Despite the acclaimed wealth of Akwa Ibom State among the states of the Nigerian federation, the state has not faired well in many critical sectors. The health sector is one of the most pathetic, with negative indicators in almost all the areas.
Akwa Ibom State ranks among the highest in early child mortality among the states of the South South. The state’s neonatal mortality rate, which signals the probability of the child dying within the first month of birth, indicates that 21 in every 1000 are likely to die. For those with the probability of dying between birth and their first birthday, the value is 42 in every 1000, against 38 for Cross River State. Despite government claim to free health care for children under five, statistics still shows that 73 in every 1000 Akwa Ibom children are likely to die between birth and their fifth birthday, against 52 for Cross River state.
Six states of the federation accounts for 41 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS, and Akwa Ibom State is one of them with a prevalence rate of 6.5, way above the national average of 3.4.
In the state, a little above 14 General Hospitals are directly owned by government as well as a few comprehensive health centers and cottage hospitals. Most of these rural based health centers and hospitals are in such a sorry state that the people merely ignore them and hand over their health to churches and traditional healers.
Of the N670.718 billion Naira of the 2019 budget estimates presented by Governor Udom Emmanuel to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for consideration , only N18.021 billion was allocated to the health sector, a far cry from World Health Organisation’s recommended 13 percent and African Union’s recommended 15 percent allocation to the health sector. This is in a budget where Administration got a generous N100.66 billion.
With these pitiful health indices, Obong Nsima Ekere’s blueprint on health, comes as a gladsome hymnal for the Akwa Ibom people. Ekere’s idea of health includes the well being of his people beyond healthcare and that is why visibly embedded in his healthcare blueprint is the avalanche of job creation ideas cleverly wrapped around his policies and programmes for the health sector.
Obong Nsima Ekere, the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State, envisages a healthcare that would also provide hope for the people. He envisages two major prongs in his strategy for a better healthcare delivery under his “Better Health Initiative”. One is to ensure access to a cost effective, yet qualitative healthcare through the provision of functional primary and secondary health care facilities across the state. The second leg of Ekere’s BHI is the substantial and sustainable investment of resources on the establishment and development of world class tertiary health care facilities of international standards. The initiative will thereafter, engender new jobs for the people, reverse medical tourism and generate investable income for the state.
To achieve this, the Ekere administration will embark on the renovation, building and equipping of 10 secondary health centers, located in the 10 federal constituencies of the state, to international standards and manned by well trained manpower. More cottage hospitals would be built and adequately equipped with better facilities and relevant technology, to Supplement General hospitals.
The existing 424 Primary Health Care Centers in the state, that are currently only existing in name and empty squalid buildings across the state, will have a new lease of life. They will be renovated, modernized and functionally equipped. Adequate manpower will be recruited, trained and deployed for the smooth and effective functioning of the facilities. The existing Primary Health Care Boards will be adequately funded and empowered to ensure productivity.
The Nsima administration promises to take Medicare in the state to a level that would make a mark in international medical delivery map. The establishment of Ibom Medical City, would be the flagship of Ekere’s health care programme. The city would incorporate the existing Ibom Specialty Hospital into the medical city with a 300-bed health facility comprising a cancer treatment center, a women’s hospital, Ibom Children’s hospital, Orthopedic hospital and Trauma Center, as well as a Diagnostic Center. This city will provide a world class tertiary medical services and serve as a regional center of medical excellence. Again, this aspect of the blueprint aims at creating new jobs, enhancing the training of qualified Akwa Ibom professionals, promote medical research and training and generate revenue for the state.
For the rural communities, Ekere’s state administration will partner with the Local Government Councils to establish “Better Rural Healthcare Initiative” that would target the communities on preventive health care services in malaria control, immunization, vaccination, diabetes and blood pressure, as well as ante and post natal care. This rural initiative will also ensure action on water and sanitation programme to reduce incidence of water-borne diseases.
Obong Nsima Ekere is assuring the people of the state on the adequate provision of Ambulances to handle emergencies. As usual, the ambulance programme will create new jobs and empower emergency responders with 24 hours service. To achieve this, the service will commence with 15 ambulances, with 5 for Uyo and one each for each of the other federal constituencies, within the first year of its operation and gradually growing into a programme of one ambulance per local government area.
The All Progressives Congress governorship candidate hopes to govern a healthy, productive and happy state and that is why his blueprint has continued to generate very favourable reviews. The people are eager because they deserve the best in health care as in other areas.