From Joe Effiong, Uyo

The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), Prof Ememabasi Bassey, has said that, although it has wreaked global havoc, resulting in serious economic disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped Nigerians to look inward and improve facilities in health institutions.

Prof Bassey reasoned that the general lockdowns, which prevented highly placed Nigerians from embarking on medical tourism abroad, created the need to look inwards to develop the country’s domestic healthcare system.

In a chat with newsmen in Uyo on Monday, the CMD, who recalled that critical surgeries hitherto conducted outside the country were successfully done within, pointed out that Nigeria is blessed with talented medical experts.

He told reporters that the Federal Government has made a greater investment in medical infrastructure than any other administrations in recent decades.

Prof Bassey, who conducted the media around the UUTH campus, acknowledged the receipt of N859 million in federal funding to execute key COVID-19 intervention projects and programmes.

‘The present Federal Government has invested in medical infrastructure than any others in the last couple of decades. For instance, during the pandemic last year, the Federal Government released funds to the management of the hospital, Uyo, opened a modular testing laboratory and other projects that could help in combating the virus,’ he stated.

He said the hospital has been equipped with a 16-bed ICU, fully equipped with laboratory, mobile X-ray and mobile ultrasound scan. ‘It also has a paediatric/neonatal intensive care unit.

‘The projects provided for include: establishment of molecular laboratory, procurement of personal protective equipment, establishment of isolation centre and establishment of a 10 bedded Intensive Care Unit

Regarding Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), he said: ‘Before COVID-19, a carton of face masks sold for N25,000, but, at the height of COVID-19, I bought that for about N600,000, we could not even find it.

‘That money was meant to allow us to function. Before COVID-19, we had one molecular laboratory for HIV and hepatitis and we cannot mix [both]. We had a building; we now tried to do an expansion. When the inspection team came, they rejected that, that the molecular laboratory requires a certain flow; so we had to build. As we speak, that centre has been accredited by NCDC.

‘The first time they came, we had an issue; then they came back for accreditation. We are just waiting for them to come back for activation.

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‘For the 10 bedded ICU, I had an ICU, but it was a bit of a sorry sight. We had to totally renovate the building and against 10, we ended up having a 16 bedded ICU. That ICU is the best in the South-South of this country,’ he said

The CMD, who was in company with the hospital’s Head of Works, Arc Ute Abang, and other key management staff of the institution, said he was working on completing between six to eight major projects for inauguration before the end of the year.

He assured that due diligence was followed in all contract awards and executions, both on the COVID-19 intervention projects and other ongoing projects inherited at various levels of completion.

‘Federal Government contracts have a procurement process, which you must get right or you go on for it. It has an open bidding process and contract awarded. For ICU, you must have done a contract on a similar project; must be able to guarantee service and maintenance.

‘Almost all the buildings we met on the ground are ongoing. The GOPD, completed and furnish. I make bold to say that there is no government hospital that has a better GOPD in this country than ours.

‘We have completed the radio diagnostics (CT scan) building. The laboratory block which we met at the earthing level, has been completed though it may not be ready for commissioning. The molecular laboratory building has been completed and fully equipped, awaiting commissioning,’ he said.

‘The hospital expanded a lot faster than infrastructure, and we are, therefore, working to meet up. We are currently embarking on a water expansion project. We met the water capacity between 30,000- 40,000; now targeting 200,000. So far we have achieved over 100,000 litres daily.

‘The Intensive Care Unit has been commissioned. Trying to implement the hospital management information system, an enterprise resource management system. It would cover our collection in terms of revenue, with telemedicine and electronic medical records as some of its components. That has helped us to block leakages and increase our Internally generated revenue.

‘We are expecting the Health Minister to visit the hospital before the end of the year to commission not less than 6-8 projects,’ he said

Also speaking on recent progress in the Teaching Hospital, the HOD, Medical Biology, Dr Agantem Ekuma, said the hospital has recorded significant strides in recent months.

‘Following the release of COVID-19 intervention funds, we were able to erect a new block and set up a PCR laboratory for COVID-19 testing. That took just about six months. NCDC teams have been here twice, and so far the feedbacks have been positive. We are awaiting final activation. We have so far purchased lots of laboratory equipment within the last one year,’ he said