Health

INVESTIGATION: Bayelsa Govt. abandons Odi General Hospital to rot

17 Mins read

…it’s the fault of the govt., we have not done well, says Bayelsa’s former Commissioner for Health

…HMB should just shut down the facility, says a concerned doctor

Leaky roofs, damaged ceilings, rusty clinic beds, mushroom theatre, and more dilapidation – is the deplorable state of the Odi General Hospital, where patients, who otherwise should live, would die.

TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports the hospital, located in the Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area of Bayelsa State has been abandoned to rot by the State Government over the years.

The implication of the abandonment is not just that quality healthcare delivery is now far-flung from the people of a whole local government area; people living in the area now have to seek alternatives for healthcare services.

Worse is that, given the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health crisis ravaging the world today, the people of the area have no first point of call when there is an emergency or when a mere need arises, as findings reveal the hospital is the only general hospital available in the local government area.

By implication also, locals now have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get the littlest of healthcare service. But, there is even worse!

This is Odi General Hospital in Bayelsa State

This is Odi General Hospital in Bayelsa State

When TNG reporter visited the Odi General Hospital, the facility was nothing to write home about. The hospital that ideally receives referrals from all the healthcare centres in the local government, making it a very strategic hospital for the people of the area, is nothing, but a shadow.

“In fact, some poultry farms are better than the hospital. At a time we were even trying to see whether the HMB would just shut down the facility,” a staff who spoke under the condition of anonymity told TNG.

When TNG visited the hospital, there was, however, an ambulance on ground. TNG met on a phone call, a medical officer. There was also a uniformed nurse on ground, and two ladies dressed in mufti. There was no single patient on sight in the hospital.

Signpost of the Odi General Hospital

Signpost of the Odi General Hospital

At the first instance, standing in front of the entrance to the hospital, the impression was that there will be nobody in this place. The place looked more like a graveyard, deserted. But, on approach, the ambulance and the officer on a phone call were on sight. Also on sight were dilapidated structures, which were later clarified to be doctors and nurses quarters.

“Please do and discharge me, I am not comfortable here,” a patient told an officer at the hospital who asked not to be named.

The female ward of Odi General Hospital in Bayelsa State

The female ward of Odi General Hospital in Bayelsa State

TNG reports this is the same hospital the former Governor of the State, Seriake Dickson had in 2015 while flagging off the 58th edition of the famous Odi Ogori Ba Uge festival of Odi boasted to fix. He promised his administration would completely renovate the hospital to improve healthcare delivery in the area.

However, till date, with Douye Diri as the present Governor of the State, the hospital remains in its sorry state, and continued deterioration, and may remain so, long after Governor Diri has left office.

Meanwhile, Odi is the same Bayelsa community that was invaded and destroyed by the Nigerian military on the 20th of November 1999. While the FG said it has since compensated the community with over N15 billion and millions have gone down for supposed constituency projects in the area, the people continue to suffer from lack of healthcare services.

An officer, who granted an interview, but asked not to be named, narrated from genesis to revelation, how the sorry state of the Odi General Hospital came about.

This is the male ward of Odi General Hospital in Bayelsa State

This is the male ward of Odi General Hospital in Bayelsa State

“This place is the Odi General Hospital,” the officer opened up to TNG after much persuasion. After having to calm down, he said, “Most of the structures are dilapidated. Even our office, where we consult, is dilapidated”.

He went further to say, “this hospital is actually the only general hospital in this local government, that is, this Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area. Ideally, the hospital is supposed to receive referrals from all the health centres in the local government. If the case cannot be managed here, then, we can now refer to the teaching hospital at Okolobiri or FMC in Yenagoa.

“But, because of the dilapidated state of the hospital, the turn out of patients is not encouraging. There is an incident that happened here. A patient was brought from Yenagoa to this place for surgery. Getting to this place, the child looked at the hospital and said he cannot enter this place, that “daddy, are you taking me to this place? I can’t enter this place”. They took the child back, to tell you how bad it is”.

The officer told TNG that the Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area has a large population of people and that if the Odi General Hospital were fully functional, there was a considerable number of qualified personnel to cater for the health needs of the people.

“Then, also, except the accommodation and the state of the hospital, there is really nothing much, because the hospital has almost every hands to function well and compete with any hospital in the State. We have four medical officers, plus another Corper doctor, making five doctors in this place. There are six nurses here; then, the other health workers, then, the pharmacists. The laboratory has two scientists and two Corper scientists, making four laboratory scientists in this hospital.

