The deplorable state of the teaching hospital, poor workers’ welfare conditions as well as deficiencies by the regulatory body has eventuated in the withdrawal of the Abia State University’s Medicine and Surgery accreditation by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) amid lamentations by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and parents. Daily Trust on Sunday presents details of the development.
The withdrawal of accreditation for the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Abia State University by the National Universities Commission (NUC) has been blamed on the near-state of inactivity of its teaching hospital, occasioned by its deplorable state and poor welfare condition of workers.
Findings revealed that the NUC revoked the accreditation due to deficiencies discovered by the regulatory body. The teaching hospital, said to be in a terrible condition and not conducive for learning, serves as a training environment for clinical medical students.
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The College of Medicine was established in the 1988/89 academic session with Akpuaka, F.C., a Professor of Plastic Surgery as the first provost. In November 1994, the Medical and Dental Council conducted the first inspection of the clinical facilities in the Teaching Hospital Complex of the college, and following a second visitation by the body in March 1996, the entire college was granted full accreditation as a Medical Training Institution in May 1996.
Following the loss of accreditation, the college, which had graduated over 22 sets of doctors since inception, will no longer admit new students to study Medicine and Surgery.
NMA, parents lament
The Nigeria Medical Association NMA, Abia State chapter, blamed the loss of accreditation on the state government, describing the situation as a sad development.
Chairman of NMA in the state, Dr. Chimezie Okwuonu, said the situation posed grave danger to the health sector of the state.
“It was really devastating news that the Medical School in ABSU has lost its Nigerian University Commission (NUC) accreditation. What this means is that the school will no longer admit new students to study Medicine and Surgery in that Citadel of Learning,” he said in a statement.
He stressed that while the medical body does not have the detailed report of the loss of accreditation, it may not be unrelated to the non-functional state of the Teaching Hospital.
“The teaching hospital is the training environment for the Clinical Medical Students and forms part of the teaching facilities. The NUC ensures teaching facilities are adequate for the number of medical students admitted. These facilities include lecture rooms, laboratories, museums, teaching aides, teaching hospitals etc. The NUC also looks into the staff distribution and qualifications.
“With challenges affecting service delivery in the teaching hospital, it is not surprising that NUC accreditation was withdrawn, although other factors might also be responsible,” he said.
He added that the teaching hospital has been plagued by interrupted operations due to agitations and industrial actions by the workers over irregular payment of salaries.
“Currently as at the end of April 2022, staff in the ABSUTH are owed 25 months’ salary arrears. The Resident Medical Doctors have been on cumulative 18 months strike, other health workers are also on strike while a few of the doctors, mainly the Consultants, Medical officers and Locum staff, though not officially on strike, are largely not working as the work environment is not in order.
“The labour unions have made several failed attempts to resolve this. The Nigerian Medical Association at both state and national levels, over the last 18 months, have met with the state governor for a record five times.
“If only the government and its agencies have listened and collaborated with NMA and other unions and done the needful, this loss of accreditation would have been averted,” he added.
He advised that the teaching hospital must be fully operational in order to avoid losing accreditation from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
NMA proposed seven steps that must be taken “to get the teaching hospital fully functional to avoid losing the accreditation of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) which usually follows”, warning that “If we lose it, clinical training will stop and the students will be trapped in between.”
He called for a lump sum payment of salary out of the 25 months owed, regular monthly salary subvention, and a committed approach to resolving some management and training issues in the teaching hospital, among other things.
The University PRO, Dr Acho Elendu, said the unfortunate outcome was anchored on the deplorable state of the University Teaching Hospital, when staff was on strike, and not on curriculum matters.
He said there is no iota of truth in the allegation that the withdrawal of accreditation for medicine and surgery was as a result of negligence on the part of past and present leadership of the university.
Some parents whose children and relatives are in the school also expressed dissatisfaction over the withdrawal of accreditation by the NUC.
Chief Nwaeze Okpara said he was heartbroken when he heard the news from his children, stressing that parents are apprehensive of its effect on the students.
“My late brother’s son is a final year student of medicine and surgery who should graduate in a matter of months. I know how much we have invested in his studies but now we don’t know how this will affect him and others,” he said
Another parent, Mrs Chinwe Nnadozie, urged the government to take all necessary steps for the restoration of accreditation.
Government seeks restoration
Meanwhile, the governor of the state, Okezie Ikpeazu, has said that the withdrawal had nothing to do with the technical and professional competence of the university or its teaching hospital.
He argued that the loss of the accreditation is solely as a result of the closure of the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, where student-doctors are trained.
The governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Onyebuchi Ememanka, stressed that the development is only a momentary setback, which can be corrected in a matter of months.
Ikpeazu, who argued that the withdrawal of accreditation affected only the medical school and not the teaching hospital, added that the development is not a death sentence but an appropriate wake-up call for the faculty to fix the problem.
“The hospital was closed as a result of issues around arrears of salaries of workers. The NUC accreditation delegation visited at a time the hospital was closed down,” he said.
He allayed fears of parents and students of the university, pointing out that students of the faculty of medicine are not affected.
He also held a meeting with some medical professionals in the state. The meeting, which discussed the issue of the withdrawal of the accreditation, was attended by Emeritus Professor Frank Akpuaka, Professor Aluka and Professor Chuks Kamanu.
The Vice Chancellor of Abia State University, Professor Ogbulu, the Dean of the Medical School of the University, the Chief Medical Director of ABSUTH and the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Council of ABSUTH were all in attendance.
Others at the meeting were the Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Osuji and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Health Matters, Felix Chinwendu Joe.