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6yrs after take-off, ATBU Teaching Hospital still facing teething challenges

The idea of establishing the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH) was to provide a befitting tertiary health and teaching institution for the university…

The idea of establishing the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH) was to provide a befitting tertiary health and teaching institution for the university to train various cadres of professional medical personnel.
However, since it was established in 2010, the hospital still faces many challenges which hinder its ability to reach full potential.
The hospital was established in September 2010, after it was converted from a Specialist hospital when the federal government took over the facility from the Bauchi State government under an agreed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The issue of staff conversion was the first challenge faced by the pioneer management of the hospital as many staff of the former Specialist Hospital who worked for the state government stayed back with the hope that they would be absorbed by the teaching hospital.
However, some staff who stayed back have left the services of the hospital due to what many of them called the reluctance of the teaching hospital management to give them a sense of belonging.
Some staff of the teaching hospital who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday on condition of anonymity said that they were being shortchanged in terms of welfare.
They alleged that the old staff have been relegated to the background while the “others” who they said were brought in later are being given preferential treatment in terms of promotion and remuneration.
They also accused the hospital management of a deliberate downgrading of the status of most of the former Specialist Hospital’s staff.
Some of them also alleged that they were demoted from their previous levels in the state civil service by the hospital management, which they accused of alevating new hands above them
Another staff who also spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said that when nurses embarked on a three-day strike over welfare, the hospital management was forced to settle some of their allowances to call off the strike.
The staff further informed that some of them that were due for promotion in 2013 and 2014 were left out while others were considered but were only paid two months benefits.
“About N77 million was also paid to some doctors, consultants and their principals, while the lower cadre staff were left out,” he said.
Apart from this, Daily Trust on Sunday investigation revealed that National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) clinic in the hospital lacks drugs as patients are referred to some pharmacies outside the hospital to get their drugs.
During a recent visit to the ATBU Teaching Hospital by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) team, the Bauchi State Coordinator of the scheme, Sani Garba Affa, called on the ATBUTH management to adhere to its new operational template and guidelines on healthcare.
Reacting, the Chief Medical Director of the teaching hospital, Dr. Mohammed Alkali, promised to incorporate the NHIS clinic into the family medicine department for improved and seamless 24-hour service.
He, however, attributed some of the challenges facing the clinic to the inability of some Healthcare Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) to pay their capitations on time as required by the law.
Using the ATBU Teaching Hospital Annual Lecture series as a platform, the CMD said that at inception, there was a strong goodwill and commitment by stakeholders but lamented that there was lack of articulate policy to handle and cushion the impact of establishing a tertiary health institution.
Among professional colleagues and the public, the project was viewed as another political gimmick and an unnecessary adventure.
For the parent university, it was skeptically seen as a threat and a political meddling in academic institutions, and of less priority.
The CMD, however, said that the hospital has recorded significant success in terms of advancement in critical areas and structures, which he said has enabled the hospital to transform from its earlier status to the present.
Major structures built include the administrative block, the eye clinic, laboratory complex; paediatrics complex and a new theatre. There has also been provision of various medical equipment across departments and clinics to cater for its growing patient population.
Besides, the Chief Medical Director told newsmen that they are building an additional bigger trauma centre at the hospital to cater for victims of insurgency in the North-East.
Another challenge facing the hospital, according to findings, is its failure to fully take off.
A source at the university informed our reporter in confidence that accreditation of the medical courses to be offered was the main challenge.
“The Medical College has taken off technically because a committee was set up which has made recommendations. A provost for the college has been appointed. The college will hopefully take off next session,” the source said.
He, however, added that there are some requirements which have also not been fulfilled by the teaching hospital in order to meet the standard as required by the laws regarding the establishment of such a hospital.
On the alleged discrimination and preferential treatment between the absorbed state government’s staff and those freshly recruited, the CMD described the accusation has baseless.
He said that when they converted the absorbed staff based on the federal government’s approved staff scale, most of them were found to be less qualified as such had to be graded based on their qualifications and experience.
He added that most of the staff complaining are the people who refused to adhere to various circulars requesting them to disclose some information about their educational qualifications or ongoing studies or courses they were undertaking at the time.
The CMD, who spoke to our reporter on telephone, added that the issue of  the NHIS clinic and drug supply in the hospital was necessitated by the specific needs of various sections of the hospital.
According to him, he had directed most of the units in the hospital to procure drugs based on their specific needs in order to complement the services of the hospital’s central pharmacy.
He said the NHIS clinic was also directed to do same pending when drug supply and other services will be incorporated in the order.
In his reaction, the chairman of  the Medical and Health Workers Union of the teaching hospital, Comrade Babangida Isah, said that the issue of alleged wrong placement of staff after their conversion arose from the fact that most of them were recruited by the State Hospital Management Board with lower qualifications.
Isah, who spoke to our reporter on telephone, said that they initially kicked against it but backed down after the hospital issued a directive for staff to update their curriculum vitae for consideration.
He however corroborated what the hospital CMD said about the failure of some staff to comply with the directive, which led to most of them failing to get proper placement or promotion.

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