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Ondo: ODEMSA, life-saving agency gasping for breath

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Staff of Ondo Emergency Medical Services Agencies (ODEMSA) rescuing an accident victim in Akure. PHOTO: Oluwaseun Akingboye

Eight years after it was established on March 24, 2010, by the then administration of Olusegun Mimiko, to provide emergency medical, trauma care and road services along crash-prone highway corridors in the state, in a bid to salvage accident victims and curtail the ever-increasing deaths by road accidents, the Ondo State Emergency Medical Services Agency (ODEMSA) is itself gasping for breath.

It is not only ODEMSA that is suffering egregious neglect and abandonment by the Rotimi Akeredolu-led state government, other social protection initiatives including, Agbebiye Safe Motherhood, Mother and Child, Cocoa Revolution Projects (CRP), Free School Shuttle Bus are lying comatose.

Speaking with The Guardian recently, Mimiko recounted how his convoy ran into a fatal road accident in the middle of the forest on his way to Lagos when he was the state governor.

ODEMSA was established purposely to be able to respond to road crashes and accidents on the highways with the intention of providing access to healthcare that would stabilise and save the lives of the patients.

The agency, operates on highways like, Ondo-Ore, Ilesha-Akure, Akure-Owo, Owo-Akoko, and Ondo-Akure.

The agency has its base stations located in Oka-Akoko, Owo, Ilara-Mokin, Bolorunduro and Ore in Akoko South West, Owo, Ifedore in Ondo East, and Odigbo local councils of the state.

However, since Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu assumed office in February 2017, there have been noticeable downturn in the gains recorded by these social protection programmes, including the ones in the health sector.

For instance, in the last 17 months, there have been protests arising from the drastic changes in the social services formerly enjoyed by the people. During most of these protests, the protesters simply accuse the state government of gross insensitivity and indifference to their plight.

Just last Monday and Wednesday, employees of ODEMSA converged on the entrance of the Governor’s Office to protest the non-payment of their 12 months salary arrears, and the refusal of the state government to offer permanent employment to 120 casual staff of the agency, who are in the Vehicle Extrication and Call Centre units.

They protesters, who chanted solidarity songs defied the rains to state their grouse through the placards they bore, some of which read, “Pay our 12 months salary,” “Rescue us to rescue others on the roads,”

“Hunger is killing us,” “Save our roads from deaths,” “Give our lives priority,” rescue our families,” and “Our job is a life-saving job,” among others.

The leader of the protesting workers, Mr. Samuel Aderoju, lamented that the workers have held several meetings and made appeals to the state government, but all to no avail, adding that the last dialogue with
government officials in March this year was fruitless like the previous ones.

“They told us that they will pay the outstanding arrears and later on resorted to the verification of staff to know if there were ghost workers among us, yet no positive result came out of it; our salaries are still not paid yet.

Even the permanent employment of the 120 casual workers, which had been approved by the immediate past administration, the present government has refused to implement it, and also failed to make money available for us to carry out our operations effectively.”

He stressed that the negligence and inhumane treatment meted to ODEMSA workers by the state government was not encouraging the staff to be productive.

Before things went awry, the Head of Service of the state, Mr Toyin Akinkuotu, had approved a memo dated January 24, 2017, with reference number: EMS/PPF/52/125, titled: “Request for Approval for Permanent Appointment of the Temporary Staff (extricators and call agents): Ondo State Emergency Medical Services Agency (ODEMSA),” from the Ministry of Health to the former governor, affirming the excellent performance of the agency.

The memo also reminded Mimiko of his pleasure to add an additional N10, 000 to the N20, 000 stipend paid each temporary staff earned, plus other incentives such as hazard, shift duty and rural allowances.

That letter read in part, “It is equally instructive to inform you sir that these categories of staff (extricators, call centre agents and paramedics) and the drivers have exhibited commendable high level of commitment to their jobs.

In fact, between August 5th, 2014 and December 1, 2016, they promptly attended to 374 incidents and 1, 055 accident victims in major highways across the state.

“In view of the foregoing, Mr. Governor is respectfully requested to graciously approve the permanent appointment of 40 call agents and 80
extricators into their respective cadres and in turn to be deployed to function as extricators and contact agents in ODEMSA.”

Even though the then governor was said to have given his blessings for the conversion of the temporary staff, he did not effect it before he left office.

To achieve set goals and objectives, The Guardian understands that ODEMSA partners and collaborates with groups like First Aid Support Team (FAST), the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Amalgamated Commercial Tricycle and Motorcycle Owners, Repairers and Riders Association of Nigeria (ACOMORAN), Federal Road Safety Corps FRSC (RETAN), the fire brigade and other government agencies.

At many public functions, Governor Akeredolu, has decried the poor internally generated revenue base of the state, which he said was the reason the state government finds it difficult to meet up some of its financial obligations, especially payment of salaries to workers.

For Abdulkadiri Ganiyu, one of FAST’s stakeholders, the failure of most of government’s social intervention programmes to continue blossoming was not about resources, but due to change of government, which brought about a change in priorities.

Ganiyu, however, flayed the Ministry of Health for what he described as its nonchalant attitude to the handling of emergencies, saying, “the new leadership at the health ministry does not show any concern at all.

Most times, when we even find a way to get across to the commissioner, he does not show any concern; that is even if he picks your call.

Attempts to speak with the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Wahab Adegbenro, and the Secretary to the State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde, failed as they didn’t pick up their calls, and never replied to text messages sent to their lines.


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