Adibe Emenyonu writes on a free medical outreach organised by United Kingdom-based medical doctor, who recently brought succor to over 7,000 indigenes of Ogbona Community in Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State and its environs

Hashemi and Nazri, attending to a patient

Although the saying ‘health is wealth’ might be an over used cliche, but the truth behind it remains sacrosanct. For the Ogbona Community, one of the rural villages in Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State, their health needs were given piority recently when a United Kingdom- based medical doctor, Benedict Itsuokor, extended warm hands of fellowship to them.

Itsuokor, in collaboration with Ogbonna Elites Forum, a socio-political group, in a bid to give back to the society, had organised a three-day medical outreach programme for communities within and outside to give free medical treatments.

At the last count, no fewer than 7,000 persons from different communities of Etsako West and Etsako East Local Government Areas of Edo State, came to receive the free treatment provided. The treatments, which saw about 40 medical personnel from across Nigeria and UK, attending to patients, took place at Chief C. K. Orbih Comprehensive Health Center, Ogbona.

Chain of Events

It was purely a chain of events that revealed the state of the local hospital to Itsuokor- the death of his parents.

Speaking during the event, Itsuokor, who put the cost of the exercise at well over N20 million, said he was moved to be part of the exercise to prevent needless deaths in the communities, adding that the death of his parents, who were both from Ogbona, informed his decision to assist the people.

According to him, “I was around in March to bury my mother and I was alarmed with the appalling state of this hospital when I visited. I then took a decision to do something for the community. My father died in this community and the message I got back in England, was that he died in this appalling condition because the services of this hospital were not enough to meet with his condition as at that time. Before my mother died, she begged me to come meet with her people back home in Nigeria. I called the resident doctor to ask about the specific services that she will need, but all these were not available. All these moved me into what you are seeing here today.”

The Medical Team

The medical doctor said he was moved with passion to come into the community to provide these services as they were essential to preventing needless deaths in the community. He said he came in with six medical personnel from the UK, joined by 15 from Lagos and Abuja, another 10 from hospitals in Benin and another six from the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).

“I also came here with two state of the art patient monitor, a diagnostic test, and other medical equipment. There is also a provision for a solar generator which is actually on transit as we speak. I bought it for £10,000, excluding shipment. It will be assembled here in this hospital, and I have spent over N17 million, excluding the cost of the generator. All the cost is fully on me, no assistance from anywhere,” he said.

Itsuokor, who said he has the plan to sustain the free medical treatment, noted that any patient with extreme case, would be referred to a specialist hospital in Benin for proper treatment.

HIV Counselling

Apparently moved by the feat recorded during the free treatment exercise, the Ogbona Elites Forum, decided to join hands with the Edo State Agency for the Control of AIDS (ESACA), in the area of HIV counselling, which was incorporated into the free medical treatment organised by the physician.

The Head, ESACA, Dr Flora Oyakhilomhe, said the collaboration was necessary because the entry point to every treatment is to first know your health status. She said: “All we do here is carry out HIV counselling and testing of persons to know who is affected, and anyone that is affected, is enrolled into the treatment scheme that is completely free. This is because, we believe here that problem identified is problem solved,” she stated.

Focus on Primary Health Care

The Etsako Central Local Government Area Chairman, John Akhigbe, commended ESACA, Ogbona Elites Forum and Itsuokor for the medical outreach which he said complements the Governor Godwin Obaseki led-administration’s effort at repositioning the health sector in the state.

He said the council’s focus on primary healthcare was to improve the wellbeing of people in the council area, noting that his administration was doing everything to reduce maternal mortality. “We are bringing development to the people at the grassroots and I will support any programme that will bring development to the people”, he added.

Identifying Health Challenges

President, Ogbona Elites Forum, Mr. Gilbert Erelumhe, expressed appreciation to the partners for bringing medical care to the people and putting a smile on their faces. He said: “We have embarked on several programmes to improve the lives of our people but this is the first time we are embarking on medical outreach to identify challenges facing the people’s health and doing everything possible to address it. This provides them with treatment and surgery is performed on critical cases as we have experts on ground.”

Appeal

In appreciation, the clan head of the Ogbona Community, Chief Willy Idode,  while commending the initiators of the free health services, called for support, especially from the government, to make it a yearly affair. He said the call became necessary as there are many sick people who stay back home, either waiting to die or be saved miraculously, as they could not afford the cost of treatment.

He said: “This initiative is a very good one; you can see the joy on the faces of everybody around. They are all happy. This is especially so, because, we have so many of our people at home, sick or afflicted with one kind of ailment or the other, but because they cannot afford the treatment, they just sit back at home waiting to die or be saved miraculously.

“Since the commencement of the programme, I am particularly overwhelmed with the level of turnout of people wanting to be treated. This is a very strong message to the government that if an individual can on his own organise things like this, government should build on it such that it can now be a yearly programme.”