The Women and Children’s Hospital in Calabar, owned by Onari Duke, wife of the erstwhile governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke has remained shut since April 2012.
The salaries of doctors and other paramedical staff sacked since April are still outstanding even as appeals for their money or part to be paid them to enable them meet some needs this yuletide season have gone unheeded.
Some of the laid off staff who spoke to crossriverwatch said that their lives have been miserable since April.
They also alleged that their salaries have been outstanding since October 2010 and that the Dukes have refused to pay them on the excuse that the hospital never made profit.
One of the doctors, a gynaecologist, Dr. George Geh, a sixty four year old Cameroonian whom a source said was lured from Bauchi State where he was in lucrative private medical practice to work for Duke by his ex-commissioner of health, Dr Joe Annah, has since returned to his private practice at a hospital located along Spring Road, Calabar.
He confirmed to crossriverwatch that he was part of the management of the hospital. He also accepted that the hospital has been under lock and key since April 2012 but was hesitant to comment on why the salaries of the staff including his have not been paid since the closure of the hospital.
But another aggrieved former staff of the hospital who accepted to speak with crossriverwatch only on condition of anonymity said “When Duke decided to close down the hospital in April he neither cared about the backlog of salaries of the staff nor their welfare on the excuse that he and his wife were not directly involved in the daily management of the hospital.
“When one of our doctors sent Onari a text message asking for the payment of our outstanding salaries, she sent him a test message which reads, “Doc, since Don and I are not involved in the management of the hospital we will have to resolve your case with the Medical Council.”
Our source said when the doctor persisted and sent another message to Mr. Duke himself who now lives in Lagos with his family, “Duke himself sent him another text message which reads, ‘Doc, you are being unfair. The hospital was not run profitably. You have taken the hospital staff and patients.”
Crossriverwatch attempts to reach the former governor were futile as calls to his phone did not connect and text messages to his phone were also not delivered.
But a close aide of Duke and former commissioner in his administration told crossriverwatch that: “I don’t think oga will even want to react to such stories. The man Dr. Geh who is now talking rubbish up and down was running the hospital. He evacuated all the equipment in the hospital and left with the patients and other competent staff that the hospital had to establish his own.
“Ask Dr. Geh and all those who are talking now how much profit the hospital made under their management of the facility. If they are sure of themselves and their stories, they should come out openly and fight their cause and win public sympathy. It was a deliberate attempt by Dr. Geh to kill the hospital and establish his private practice. Oga was not personally involved in the running of the hospital. He was not part of the management so I don’t think he is the right person to answer your questions”.
The highbrow hospital which was commissioned in 2009, two years after Duke left office is located on the defunct National Republican Convention (N R C) building along the Murtala Mohammed Highway closed to the Ebrutu Barracks in Calabar.
The acquisition of the former National Republican Convention (N R C) property built by the Ibrahim Babangida government; by the former governor for the hospital was subject of fierce conflict and litigation. Many people in the state were displeased with the acquisition which they considered illegal with human rights lawyer, Obono Obla taking Duke to court seeking to stop the use of the place as hospital by the former governor.