UCTH Calabar: Dilemma Of A Life Saver


Uncompleted building at UCTH

THE University Teaching Hospital (UCTH) Calabar is faced with infrastructural challenge, as a number of its buildings remain either under construction or are altogether abandoned.

The current Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Thomas Agan, on assumption of office in 2011 had promised to move the hospital to its permanent site. He made good this word in 2013. Despite this effort, however, many of the doctors and other personnel still share poorly furnished and uncompleted offices. Vital wards and facilities are not in place. Electricity supply is problematic and the hospital has to rely on generators.

One medical personnel, who pleaded anonymity, said: “The challenges we have are enormous. We have problem with sanitation. Many of the workers or contractors taking care of sanitation have quit over non-payment of their dues. If you go to the place, the environment is bushy and dirty. Infrastructure in many places is inadequate. Many doctors and other staff do not have offices.
“We don’t have basic medical equipment to work with; they are either outdated or broken down and cannot be used on patients.

There are newer ones that we don’t have which should help us diagnose illnesses. Some of the new or modern equipment we don’t have include Blood Gas Analysers (BGA). We also don’t have Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or CT (Computed Tomography) Scan. The basic ones have broken down and need replacement. The buildings opposite the casualty wards have been abandoned and patient and medical personnel are crammed in small units.”

Given the level of poor infrastructure and other facilities, Resident Doctors of the UCTH embarked on an indefinite strike action in July. About 400 members of the Association of Resident Doctors took part in the action. The strike, has however, since been suspended.

President of the association, Dr Ukweh Ikechukwu, said the total strike was sequel to a 21-day ultimatum, which ended on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, saying the association was compelled to embark on strike after several appeals to the management of the institution yielded no positive response.

He said: “the purpose of the strike was not to punish the patients, but to press home some legitimate demands. The strike is total and there will be no skeletal services until our demands are met. We as an association need to send out a message because we are tired of giving haphazard services to the public. Some individuals are running this institution as they like; they would not do this were it to be their private practices.”

He noted that the doctors have bent backwards to ensure that continuous service delivery was given and “we are demanding good working conditions which include making the environment convenient, implementation of the sponsorship arrears from 2012, upgrading and automatic stepping of our training and patient care, as well as skipping for doctors.”
Ikechukwu said ‎the hospital has been operating in a filthy and insecure environment, adding, “one of our female resident doctors was raped recently while armed robbers terrorize the hospital at night and management shows little or no concerns about this. We can no longer be operating ‎under such an environment until the management look into the matter.”

Chief Medical Director of the UCTH, Dr Thomas Agan, admitted the issue of poor infrastructure but decried the strike action embarked upon by resident doctors, saying the management’s hands were on deck to ensure that things work well at UCTH, even as he blamed government for lack of funds. According to him, most of the demands made by the doctors were not within the capacity of the hospital to meet, as it is dependent on funding from the Federal Government.
“There is no point pretending. The effect of the strike is heavy on the patients. The consultant doctors are around but would not provide the maximum attention the patients require,” he said, stressing that what is happening in the health sector is embarrassing, especially as doctors have taken the Hippocratic Oath to help patients.

The CMD said: “We are doing very well, but for the challenges of infrastructure. Majority of the consultants do not have their own offices; they work from their cars. We are working toward providing office accommodation for them. And if we can do that, it will go a long way in solving the challenges we have.”

He noted that the management would do all in its power to ensure that it surmounts all the challenges and make the hospital a centre of excellence. “We can only achieve that through the corporation of everybody – the state government, federal government, and other members of the public. We have to work as a family. On my own, I can do nothing. But with God and with the cooperation of the people, we can achieve that.”

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