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Without Tompolo, many Gbaramatu people would die, says health worker


Dr. Aghaga Clarkson

Dr. Aghaga Clarkson

A cottage hospital that have hitherto catered for the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom in the Delta State, free of charge has been closed and the people of the area have been crying for help, with many dying everyday due to various forms of sicknesses. Dr. Aghaga Clarkson is the Head of Health Affairs, Tom Polo Foundation, which funds the facility. Clarkson told The Guardian that there is risk of widespread health hazards, except the benefactor/ Financier of the free health services provided by the hospital in the past, Chief Government Ekpomupolo, aka Tom Polo, is allowed to continue his philanthropic gestures in the community. SAM OLUWALANA writes. Excerpts:

What was the situation of things with the facility, before Tom Polo Foundation came on to the scene?
Okerenkoko cottage hospital was built by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), operated by Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) for free medical outreach until 2009 when Gbaramatu kingdom was invaded by the Joint Task Force. Between 2009 and 2013, the hospital was abandoned, and it became dilapidated.

It was in a despicable state before High Chief Government Ekpomupolo (Tompolo), who was saddened and unhappy at the news of people dying in his community, especially children from avoidable conditions, through his NGO, the Tompolo Foundation renovated, re-equipped the centre with drugs and equipment and staffed it with 42 medical staff to render medical services 24/7. The refurbished cottage hospital was re commissioned on April 4, 2013 and operated we operated it till August 2015.

How did the Foundation operate the centre?
The hospital was operated free of charge to all patients, regardless of their age, colour, creed, and religion. Admission cards, drugs, ante natal care and deliveries, surgeries were free. Staffs were accommodated, transported to and fro and fed free of charge. During the period, a total of about 10,000 patients were treated, with 600 surgical procedures(minor and major) and 482 deliveries.

The cottage hospital served patients from over 100 communities in Gbaramatu kingdom, also Warri south,Warri north and Burutu Local Government Area (LGA). Patients from Bayelsa, Edo and Rivers state also accessed the hospital. Even some military personnel also used the hospital. Over N300 million was expended during the period.

However, funding of the hospital stopped when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commisssion (EFCC) issue with Ekpomupolo started and he was harassed out of the community.

With the closure of the facility, what are the challenges the people are facing at the moment?
The difficulties facing our people since medical activities stopped in the facility, are better imagined than experienced. Maternal and child mortality and morbidity have since increased about 700 percent, between August 2015 till date from avoidable deaths and medical conditions.

This factor is aided by the poor condition of the indigenes. Majority are abjectly poor and only a few can afford between N30,000 to N45,000 (which one needs, because of the topography of the area) for an emergency boat in case of an emergency.

It is a sorry state and situation. Aside operating the cottage hospital free of charge for all cadre of people, Tompolo also donated drugs, equipment, hospital consumables and beddings to some hospitals and health centers. These include Central hospital Warri Delta state, General Hospital Ekpan Delta state, General Hospital Ogbe Ijoh, Delta state.

Others are Cottage Hospital Ogulagha, Delta state; Primary Health Centre, Ugbokodo, Delta state; Primary Health Centre, Patani, Delta state; Primary Health Centre Yenezue Gene, Bayelsa state; and the Primary Health Centre, Abonema, Rivers state.

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