The visit of the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clems Agba, to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) in December last year seems to be an eye opener to the rot and dirt that dot the 40-year-old institution located at the Elekahia east-west road axis of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
It was established in April 1980 to handle acute communicable diseases. The hospital started in a small cottage home at Emuoha in Emuoha Local Government Area of the state with a 60-bed capacity in 1981; and in 1984, it was relocated to Port Harcourt main town and merged with Port Harcourt General Hospital.
- Some Nigerian youngsters with dual nationalities who may emulate Lookman Ademola
- Nigeria joins 4 other countries to produce COVID-19 vaccine in Africa
But the premises of the hospital now wears a pitiable look, just as many structures, such as the administrative block and other departments bears a relic of rot and decay.
The minster was angry at the hospital management when he discovered that the COVID-19 isolation centre, which had gulped the sum of N950million, was unkempt. He threatened to invite the auditor-general of the federation to look into the said amount allocated to the hospital as COVID-19 intervention fund.
Prince Agba, who spoke shortly after a tour of the UPTH isolation centre, said what was on ground could not justify the amount of money allocated to the hospital as intervention fund.
He said that federal government allocated N950m to each of the 52 federal medical centres and teaching hospitals as intervention fund, and wondered why the UPTH had the worst isolation centre out of the 20 federal medical centres he visited.
“I have visited 20 out of the 52 federal medical centres and teaching hospitals where we are intervening. This is the worst I have seen. I want to believe that the intervention process is still on. If you come from home well and enter the isolation centre, you will fall sick. That is not the intervention we wanted.
“Even the molecular lab is very small and congested. We were in Kano last week and saw that they put up a brand new building, very well laid out, very clean facilities with equipment. I don’t see that here. I cannot tell whether the fund has been judiciously applied or not until a team of auditors comes to have a look at it. From what I have seen here, I don’t think the fund has been judiciously applied.
“We released N950m to each of the 52 centres to build molecular labs and furnish them, isolation centres for a 10-bed intensive care unit (ICU) unit, as well as purchase of personal protective equipment. When the auditor-general comes, the result of their report will determine whether the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) would have to come in,” Agba was quoted as saying.
The observation of the minister on the poor state of the isolation centre is a pointer to the poor state of infrastructure and the general environment of the hospital.
A first visitor to the facility will be confronted with a decayed massive structure housing its administrative block, where the offices of the chief medical director and other top management staff are located. The four-storey building is wearing a defaced look, just as its paint has been washed off and dotted with greenish mud.
Although the chief medical director of the hospital, Professor Henry Ugboma, explained that the COVID-19 isolation centre was undergoing renovation, its poor and unkempt state is capable of exposing both staff and visitors to some health hazards.
Daily Trust Saturday observed that the passages leading to the facility’s occupational therapy centre were very dirty, while water from broken plumbing pipes covered the already dirty tiles on the floor.
Our correspondent also observed that the hospital’s emergency and accident ward, female and male wards with over 850 bed spaces were in poor hygiene state.
Toilet facilities are also worn out, with poor plumbing work, just as some parts of the hospital are overtaken by weeds.
At the card and index section of the hospital, the story is the same. The long passage leading to the section is dirty and littered with all manner of water coming out from broken pipes.
Some of the patients and staff in the facility who spoke with our correspondent said its poor hygienic nature had become a very big embarrassment to both patients and visitors.
One of the members of staff who pleaded anonymity because of fear of being prosecuted said, “When I look at the poor state of infrastructure in the hospital I begin to wonder if it is actually a federal government-owned medical institution. Look at the administrative block; the paint on the wall has faded. That block was repainted in 2020, but look at how it is now. Everywhere has been defaced. If you go round the wards, they are nothing to write home about. The passages leading to various offices and departments are dirty and in a very sorry state. I wonder if the hospital still has cleaners. I don’t see the reason why the entire place is this bad.”
A patient in the hospital, Tasia Uchechi, also said, “If you ask me, I will rename this place centre for disease contamination. I don’t know if you have taken time to go round the wards, departments and the entire premises so that you will know what I am talking about. If you go to the passages leading to therapy centre, down to the administrative block, you find out that everywhere is dirty. Some of the passages are littered with water coming out from broken pipes; and I begin to wonder if this place is a federal government medical institution. Each time I come to this place, I am always very careful not to contact any disease. The management of the hospital should do everything possible to clean up this place.”
A staff of the hospital who also pleaded anonymity said the problem confronting the facility is poor maintenance.
“What we lack in our clime is maintenance culture. We have a very poor attitude of maintaining our existing structures. The hospital engaged cleaners who are supposed to keep the place tidy, but honestly, I don’t know what they are doing. The entire place is dirty. From the entrance to the administrative block and all the roads leading to various departments, everywhere is very dirty. And it is so because of poor maintenance culture,” he said.
The chief medical director of the hospital, Professor Ugboma, told reporters in December that management had achieved a lot, such as a total upgrade to an 850-bed space capacity, with the hope of achieving 1,000-bed capacity in the nearest future.
He said the hospital achieved a milestone with the completion of the first phase, which made it possible for some activities to commence.
Ugboma said the management of the hospital had installed various equipment in most departments and built numerous structures to improve service delivery.
He said recent acquisitions by the management of the facility included the Department of Ophthalmology, with additional consulting rooms and five new equipment for better services to patients, as well as an ongoing expansion of the Department of Radiology, with new equipment purchased and installed for effective service.