Date Published: 07/01/10
NDDC and the state of the art hospital By Ephraim Alalibo
I recently read the news report accredited to my brother Mr Ugwoha where he said: “We believe that health is wealth. That is why the NDDC has been involved in the provision of free medical services, including sponsorships and referrals to local and foreign hospitals. We also believe that something is lacking. We need to have a state of the art hospital in the Niger Delta.
I am afraid I disagree with you my brother. We do not need any new state of the art hospital in the Niger Delta. What we need is helping the existing hospitals to attain that anticipated state of the art level.
As he said, Health is wealth. But health is not just about medical conditions. It has been proven without doubt that there are wider determinants of health in the developing world that affect our overall health status much more than medical conditions. These include employment, housing and education among others.
A government parastatal like the NDDC has no business building any state of the art hospital any where when the federal and state governments are also trying to do so. I think NDDC should concentrate on meeting the basic health needs of the people with the funds available to it.
A new state of the art hospital will require billions of naira to build and equip. It will take time to build and equip. It will require time to recruit the much needed expertise to work there. It will also require regular maintenance of facilities - an area we are very poor in. So what time frame are we talking about here? My brother Ugwoha knows about the difficulties that exist in all the NDDC projects. Many state of the art shore protection projects running into billions have not been carried out after funds have been released.
Many of the numerous cottage hospitals built have become dilapidated because of lack of maintenance. The different states in the region all have general and teaching hospitals. Governor Rotimi Amaechi is already building a state of the art hospital in Port Harcourt. If the already existing hospitals are developed to the expected state of the art level, that will be money well spent.
I also worry because, if NDDC decides to build any state of the art hospital, politics will come into it about location, who will award the contract, who will sign the contract etc. How many state of the art hospitals will NDDC build? Will it be one in every state of the region? Already we have read that there is a petition by the board of governors about the executives not working as a team.
There is always the temptation for gigantic projects in a new tenure. However, when it comes to health, the size or newness of the building does not improve the health of the people. Basic things done for the people are what will improve the health of the people. Prevention is better than cure.
What we need is development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs by having an adverse impact. What we need now is reducing the level of inequality between the rich and the poor, between the urban and rural dwellers in terms of access to facilities. I even do not see the possibility of citing such a state of the art hospital in one of the rural areas so what is the point. We can therefore only improve the health of the rural people by providing them with the basic amenities that are enjoyed by the rich and urban dwellers in the cities. Most of the oil is drilled in the rural areas after all .
I understand that the President and CEO of Omma Healthcare LLC whom the NDDC wants to partner with said they have talked to a number of Nigerian medical doctors in the United States who are ready to come home, provided there are good hospitals where they can work” . The emphasis is on good hospitals. The NDDC is likely to build only one state of the art hospital that will be considered good hospital. So when all the doctors come over, will they be working in this one state of the art hospital? So what do we really want to do?
It is true that NDDC will not bring out all the required funds but whatever amount NDDC will put down as partners can go a long way in helping with primary care or even the teaching hospitals to upgrade them to some level.
I will be very surprised if actually a health needs assessment has been carried out and this is what the people of the Niger Delta really want about their health. The NDDC should not compete with the states but should see itself as an organ of the Federal Government that is meant to compliment these component states.
The NDDC claims to facilitate surgeries in the rural areas with minimal medical facilities by procuring ultra-modern mobile surgical units. That is what it should be doing not wanting to build state of the art hospital. I believe Nigerian doctors in Diaspora will be willing to come home and join their colleagues in Nigeria if the right equipments and remuneration is available. If most of the cottage hospitals have mobile units attached to them that will be better way to spend the money.
As the NDDC said on its website in-order to take health care delivery to the next level in the region, it aims to proactively ensure that the benefit of the 15-year phase Niger Delta Development Master plan is felt in the health sector. It can not do that by taking on projects that are at a difference to the strategies they have put in place. Some of these strategies I understand include the upgrading of primary health centres in each senatorial district of the Niger Delta region, upgrading of secondary health centres per senatorial district, training of community health extension workers, in each local government area, provision of boat hospitals for health care in the core riverine communities and provision of air ambulances for easy access and medical evacuation in the core hinterland communities. I wonder how many of these have been done.
Finally, quoting from the NDDC’s website, it is believed that with many of the issues in the rural areas in place, the Niger Delta region will be rid of terrible and preventable diseases while the people will experience a new lease of life and the NDDC's mission to heal will not be in vain. This is what is expected and nothing less. So please forget about any state of the art hospital unless there is another reason for it.