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Has Uzodinma bitten hard chunk from Imo health sector?

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Uzodinma

Imo State, South East Nigeria, is blessed with leaders who have bold ideas. But in the end, most of the leaders wear the toga of the Biblical sower, most of whose seeds were at the mercy of birds, thorns and dry land, leaving an insignificant portion for the fertile soil.

Only the likes of the late Samuel Mbakwe from Obowo seem to be different. It was Mbakwe who, in the 1980s, taxed each family in Imo N5 (yes N5, which cannot buy anything now) with which he built the only airport in the state. That was during the Shehu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria (NPN) administration, when Imo was in the opposition Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP). Since then, Imo had been searching for another ‘Dee Sam Mbakwe’.

Just last month, precisely January 14, the unexpected happened in Imo; the rejected stone emerged the cornerstone. Then Senator Hope Uzodinma, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, who was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the third runner-up in the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election, was declared the “duly-elected governor” by the Supreme Court. He replaced Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who occupied the seat for less than eight months.

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Immediately Uzodinma was sworn in the next day, he hit the ground running. In his maiden broadcast to Imo people, he came with those bold ideas characteristic of Imo leaders. It was an enticing piece, which left most citizens wondering whether he had not bitten more than he could chew.

He began with recalling his promises in his manifesto, which many had forgotten. The speech was relatively lengthy, touching every aspect of life in Imo.

Rule of law, workers’ welfare, housing, education, technology, employment, economy, health etc were captured in the bold statement. Fact is, if those ideas are seen through, even the devil cannot stop Imo from turning to El Dorado.

This piece will just look at just one item in the list, the most important, which is health. Education is not the most important because an average Imo man believes that education should be paid for, since ignorance is expensive too.

Before now, Imo only heard without seeing. When Rochas Okorocha, who many saw as the messiah, came, he boasted that after him, no Imo governor would think of building any hospital in 50 years. He laid foundation for one general hospital in each of the 27 councils and followed it up with the announcement of N250 million as the start-up capital for health insurance scheme in the state.

Later, with the claim that the state had no money to finance the health sector, he planned to concession Imo hospitals for 25 years.

Eight years down the line, Imo people knew where they found themselves.

To be fair, seven months is not enough to assess Ihedioha; though in his ‘Rebuild Imo’ agenda, he kicked off the health insurance scheme, which Okorocha mouthed, and declared free primary healthcare in the state.

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However, Uzodinma’s speech painted him as the knight in shining armour. He urged Imolites to join him in the factory room to build a “new Imo of our common dream”.

The beautiful package he came with for the health sector, though humongous, is realistic, if he continues the way he started, and with the help of the right human resources. With his Master’s degree in Human Relations from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), it is believed that he will assemble the best hands to achieve his goals for Imo.

Comprehensive medical care with focus on primary healthcare and preventive medical services is not rocket science; it just needs political will.

The governor promised, “Within the first two years of this administration, we would have attained 75 per cent Health For All (HEFA), covering the 27 councils.

“We shall recruit 850 community health workers to strengthen existing primary health care workforce in the state in the first year.

“In collaboration with the councils, we shall rehabilitate, renovate and equip all dilapidated community health centres in the 305 wards of the state, within the first one year in office.”

Most Imo people believe that ousted Ihedioha also had a good package in the ‘Rebuild Imo’ agenda, so Uzodinma would do well to borrow some of his good ideas, especially in the health sector, after all governance is about continuity.

To run an integrated and holistic healthcare delivery system with modern diagnostic equipment in select general hospitals and health centres, the governor is believed to know better since he is widely travelled. Such is taken for granted overseas where most of our politicians go for medicare and holidays.

In the speech, Governor Uzodinma promised to: “Provide a well-equipped Rapid Response Ambulance Services (RAMS) in the zonal divisional hospitals, and central rural health centres to enhance an efficient health support in all the councils; establish a value-based healthcare as opposed to the present ‘fee for performance healthcare model’; and “establish Drug Revolving Trading Accounts (DRTA) in the hospitals, and health centres for ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ drugs, to ensure adequate stock of life-saving drugs.”

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Another sweet step he promised to take is the restoration of the sanitary health inspector, known in local parlance as ‘nwa ole ala’. With the inspector, you don’t need to chase people around to keep their surroundings clean; residents would do it even when no one is watching, or they keep fine for government when the inspector calls, most times unannounced.

He also promised to establish criteria for research and integration of alternative medicine (trado-medicine) into the new Imo medical practices.

“The Imo State University (IMSU) College of Medicine, and the teaching hospital at Orlu, the Public Health Laboratory, and the specialist hospitals in Owerri shall be equipped for laser surgeries, as well as serve as regional medical informatics centres, for the South East.”

I heard the governor talk about existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with General Electric (GE) and Howard International Medical Centre, both in the United States, that would be invoked for the rehabilitation of medical equipment in Imo hospitals. Sounds like music in the ear.

Bold ideas from a senator-turned-governor.

His critics may take the speech for another political statement. But Uzodinma has the opportunity to change the narrative, and he looks good to. He can prove to his critics, especially those who expect him to fail, that he is still ‘Onwa n’etiri oha’ by seeing through these bold ideas. He can do it.

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