“So, the place is well equipped in terms of manpower, just that the only challenge is the structure. People are discouraged by what they see. Most times, people wonder at this kind of place, if people are still here. They would say, “If I come here to treat malaria, I will still be attacked by mosquitoes”.

“But because the people have seen that the place is dilapidated, they don’t believe that there are qualified hands here. Because when they pass through the gate, they see the place as an abandoned place. So, they don’t even bother to come here to seek care.

“It is only a few of them, who have come here, and they met doctors and nurses, who attended to them very well, that still have the confidence to continue to come here. Or, once in a while they have financial challenges, they can now tell the person, “why not go to the general hospital, there are doctors there” before the person will now come. And when they come, they are amazed that there are actually health workers on the ground, who are even willing to work any time, any day.

“Some people will even confess to you that, in town, the news is different, that if you come here, there is nobody to attend to you. So, it is justified, because if the place, for example now, there are good structures, like the main hospital now, is renovated, painted, maybe there are walk paths in the hospital, there is a good gate there, by the time you are passing the place, you will know that government presence is here. Let it be as if you come to the hospital and there is nobody to attend to you.

“Maybe when we leave now you will now see what I mean by dilapidated. In one of our wards, the main ward, the ceilings have opened up, that even if you were on admission there, you will be afraid that in the next minute, the ceilings might cave in. So, the reason why sick people rarely patronize this hospital is justified,” the medical officer said.

The ceilings of Odi General Hospital are not better than this

The ceilings of Odi General Hospital are not better than this

He further told TNG that “the thing is the hospital has been in this condition for long. It is not something that just happened recently. Like these structures, these ones have been dilapidated for some years, from 2012 when they had that flood till now, and even before then, the place was already getting bad. So, over time, the people were already having the conception about this place, that this place is not functioning.

“So, some persons, when they are sick, especially the ones that have relatives outside, who can afford treatment outside, their first point of call is usually outside this place. But if the place is functioning the way it should, the community has a good population, and there are some communities linked to the community, I think they would be bringing in patients. It is only once in a while that we have referrals from health centres. Then, inside the town, there are some medicine dispensing stores where the people rather go to manage their health, but when they see no improvement, that is when they come to the hospital. Aside that one, nothing much”.

The doors leading to sections of the Odi General Hospital are not better than this one

The doors leading to sections of the Odi General Hospital are not better than this one.

Some residents of the community, who spoke with TNG, including the king, the Amanyanabo of Odi, HRH King Shine Apre, also told the sorry tales of the Odi General Hospital and its impact on the lives of the people.

According to the Amanyanabo of Odi, “The Odi General Hospital has been abandoned to rot. Our people have no alternative here than to seek healthcare elsewhere and the thing is Odi is far from the main town. We have had a case in which we lost a life before they could take the person to a hospital in Yenagoa. If the Odi hospital is functional as it should be, and that person was taken there first, I am sure the person would not have died”.

The narrative of Richman Dinipre, a member of the community was not different. He said, “The hospital is very bad. The residents and staff quarters, and even the main hospital building are dilapidated. Everything is bad there. All the whole houses, everything is bad. We are suffering because of it. There is nowhere for our people to seek medical care. Because the place is bad, our people go outside to receive treatment ordinarily they could have received at the hospital. People are scared to receive treatment at the hospital, but for someone like me, we still go there because it is our community”.

Also, Nelson Odoni, a pastor in the community lamented the state of the hospital, saying “The State of Odi General Hospital is very poor. No life there. No equipment in that place. I do visit the place to pray for people. People are complaining. The personnel there are trying their best, but you know they need equipment to do the job. People who do go there do not complain of the workers but always complain about the dilapidated structures. Once you go there once, you won’t want to go there the next time because of the nature of structures at the hospital”.

A tour of the facility shows the sorry state of the Odi General Hospital as seen in the video below [PRESS PLAY]:

It’s the fault of the government, we have not done well, says Bayelsa’s former Commissioner for Health

Meanwhile, Bayelsa’s former Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Nicholas Etebu, who is the Acting Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the Bayelsa Medical University (BMU), has faulted the State Government over the situation of the Odi General Hospital.

