Ibom State.

Built and hurriedly inaugurated on May 26, 2015 by ex-Governor Godswill Akpabio three days before his exit from office, the hospital, according to him, was going to stand neck-to-neck with other ultra-modern health facilities anywhere in the globe. The state-of-the-art hospital was said to have cost between N30billion and N41billion.

Akpabio, now Senate Minority Leader, said: “We lose billions of dollars every year to medical trips abroad. We have also lost a lot of people, not because we don’t have the expertise in the country.

“We also decided to have a hospital that would answer to the needs of Nigerians in terms of advance health management and that was why we built the Ibom Specialist Hospital. It is not like a teaching hospital, it is like a quaternary hospital, it is higher than a teaching hospital.

“We are starting it with about six modular theatres with equipment, that if for instance you are doing a cardiological investigation on a patient, cardiologists from around the world can hook up to the theatre and see real time what is going on and make their contributions to the examination and operation. So, instead of rich and wealthy Nigerians and nationals of other West African countries going abroad, it is easier to come here.

“Sometimes, people die in the air while being transported abroad for treatment. We wanted to shorten travel time for patients going abroad and at the same time get revenue for the state from health tourism”.

True to his avowed promise to deliver the best medical services comparable anywhere in the world, and perhaps dwarf university teaching hospitals in the country, the Akwa Ibom state government engaged the services of no fewer than 150 Indians to run the facility.

However, two years after, not a few Akwa Ibom indigenes and Nigerians seeking top class medical attention adjudged the hospital as not meeting the vision and standard for which it was originally built.

Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel in June attested to the fact the hospital was ill-equipped and far below standard, hence not capable of delivering the much-expected cutting-edge medical services.

As if to establish a lack of confidence in the hospital, Akpabio himself flew out of the country for medical treatment for minor injuries sustained in an accident. He corrected that later by coming to the hospital for check-up.

Commissioner for Health Dr. Dominic Ukpong, in a recent media interview, said: “The whole thing wasn’t totally completed. The dialysis section didn’t come through. Three modular theatres were not yet completed. Some of the areas were not completed because the contractors did not have all their money”.

Administratively, our correspondent gathered that there was a missing link between Cardiocare Ltd, the managers of the hospital and the state government, with both accusing each other of not living up to its contractual terms and agreement.

While the state government blamed Cardiocare Ltd of the hospital for non-remittance of revenue to government coffers, the Indians accused the government of poor funding.

But an official of Cardiocare Ltd, who does not want his name mentioned, said the management of the hospital struggled with lack of funding from the state government.

It had to depend on high fees in to meet up its needs.

He said: “The current administration does not care much about how the hospital was faring. The governor himself has never visited or promoted the hospital in order to encourage local patronage.”

He said the state government has been frantically trying to do away with the hospital.

Another source confided in The Nation that Emmanuel is actually not keen on the specialist hospital and regards the facility as not been useful to the health needs of the common man.

He said: “Early last year, some foreign based consultants wanted to take over the management of  Ibom Specialist Hospital.  The first question the governor asked was why were interested in the hospital. He told them he could build a brand new ultra modern specialist hospital in Awa, Onna for them to manage. The consultants were shocked.  They gave him many reasons why such a venture would be a total waste as the ISH was going to be grounded and may likely shut down.

“The governor now told them he wasn’t going to be able to terminate the existing contract except they were ready to pay $100 million to the consultant as stipulated fee for breach of contract; the consultant answered in the negative that that was almost impossible, and that their financiers wouldn’t be able to raise such funds to pay off the consultants.

“The second option was to wait until the contract with the managing consultant expired; of course that wasn’t a workable idea. The only option left was to murder the hospital indirectly by starving it of funds.”

An insider said the Reigners Church tragedy in December last year added to what really brought the hospital to its knees.

“What may have eventually brought down the hospital were the huge resources it spent on the treatment of the victims of the December 2016 Uyo Church building collapse.

“Our hospital was where they brought almost everybody to; even people that were taken to other hospitals still came back to our hospital for treatment.

“We had up to 80 surgeries or more. We had over a hundred patients at that time,” the source said.

He said the state government did not pay for the treatment of the patients until things became really bad for the hospital.

“The governor released money in July, but by that time things were already bad.  The surgeons that were making money for the hospital left,” he said.

Dr. Ukpong said the N180 million the state government gave to Cardiocare Ltd was partly meant for the treatment of the victims of the Reigners’ Bible Church collapse.

“They gave me an outrageous bill which I couldn’t agree with as a doctor.

“They were asking for N294 million for 300 out-patients and about 70-something in-patients. The hospital was complaining about money before the church incident. So, let nobody use that incident as an excuse,” he said.

The health commissioner added that his ministry did not have any supervisory role in the the hospital, even though the hospital was built with state government money.

Also, he said he was not aware that the hospital managers ever paid any money to the state government, despite the agreement stipulating that they would be paying some revenues to the government.

The blame game between Cardiocare Ltd and the state government also helped in fueling the long-standing rumour in the state that the hospital is a ‘huge’ deception, and that it is probably owned by the ex-governor.

Uyo-based social critic Udeme Uyoatta is of the opinion that the hospital was ‘another white elephant project’ and destined for failure from the outset because it was constructed rooted in corruption, and shrouded in mystery and deception.

Uyoatta added: “The Ibom Specialist Hospital was built by Senator Akpabio to massage his political ego, especially for him to be seen as having achieved above his predecessors.

“I am of the strong belief that the project was used as a ‘drain hole’ to funnel the state’s oil resources into private pockets, and the result is what we are seeing today with the closure of the hospital which did not even have any economic benefits to the state”.

State Chairman of the Civil Liberty Organisation, Clifford Thomas, told The Nation that the Ibom Specialist Hospital is a private hospital built with public funds.

Thomas, a lawyer, said the hospital has never been useful to ordinary Akwa Ibom people.

“The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly should launch a full-scale investigation with the aim of unearthing the real owners of the ISH.

“The governor should also explain how much money has been spent on the hospital. To me, the hospital is a complete fraud and failure,” he said.

Our correspondent also gathered that the Indian medical experts and managers of the Ibom Specalist Hospital lived in an estate in Ewet Housing Estate suspected to be owned by Akpabio, thereby fueling the suspicion that the controversial hospital is owned by the ex-governor.

Akpabio has reportedly intervened in crisis involving the state government and the management of the hospital.

Speaking with our correspondent in Uyo, the member representing Itu State Constituency in the State House of Assembly, Idongesit Ituen, said lawmakers in the state were still studying the situation and would bring the matter up for deliberations after proper investigation.

Ukpong said the state government would soon come out with an official position on the matter.


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Much ado over Ibom Hospital’s closure
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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