Udom’s Healthcare Programme for Sustainable Development

Emmanuel Udom

George Inwang

Health is wealth. This time-worn adage must be the philosophy that drives the unprecedented transformation of the health sector in Akwa Ibom State under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
It is a transformation, which is bringing healthcare delivery closer to the people through increasedaccessibility and availability regardless of their social class or area of residence.

This includes rural areas, which had no health facilities, thus forcing residents in those areas to travel long distances for medical care in hospitals that were ill-equipped to serve that purpose ab initio.
The exercise has so far seen the revamping of health institutions that were dilapidated in structures, which were in rundown conditions and unable to provide services to the sick, even in the most common ailments like malaria and typhoid fever, or maternity services – with preventable deaths, including high infant and maternal mortality rates, as consequence.

Those institutions have had life breathed into them by way of remodeling, reconstruction and rehabilitation of critical structures like emergency and accident departments, wards, theatres and dispensaries as the case may be, as well as upgrade or replacement of equipment, to be able to meet the challenge of providing modern healthcare delivery in a state that is being primed to be Nigeria’s industrial hub.

The government has created an environment that is conducive for investments to thrive – a peaceful and secure state, critical infrastructure like good road network and power, as well as incentives that investors find attractive and irresistible. This is in addition to the traditional hospitality for which the people of Akwa Ibom are well known, which contributes to creating awelcoming environment where people can visit, live and work.

The creation of the right environment has so far yielded results in form of industrial establishments which have been set up in the state in the last six years – about 16 in all. These industries are collectively employing thousands of people.

With the oil and gas free zone the federal government is planning to set up in the state, and the futuristic Ibom Deep Sea Portwhich is going to be the biggest investment in that part of the country, Akwa Ibom indigenes in other parts of the country are going to find it attractive to return home to seek employment and business opportunities.The state will no doubt appeal Nigerians in neighbouring states and other parts of the country in search of greener pastures.

With more people coming into the state – local investors from other parts of the country, foreign investors and Nigerians seeing to take up employment – there is going to be pressure on social services, including healthcare delivery. The government has acted proactively by investing in healthcare to build a state where health would translate to wealth – a state with a healthy population that would create individual and collective wealth for present and future generations of Akwa Ibomites.

The government has strengthened healthcare delivery at the primary level by building more health centres, rehabilitating old ones and upgrading some to the level of full hospitals. For instance, the Awa Primary Health Centre has been remodeled, reconstructed and equipped to join the list of general hospitals that are located in the three senatorial districts of the state – to make secondary healthcare delivery available even where there are primary health facilities.

Other hospitals on this list are the Immanuel General Hospital, Eket; Iquita General Hospital, Oron: St. Luke’s General Hospital, Anua, Uyo; Etinan General Hospital; General Hospital, Ikot Okoro, Abak; General Hospital, Ikono and the Methodist General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, in which premises the state’s 300-bed COVID-19 isolation and treatment centre is located.

The capacity to deliver quality healthcare to the people of the state has been strengthened with the setting up of the Akwa Ibom State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (AKSPHCDA). This is in line with thepractice at the federal level and some states of the federation.

The AIPHDA, which comes under a special project christened, Primary Healthcare Under One Roof, is charged, among others, with the responsibility to improve access to quality and basic healthcare, putin place a high performance team of healthcare providers, control preventable diseases and guarantee universal health coverage of all parts of the state.

The importance of an agency like the AKSPHCDA is evident at this period when the Coronavirus pandemic is still very much around, despite several measures like testing and treatment, non-pharmaceutical safety measures and massive vaccination that are being carried out in all the states of the federation to stem its spread. Primary healthcare development agencies are the ones that are effectively taking charge of the vaccination campaign, as we have seen in all parts of the country. The AKSPHCDA has therefore come at the right time.

Improvement of the quality of healthcare delivery in Akwa Ibom would, apart from guaranteeing quick and easy access to health services at all levels and in all parts of the state, controlling the spread of diseases and reducing the rate of preventable deaths, also create a general state of wellbeing that would engender an enthusiastic embrace of Governor Emmanuel’s Dakkada philosophy that challenges every Akwa Ibomite to rise to greatness.

The philosophy has already begun to yield fruits, as the people of the state have now come to terms with the roles they can play, individually and as a people, in building the Akwa Ibom Project – a state with a solid industrial base that would guarantee sustainable socio-economic development that outlives the present generation.
–––Inwang, a public affairs commentator, lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
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