Imo: A State In Need Of Functional Health Facility

Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu.


The immediate past administration boasted about building one General Hospital in each of the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State. The projects could not be completed for the eight years duration of the Rochas Okorocha’s administration. Today, save for the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri, Imo is in the dark, healthcare wise. STEVE UZOECHI reports from Owerri

The night was thick with trepidation and the feeling of helplessness, asphyxiating. From anxiety, it was utter gloom as loved ones waited with bated breath. Eventually, the long wait had come to an end with the shattering pronouncement by the doctors that Ndubuisi Emenike was dead.

Then, the wailing began; tears flowed freely as even men cried.

Men consoled men as women let down their hairs and wept inconsolably. It was a sight no one would wish to re-live in a long time.

It was a Sunday, January 26, 2020 and would for a long time be remembered by the political class in Okigwe senatorial zone and indeed the people of Imo State.

Between 6pm and 7.30pm of that night, the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri was literally ‘flooded’ by politicians of all shades, businessmen, high-equity individuals from different walks of life, stakeholders from Imo North and of course, the ‘everyday’ Nigerians resident in Owerri, the Imo State capital; all of who had dashed to the FMC, Owerri, in the hope that there may be some help they could render to save the life of Chief Ndubuisi Emenike, the renowned philanthropist and a senatorial candidate of the Action Alliance political party for the Imo North(Okigwe Zone) senatorial election.

In an alleged case of ‘accidental discharge’ or perhaps celebratory gunshots (friendly fire), Emenike had been shot by an officer of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and was rushed to the hospital, but did not make it out alive.

It was such a heart-rending way to die, for a man who had saved many lives, paid hospital bills for many, built houses, awarded scholarships and had in more ways than can be remembered, given value to humanity.

As sad as it is, not a few persons believe it was an avoidable death given the fact that it was not a head-shot or heart-shot that killed Emenike but a shot fired around the abdominal region.

They averred that what eventually may have killed the chieftain after all, may be the absence of a functional health facility around the area where the shooting took place, which is Isiala Mbano council area.

A senior medical practitioner, Dr. Hyacinth Emele, maintained that distance to the nearest medical facility may have been the undoing of the late Chieftain.

He said: “Most times, when people are shot, bleeding is what kills them. If a major vessel is hit by the bullet and it triggers torrential haemorrhage, the victim needs to be rushed to a hospital as soon as possible, not farther than five or 10 minutes from the place of incident. What needs to be done is to stop the bleeding fast. Usually when they are brought in as emergency, you see the medical personnel going straight to where the person was shot to put something there to stop the bleeding and that is how most of them are saved.

“But for a longer journey, perhaps with a major vessels affected, bleeding does a lot of damage. Usually, when they are brought in, most vital signs like the heart rate and pulse rate may not be obvious anymore and that may be indicative of internal bleeding. Such patients are wheeled straight into the theatre and opened up so that the bleeding can be stopped immediately depending on how much can be salvaged owing to the distance travelled.

“It is apparent that the distance travelled by the late Chieftain did not do him any good; the distance could actually be a major cause of his death because by the time they would have travelled to Owerri from Isiala Mbano council area, he would have bled into shock.”

As for abdominal shots, Emele said that victims of abdominal shots are often saved if intervention is timely.

“It is possible to survive abdominal shots. If it affects a major organ or vessel, then speed and timely intervention become expedient. For shots that affect the Femural vessel for instance; without swift and expert intervention, the patient will bleed to death”, Emele said.

When Ndubuisi Emenike was shot at Isiala Mbano, there was evidently no hospital within the vicinity or neighbouring community competent to offer basic medical intervention and stabilize him before onward journey to FMC Owerri for comprehensive treatment.

After the incident, Emenike was first rushed to the St. Mary’s Hospital Umunachi in Isiala Mbano but there was literally nothing the hospital could do for him and accordingly, they referred him to FMC, Owerri.

He was then ferried to the state capital, traversing at least two Local Government Areas before arriving the FMC, Owerri.

The question on the lips of every resident of Imo State is what became of the 27 new general hospitals for which budgetary provisions were made for several years.

The 27 new general hospitals were supposedly spread out across the 27 council areas of Imo State. What happened to the new general hospital supposedly built in Isiala Mbano and Ehime Mbano?

Ironically, for the eight years Senator Rochas Okorocha was in office as governor of Imo State, he did not complete the said general hospitals while perpetually listing them as one of his achievements in office.

The general hospitals became issues of political campaign described as an ambitious futuristic project by Okorocha’s loyalists while many other residents of Imo State, who were aware of the real status of the new general hospitals have dismissed same as a white elephant projects.

