Published On: Fri, May 27th, 2016

FMC, Owerri: One Year Without An Administrator – Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

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I deliberately took a break from writing either here or anywhere else about the troubles or lack of it at the Federal Medical Center, Owerri, immediately the Minister of Health took a decision to suspend the substantive management team of the center. I was hopeful that the decision will bring a lasting solution to the crises that have plagued that health institution for over one year, especially considering the very clear mandate given to the Professor Ndu Ekeh led interim management team to ensure that normalcy is restored to the health institution while ensuring that staff of the center are better oriented towards understanding and abiding by their terms of engagement as civil servants on the first hand and health professionals on the other.
The center which was in the last one year or thereabout turned to a theatre of controversies after a section of the labour union embarked on a purely vindictive struggle to oust the Medical Director of the Center had before then experienced unprecedented transformation under Dr. Mrs. Angela Uwakwem. Patients could get into that hospital assured that they will receive the right attention and on time, too, unlike what obtained in the past, when staff of the center went about their works lackadaisically and without fearing any repercussions for the worst infractions. Unfortunately, in the last six months since the interim management committee took over after the Federal Ministry of Health had suspended the Angela Uwakwem led management committee, the fortunes of the center have taken a nosedive.
The fear of the labour union seems to be the first law for the interim management committee members, as they do everything to please the labour leaders. Investigations show that the interim head of administration of the hospital, Mr. Ayo Olagunju has converted himself to the patron or special adviser of a section of the labour union as he does everything possible to please them, without recourse to extant rules of the Nigerian Public service. For instance, there is information that most if not all members of staff of the hospital who refused to join the protests against Dr. Angela Uwakwem are being targeted for administrative vendetta through punitive postings and unusual monitoring of such staff. Some of the staff affected by this claim that they are merely being persecuted for showing solidarity with the truth and trying to stand out from the crowd of witch-hunters who insist that the substantive Medical Director must be dealt with for refusing to carry on the business of the hospital like it is no one’s business. The arrow-heads of the labour unrest are said to have been specially rewarded with special postings, and payment of bogus allowances, under very suspicious subheads.
The major target of the Federal Ministry of Health is to ensure that all classes of Nigerians, including foreigners can get access to quick and quality healthcare in the hospital, hence, their decision to set up the interim management committee to restore normalcy in the hospital as that is the only guarantee that the all sick Nigerians and foreigners will be able to access the right healthcare. Has the committee succeeded in doing this?
If information available to me is anything to go by, then, the interim management committee of the center is causing more problems in the center than they met, and this has made it impossible for patients to get the best services possible in the hospital. For instance, most of the generating set in the hospital have either packed up are in terrible states of disrepair as a result of the interim management’s refusal to pay the contractors charged with the responsibility of maintaining these power generating sets. Investigations show that these contractors are being denied their payments allegedly on the suspicion or belief that they are sympathetic to the suspended management of the hospital. One now wonders if the interim management team actually came to fight the suspended management team or to restore normalcy to the health center. While it is not out of place to check through documents to find out how the hospital has been run over the years, such auditing or investigation must be done with all sense of fairness and not targeting a particular individual or group of individuals.
The situation has led to medical doctors having to attend to patients with torchlights from their GSM phones, while no visible efforts are being made to put these generating sets back to work. Patients and visitors to the hospital are constantly at the mercy of rodents and other reptiles that crawl in the cover of darkness, while the hospital environment which used to be one of the cleanest in the recent past has become no better than a refuse dump; smelly, unkempt and
There is the general belief especially among the unaligned members of staff of the hospital that any fair staff verification exercise carried out in the center, will reveal lots of corruption in the employment, deployment and even disciplining of staff of the hospital. But this valuable revelation is being kept down because Mr. Ayo Olagunju, who is the Interim Head of Administration of the hospital, and the self-appointed patron of the labour union, is more interested in revelations that will nail certain individuals and interests within and outside the hospital, rather than clean up the hospital and rid it of corruption, impunity and all manner of indiscipline that have ravaged the hospital over the years. A fairer staff verification exercise would show that some staff of the center have actually being receiving salaries higher than what those placed on their levels receive, while there are staff employed into areas where they lack the most basic knowledge in. Had the interim management team not being beclouded by sentiment, they would have also discovered that a Chief Procurement Officer in the hospital who was sometime in 2014, appointed as a Special Assistant to the Imo State Government as an adviser on Internally Generated Revenue was throughout the term of his appointment with the Imo State Government also received salaries from the Federal Medical Center, Owerri. Also, some staff sacked on disciplinary grounds by the substantive management team of the hospital have been recalled without following any due process, while resident doctors who have reached their bar at residency practice were recalled, all in a bid to win the support of the labour union leadership. These measures are also said to be one of the subtle moves been made by the interim management team in order to elongate their tenure.
Sources close to the interim management team allege that the hospital’s present state of low productivity is traceable to the internal wrangling within the interim management team as the interim medical director, Prof. Ndu Ekeh seems more interested in running his private hospital, located in Rivers State, hence, sees the running of the Federal Medical Center as a kind of distraction. This lacuna has seen to the hijacking of the management of the center by the interim head of administration, Ayo Olagunju and the interim head of accounts, while the interim head of Clinical Services, Dr. Kelechi Okonta is tactically sidelined from happenings within the hospital.
The hospital has returned to its earlier state where some highly placed but corrupt officers of the hospital privatize the hospital, and make patients pay monies privately to them for services rendered in the hospital and with the hospital’s facilities. Workers now come to work at their leisure, and leave whenever they deem fit. That insistence on discipline and respect for the ordinary patient for which Dr. Mrs. Angela Uwakwem was known, but hated for  seem to have gone on suspension with her.
Generally, it will not be out of place to posit that the Federal Medical Center, Owerri has not had any administrative head in the past one year and this has seriously affected the running of the hospital and impinged on the rights of patients to receive quality health services in the hospital. The Federal Ministry of Health should rise up fast to the occasion and ensure that the hospital is returned to a safe hand for more effective and result-oriented administration, as thousands of citizens who depend on that hospital for their health needs groan in pains and frustrations.

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