By Dodoh Okafor
1. Do you sometimes wonder why burials have become the most regular weekend ceremonies in several communities in Igboland? Well, wonder no more. The state of the health facilities in the region, the preponderance of substandard drugs at pharmacy outlets, the refusal of the political authorities in the land to fund the health institutions and pay medical professionals are to be blamed for the frequent deaths all over Igboland today.
2. In Abia for instance, the very wicked and insensitive Okezie Ikpeazu has mysteriously refused to pay health workers at the Hospital Management Board in the state and those working at the tertiary health institutions for several months and counting. Most medical officers in Abia now live on extortion and those who can no longer bear it have all abandoned their duty post in search of better opportunities in neighbouring states.
3. I have in the past few months toured several medical facilities and healthcare outlets in Igboland on a mission I would rather keep private. But I would share my observations in continuation of my business of calling attention to critical issues affecting the common man in our society.
4. The first thing I would like to talk about is the decay, the dilapidation, the poor welfare packages for health workers across medical facilities in all of south east Nigeria. It is a pity that few commentators are paying attention to the crises in our health sector probably because, they can afford to travel abroad or pay for premium health services outside the region.
5. All the tertiary institutions in the region are in severe neglect with poor facilities, overcrowded hospital wards, dysfunctional facilities and in most cases lacking the necessary drugs that would give patients a chance to fight for their lives.
6. I have said it severally and I would repeat it again: Igbo political office holders are the most despicable, wicked set of human beings in all the land. It pains me to note that our senators, federal ministers, HoR members and those occupying federal positions in Abuja have refused to bring the attention of the powers that be to the poor state of health facilities in the region.
7. Not long ago, an Igbo man, Onyebuchi Chukwu was the minister of health in Nigeria. Pray, how did Prof Chukwu improve critical health infrastructure in Igboland? I went to UNTH in Enugu, NAUTH in Nnewi, FMC Umuahia and Owerri, Nigeria Military Hospital Enugu and I can tell you, hospitals in war-torn countries are better than what I found in these places. If Onyebuchi Chukwu did anything to fix those hospitals, they must have been closely guarded secrets.
8. I realised that patients who need brain scans in Umuahia were referred to Owerri and as at April this year, the MRI machine at FMC Owerri was not functional. Patients who travelled to Owerri were asked to “try UNTH Enugu or NAUTH Nnewi.” A private facility that offered the service said they don’t work on weekends.
9. Would a minister of health from Kano or Kaduna abandon all the major tertiary facilities in his home region like Chukwu did? How about senior Igbo politicians like Ike Ekweremmadu, Ogbonnaya Onu, Chris Ngige and Ken Nnamani who claim some form of acquaintance with Muhammadu Buhari or Goodluck Jonathan before him? What did they do to improve the state of medical facilities in the region? Andy Uba was once the closest confidant of Olusegun Obasanjo, how did his native Anambra benefit from that relationship?
10. How about private sector operators? Almost every Igbo billionaire has a hotel or beer parlour in Owerri, and Enugu, why are we not investing in medical facilities to save our people from untimely death?
11. How many people are aware that several life saving medical services are not offered in most medical centres in Igboland? Do you know that several brilliant Igbo doctors are slaving in remote communities in northern and western Nigeria because of limited opportunities in the east?
12. How about the high cost of drugs in Igboland? I don’t know what anyone thinks but I am convinced that the Igbo man’s greed is his biggest undoing. Do you know that drugs cost more on the average in a shop owned by an Igboman than in outlets run by folks from other tribes?
13. In Enugu, I was compelled to buy a drug for N45, 000. I realised later that the same drug at a tertiary hospital in the north sells for N1, 500 for the same quantity. How can we be so wicked to ourselves? Remember, this drug is a life-saving medication, not a cosmetic drug.
14. Things are a lot worse in rural areas where it appears all the general hospitals have since folded up. In most of the general hospitals, only the mortuary departments are active. It is unfortunate that in these communities, the lives of our parents, brothers, sisters and infants are left in the hands of largely illiterate patent medical dealers, local herb hawkers and charlatans who masquerade as spiritual healers.
15. Now don’t assume things are a lot better in towns. No they are not. At a major FG hospital in Enugu, patients were required to contribute money to fuel the generator at night, otherwise, they remain in the dark.
16. In this same hospital, you buy everything that will be used for your treatment – before any treatment is administered on you. From syringes to hand gloves, you pay and have them supplied otherwise, you die.
17. What is even scarier is the level of indiscipline in these hospitals. Many of the doctors brazenly direct you to come to their private clinics for treatment. I also gathered that drugs supplied to the hospitals are siphoned and diverted to these private clinics owned by the doctors and staff of the public hospitals.
18. As I mentioned earlier, hotels and beer parlours spring up daily in Owerri and Enugu. When was the last time a major health facility was built in any part of Igboland? How many of our brothers and sisters consider building hospitals or establishing medical laboratories something worth doing?
19. It is obvious that the present generation of Igbos have since abandoned the path set out by our fathers. Would a Michael Okpara, an Nnamdi Azikiwe or Sam Mbakwe be comfortable to be leaders in a society where there is a beer parlour in every corner of the street but you can go round an entire state and not find a medical facility that can really save life in critical situations?
20. Think. Again I repeat, our problem in Igboland is not Buhari or the antics of Hausa-Fulani political operatives. In my estimation, the biggest problem we face in Igboland today is wicked and insensitive political leadership and if you want to add- a bunch of citizens that have been unable to rise to the demands of holding the leadership to account.
21. Need any proof? Count the number of bodies in mortuaries whose deaths could have been prevented if we had the right medical facilities in place.