Okorocha inherited 11 general hospitals; the Imo State University Teaching Hospital and hundreds of health centres, yet for eight years, none of these were enhanced or improved upon to render the deserved healthcare services to the people.

From the records, Imo has a total of 1338 health facilities across the 27 LGAs; 805 of these are primary health facilities with 416 of the primary health facilities being publicly owned while 389 are privately owned.

The state also has about 531 Secondary health facilities with 19 being publicly owned while 512 are privately owned.

There was no evident effort from the Okorocha administration to improve on what he met on ground so that Imo people could access qualitative healthcare. Instead, he embarked on a fresh project of building 27 new general hospitals without, at least, standardizing one existing hospital to serve the Imo populace while his dream hospitals were underway.

Not even the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu, got the deserved attention. Instead, according to Governor Hope Uzodinma, the MRI machines procured by previous administrations for the Teaching Hospital were removed and taken to the Ochiedike Diagnostic Centre, Owerri, which at the time, was allegedly being run by Okorocha like a private enterprise.

Without completing and delivering any of the said new general hospitals, Okorocha still claimed he had spent a whopping N27billion in all the 27 uncompleted hospital projects.

While on the 27 new general hospital adventure, Okorocha had leased the 11 general hospitals he met to a private firm, Messrs Lantech Solutions Ltd and shortly after, the general hospitals were virtually grounded and abandoned with workers owed as much as eight months salaries.

The former governor apparently saw more of profits in health care service delivery than the humane and compassionate service it is.

To further deepen the woes of the health sector in Imo State, Okorocha aborted a $32million ultra-modern hospital project, revoked the land for the project and reallocated same to a petroleum dealer for a Petroleum Filling Station.

A Neurosurgeon, Prof. Philip Njemanze said: “Many Nigerian medical doctors overseas, at home and other investors had come together to establish a state-of-the-art hospital in Imo which would be the first of eight hospitals proposed by the group, but former Governor Okorocha stood against the project while many states would have been willing to offer us land for free.

“By now, the hospital, a $32million investment would have been functional. It was designed a paperless hospital with capacities for complex surgeries including heart and brain surgeries. The hospital was also designed to have a helipad for an emergency response helicopter. We had procured the land, done all the survey and feasibility studies. In fact, we had spent money in the neighbourhood of $18million before Okorocha illegally revoked the land, and destroyed the structures already put in place. He went ahead to reallocate the land for a petrol filling station. Nevertheless, we have won the case in court and hopefully there will be the enforcement of the judgment.”

Commenting on the death of Ndubuisi Emenike, Njemanze said it was the lack of emergency response system in the state that led to the death of the Chieftain.

He said: “How could you drive an emergency case of that nature through our dilapidated road networks for that long and not end up doing more damage than good. What the young man needed at the time was swift response and timely medical intervention, and not a long journey. A helicopter would have brought him to safety in no time as his treatment would have started right inside the chopper. You cannot run a country or state without an emergency response system. It is not the fault of the FMC, Owerri that he died but the leaders that failed to do what is right and needful for its citizens.”

He added: “I drafted a bill on emergency response for the state and I remember I took the proposal to former Governor Okorocha who told me to meet with him in his country home, Ogboko and he just trashed the proposal. He simply told me it was not what he wanted to do, that he had bought 15 ambulances for emergency and that was all. I couldn’t believe my ears.”

Without further gilding the lilies, Imo still bleeds from a total lack of functional health system.

The sad reality is that the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, which is a tertiary health institution is the only competitively functional health facility in Imo State.

Consequently, the FMC is overtly burdened as it solely dispenses healthcare services for primary, secondary and tertiary health needs which was not the original intendment of its founders.

The reality is that the primary and secondary health care systems in Imo State have totally collapsed and rather than hasten to its intervention, the former governor spent eight years executing building contracts only to leave behind 27 uncompleted buildings as 27 general hospitals.

Since, after Okorocha’s eight years in office, Imo is yet to have a governor who has settled-in to design a new health masterplan for the state. This is largely due to the political controversy that has dogged the seat of power in Imo State. And this was the situation when Ndubuisi Emenike died.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines a hospital as “An institution that is built, staffed, and equipped for diagnosis of disease; for the treatment, both medical and surgical, of the sick and the injured; and for their housing during this process. The modern hospital also often serves as a centre for investigation and for teaching.”

Suffice it to say that if there were 27 new general hospitals built and functional in Imo State, Emenike would not have died.

The newly 27 general hospitals could not save Ndubuisi Emenike because they were non-existent.