We’ll complete projects in 2019 – Govt
More than four years after Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State began the construction of his “world class hospitals” in the 27 local government areas of the state, only one of the health facilities has so far been completed, while the remaining 26 have been abandoned, investigation has revealed.
Our correspondent gathered that the 26 uncompleted “world class hospitals” have been abandoned at various stages. Each of the abandoned projects is estimated at N500million.
While inaugurating the construction of the projects in 2014, Governor Okorocha had promised that all the hospitals would be completed and made fully functional by January 2015.
Investigation and a recent tour of the project sites revealed that only the Airforce Hospital in Owerri North has so far been completed, while the General Hospital at Aboh Mbaise, which serves three local government areas, has been abandoned.
But the government recently claimed that five of the hospitals had already been completed and were only awaiting formal inauguration, while another five were at various stages of completion.
Investigation, however, showed that the one at Njaba LGA, just like many others, had been taken over by weed and rodents; it has no equipment, no gate, and is not functional.
Our correspondent observed that the ones at Orlu, Nkwerre, Ahiazu were in similar conditions. At Ahiazu, the main general hospital was demolished by the state government to make way for a timber market, but the new one being built to replace it has been abandoned with overgrown weeds all over the site.
It was further gathered that the uncompleted or abandoned hospital projects had cost the state about N12 billion in total.
“In a moderate term, each is estimated at over N500 million,” the source said.
It was also discovered that the construction of the new hospitals was embarked upon despite the fact that the existing general hospitals lacked access to clean water, regular power supply and suffered from an acute shortage of medical personnel.
Okorocha launched a “Free Health For all” programme in 2014, with pomp and fanfare. Under the programme, he promised the treatment of aged citizens at no cost, improvement of medical services in the state and upgrading of health facilities.
But according to a report by a research group, the Eastern Nigeria Governance Tour, services at the government existing hospitals had declined drastically while out-patient services for citizens had become very expensive.
The consultant, Bamikole Adeleye, said there was no improvement in the quality of the workforce, adding that the decision to set up new hospitals was “impractical, wasteful and technically deficient.”
“There is no improvement in the employment of quality workforce of existing general hospitals,” he said.
Our investigation also revealed that the state government was trying to reduce some of the new hospitals to mere consulting health centres as it had realised that it would spend a fortune to equip all the new hospitals.
A medical doctor, who pleaded not to be identified, said that establishing new hospitals in a state with over 300 largely under-staffed health centres and in various state of disrepair was “a waste of resources” that could be channeled to consolidating cases at all levels.
“It would have been ideal to have one tertiary hospital with 27 specialties than 27 hospitals claiming one specialty each,” he said.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. (Mrs) Angela Uwakwem, in her reaction, told our correspondent that the projects were not wasteful, but were conceived for the wellbeing of humanity.
“We should look at the message not the bearer of the message,” Uwakwem said.
She said that a number of the projects had been completed and waiting to be formally inaugurated.
The commissioner said, “We have completed five, which are waiting to be inaugurated while five more, though not fully completed, will be ready soon. We are trying to scale up the projects.
“The one at Ikeduru is functioning at its peak. I visited the place yesterday (Thursday). It is in partnership with an American company, International Health Centre. The one at Nwaoriubi is functioning, go there and see things yourself; I don’t talk for the sake of talking. We have also completed and handed over to the Air force one hospital. We are urging the Air force to start operations.”
She did not, however, explain why the others had yet to be completed, but disclosed that the state government was trying to be frugal, “because we don’t want to waste government money, we don’t have all the money to equip all hospitals.”
“Some will be turned to consulting centres, just like the health centres. It would be expensive to buy medical equipment in all the hospitals. So, we are trying to be reasonable not to waste money,” she said.