In the past few years, the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owerri, Imo State, has lost more than three cardiothoracic surgeons to sister institutions because the Federal Government has not upgraded the centre to a teaching hospital status.
This was made known by the hospital’s Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Kingsley Achigbu, during the visit of the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, to hospital.
Besides cardiothoracic surgeons, the medical facility is also fast losing some calibre of specialised staff because the government has not upgraded the place to a teaching hospital status that can afford such top level professionals to stay and use their skills.
Cardiothoracic surgeons are specialists who operate on the heart, lungs and other thoracic (chest) organs. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of the organs, areas considered by medical experts as some of the most challenging and demanding.
“Upgrading the centre to a teaching hospital will enable us to retain certain calibre of specialised staff who ordinarily would not like to work outside a teaching hospital setting. The need has become even more desirable with the recent approval of the FUTO Medical School based on the MoU between the two institutions,” Dr Achigbu said.
Notwithstanding, the Owerri FMC, which has grown to become probably the largest and busiest in the country, has about 700-bed capacity, including incubators and cots and over 4,000 deliveries a year.
It renders primary, secondary and tertiary care as well as internship programmes in medicine to merit an upgrade, the CMD added. Despite prudent management of scarce resources, Achigbu said the medical facility is still being confronted with many challenges such as inadequate funding of capital projects, which he said has delayed the completion of some ongoing gigantic infrastructure projects in the hospital.
Also, he said outsourced services such as security, laundry had remained a source of worry as the Federal Government has not offset years of arrears of outsourced services, amounting to millions of naira which now constitutes a huge drain to the Centre’s resources. He disclosed that the Federal Government since April 2020 had not paid for the expenses the Centre incurred for free treatment of COVID-19 patients in line with the government’s directive on procurement of oxygen and other consumables.
According to him, equipping of the MRI complex, provision of a cancer treatment centre, drug rehabilitation centre and a new oxygen plant will go a long way in availing Nigerians living in Imo State and its environ with needed services. “The provision of a new oxygen plant would greatly assist us in managing patients with COVID-19 and other critically ill patients in the centre. The situation where we buy oxygen to supplement our stock and still offer free treatment to these patients has had a huge toll on the finances of the centre.”
He expressed happiness that in spite of the challenges, his administration was able to restore peace after 36 months of being embroiled in unending labour crises, which brought virtually all activities in the centre to a halt. “As a means of achieving peace, we embarked on massive and deliberate staff training, orientation, and reorientation as well as sponsored leadership programmes to enhance capacity building among the staff to equip them better to deliver on the job and also abide by laid-down rules of engagement. We also cleared arrears of emolument, entitlement owed staff, rebuild power infrastructure, attracted 33kv power project,, replacement of stolen, vandalised or damaged equipment, rebuild 1.5-km perimeter fencing, enhance service efficiency and plug financial loopholes.”
Aside attracting some capital projects, he said the Centre had completed various projects such as the infectious disease complex, new dialysis centre, MRI building, research centre, solar projects acquisition of ambulances including non-capital projects.
He said further that the Centre has upscaled services in laparoscopic surgery and would soon commerce cosmetic surgery services. “We are developing human capacity presently in preparation for the establishment of assisted reproductive services and will soon be sending personnel for training in interventional Cardiology later in the year.”
Also, the Chairman of the hospital board, Dr. Ishaq Salman, re-echoed the need to expedite action on the upgrading of the Owerri FMC to a teaching hospital.
Responding, Mamora noted that the request to upgrade the Centre to teaching hospital status was a legitimate one, which would be granted to the state. “We have done it for some some states legitimately, not based on sentiment but on due process and certain parameters or criteria and there is no reason we cannot do it for Imo State,” he said.
Mamora urged the CMD to initiate the process through the state government to enable the Federal Ministry of Health to commence action. He expressed delight that the long list of projects was eloquent testimony to good leadership, great commitment, diligence, harmonious working relationship and prudent management of resources in the institution.
The minister commended the chairman, board members, management team, various unions and host community for their efforts in restoring peace to the Centre and hoped the industrial harmony in the Centre will be sustained.
“Although the government will continue to support the centre on infrastructure development, the hospital should also explore avenue of engaging the Private sector through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) since the government does not have all the resources midst competing needs. Indeed, public private partnership is the way to go and Mr. President is giving his full support to this initiative.