By UduakAbasi Ikpat, Joseph Atainyang & Ofonime Honesty
A drive into the present day Methodist General Hospital, Ituk Mbang in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State will open people’s minds into a vista of hope for the survival of Akwa Ibom people, beyond this period of the scourge of COVID-19.
While residents of Akwa Ibom State may be feeling the demoralizing pains of hunger as an accomplice of the nearly 21-day lockdown currently being observed, government appears to be working round the clock to put an end to possible explosion of the disease.
Of course, the recent agreement being reached by the Nigeria Governor’s Forum implies an extension of the state’s lockdown throughout April and the first seven days of May.
The simplest way of containing the spread of the virus remains the stay at home order, maintenance of social distancing, use of protective kits like hand gloves and nose mask, even as frequent use of hand sanitizers or washing of hands with soap on running water are also being advised, especially when people get in contact with public utilities.
But to get the state properly equipped with the facility to handle possible community spread of the dreaded virus, the state government led by Governor Udom Emmanuel set out to construct a 300 bed capacity Isolation Centre at the Methodist General Hospital, Ituk Mbang. The decision was reached on Monday, April 6, 2020, after a record of five COVID-19 index case in the state.
A temporary Isolation Centre, with few bed spaces had initially been sited at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Ikot Ekpene. There is also a make-shift isolation at the Ibom Specialist Hospital in the outskirts of Uyo metropolis. But these, government presumed, would not be enough to take care of multiple case of community infections.
This prompted the authorities to commit the new Isolation Centre into the ministry of works to be delivered in 30 days. The Works Commissioner, Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, seems very confident that the project would be delivered according to specifications.
The 300 bed space Isolation Centre is planted on a 240 square metre area. With just a frontal entrance and a deeper exit at the left hand corner of the building, the Isolation Centre is being designed with a laboratory for full testing capacity.
Just a sight from the gate, technically detached from the main entrance of the Hospital, one sees a well mapped situation as three giant structures would greet the eyes. At the central position, is the actual Isolation Centre, which is flanked by the Laboratory, the residence of the Medical Director and the Secretary, as well as the Canteen on the right; and a storey building billed to serve as Doctors’ Quarters for about 20 doctors on the left.
Conducting these reporters round the building, the Works Commissioner, Mr Ephraim Inyang-Eyen noted that the facility is being painstakingly designed to meet modern architectural and health demands.
He explained that there were doctors’ dressing room, doctors’ consulting room, a reception space and a shower, all by the entrance of the main building. He pointed out that the closed circuit television, CCTV and intercom services would make it possible for nurses and doctors to freely communicate without physical contacts.
The large hall, he said would be partitioned into four sections with women and men’s wards separately dissected.
Accordingly, there is an intersect of wide spaces between the main structure and the Laboratory/canteen and doctors’ quarters at both wings. Inyang-Eyen says these areas of land are meant to allow ventilation and free movement of vehicles, especially the conveyance of critically ill patients directly to the Laboratory for testing. There are also two large spaces which he said are carefully left behind for possible expansion.
His words, “Each of the doctors’ quarters is made up of a sitting room, a kitchen, a store, a bedroom and a toilet facility. We are careful to ensure that medical experts will live here so there will be no room for excuses.
“We are keeping a 150KVA sound proof generator, where smoke would be taken up to the sky. Apart from this alternative, we are linking the facility to the national grid for effective power supply.
“This facility is also being fed with a 19 thousand daily water pomp to provide adequate water supply for all activities herein.
“As you can see, the roofing woods are all here. The rods for further works are still here. We have secured 50 trips of sharp sands for plastering which is happening instant.
“Zenith Bank has offered us some medica facilities. The state government has equally acquired some. All these will be fixed just two days after this project is completed.
“The National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC will come here for inspection. We expect them to certify the centre afterwards before sending their workers here so our laboratory would become a certified testing centre for the virus.
“We have the mandate of the Governor to work here day and night. We are not giving room for excuses. We’ve been able to link up with major companies to take delivery of building materials for this job to be completed”, he said.
The works commissioner who gave the assurance that the project will be inaugurated by Governor Emmanuel exactly 30 days after its commencement, prevailed on citizens and residents of the state to remain at home and obey the Quarantine Order currently being implemented, so that the fight against the virus could be meaningful.
Stressing that “Governor Udom Emmanuel has shown maximum commitment to early completion by making all required funds available”, the Commissioner divulged that the project is designed to solve today and future healthcare needs of Akwa Ibom State, and that after COVID-19, the facility would be used for other healthcare concerns.
He further stated that just as China may have used 10 days with all its mechanised technologies to build a hospital for the purpose of containing the virus, Governor Emmanuel was poised to achieving the project in urgent response to the severity of the virus.
An indigene of Ituk Mbang, Mr Uwem Okon, who was at the site during our visit, said the community people were delighted that the project was cited in their domain.
Himself a former Chief Protocol Officer to a former Chairman of the Council, Okon stated that majority of workers were from the community and there was no fear of any kind that the centre was going to affect the people of the area.
“We know the virus will certainly end someday, and this facility will be converted to other wards to accommodate more patients in the hospital”, he added.
Another Ituk Mbang indigene, Mr. Anthony Edem, told newsmen that the project is a welcome development and that they will support such initiatives for the good of the state.
“The Isolation Centre is likely to be ready in the coming days. This shows that the Udom Emmanuel administration is really interested in safeguarding the lives and properties of the people. Ituk Mbang people are happy, and we will continue supporting initiatives like this”, Edem, a civil servant, noted.
He further commended the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-eyen, for devoting time to ensure that the project is delivered in record time.
“The Works Commissioner has really demonstrated his concern for the safety of Akwa Ibom people. The commitment exhibited by him will lead to the timely delivery of the project”, he concluded.
Of course, as cases of COVID-19 astronomically rise globally, including Nigeria, citizens and residents of Akwa Ibom State are advised not to only see the lockdown as a punishment, but encourage government to completely restrict inter-state travels, while remaining disciplined to observe the precautionary measures of prevention.
Akwa Ibom people should remain hopeful that government is trying hard to give them hope of survival, through the construction of an exquisite ultramodern Isolation Centre.