While speaking to TNG on some factors that contributed to the disintegration of most of the structures of the hospital, the former Commissioner for Health said, the State Government failed to release funds needed to change the fortune of the hospital. He revealed to TNG that N50 million had been budgeted over the years for the renovation of the hospital.

“You know Odi is in the Niger Delta. When the road was built, the Odi-Trofani road, they sand-filled the road, and it became far and above sea level. So, the hospital now became very far below the level of the road. The road caused some embankment and dyking. When it floods, the hospital floods too. That has contributed to the disintegration of most of the structures.

“I was Commissioner for Health. The State Government had a budget to fix it but unfortunately, the immediate past Governor did not release funds. He could not do much for the paucity of funds. So, that is where it is. We are hoping that the new government will release those funds because it has been in the budget for many years. So, that is the situation. It is not anybody’s fault. It is the fault of the government. The government has not risen up to the occasion,” he told TNG.

The former Commissioner, now acting VC of BMU went further to say that, “Out of the N50 million budgeted, if the government is releasing N10 million a year, it would have gone a long way but no releases were made. So, nothing happened. But I believe the present government, as it is, something positive would be done.

“Ordinarily, it is not supposed to be like that. Budgets do not need to run on the wings and caprices of the Governor. Budgets are estimates that are done by the various ministries and if the budget is to be implemented, it should be so implemented in stages, in phases as the case may be. But in Nigeria these days, it does not happen that way.

“For me as a Bayelsan, we have not done very well. We have done very badly. We have done badly in terms of our developmental indexes. We have the derivation; our allocation is more compared to other States created when Bayelsa was created. They have done well far better than Bayelsa.

“If you go to places like Ebonyi that are created at the same time as Bayelsa, if you see development there, you will be marvelled. Go to Kogi, see development there, you will be marvelled. Yet these States get almost, maybe one-quarter of what we get as monthly allocation.

“If you juxtaposed that with what is happening, it means we have a problem. The problem is that of leadership. When we have good leadership, we will get good development. Bayelsa has not lived up to the money accrued the State”.

Giving an insight into how long the Odi General Hospital has been left to rot, Etebu said, “If I cast my mind back, if I follow the calendar of the government in terms of who has been in government and all that, it has been like that after the destruction of Odi. After the destruction, the hospital, nothing has been done there. So, if you count from then till now, you can now have an estimate as of how long the hospital has been in that state. It has been long.

“I have been in government, I have ran institutions, what I noticed, particularly at the State level, is that there is no maintenance culture. You do not just have a building and you think the building will just remain the same forever. So, there is supposed to be a provision for maintenance budget. No maintenance funds in most of our budgets.

“Nobody talks about maintenance and that goes across board. Come to even the cities, you will see the roads are dilapidated and potholes-ridden. There is the ministry of works but nothing is being done. It is as if nobody is seeing. There is a local government, same thing, the local government does nothing. From the state government down to the local government, there is a disaster in Nigeria”.

HMB should just shut down the facility, says a concerned doctor

Visibly troubled by the state of the Odi General Hospital, the staff who spoke under the condition of anonymity told TNG it would have been better if the Hospital Management Board (HMB) shut down the hospital totally.

“The truth of the matter is that we are tired of the Odi General Hospital. The State Government knows the state of the hospital. The Hospital Management Board (HMB) that posted us there knows the state of the hospital. What we have on ground at the hospital is nothing to write home about. In fact, some poultry farms are better than the hospital.

“The impact of the bad hospital on the lives of the people is something you cannot underestimate. It is very obvious that for the fact that a general hospital is in such a very bad shape and no one seems to be bothered is alarming. The community people cannot enjoy good health services. To worsen the situation, most of them try helping themselves by registering for their BHIS [Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme] at other facilities like the ones in Okolobiri and Sagbama, thereby making the patient turn out to be very very low.

“No matter what you do in that place, some persons come around they look at it and they say, I cannot sleep in this kind of place. No matter how you try to encourage them to say they can receive good treatment despite the nature of the place, they refuse to stay. So, the thing is a lose-lose situation for the community and even the workers that are there.

“At a time we were even trying to see whether HMB can shut down the facility. When they shut down the facility, the government can then do the needful, and then they can now start talking about employing people for the facility afresh. The present condition of the hospital is so appalling. It is so devastating. It is not something anybody can wish for his enemy,” the staff said.

The staff further stated, “I do not know how it got this bad but it is just so bad that the community is really suffering from it because they cannot get quality medical services because the facility on the ground cannot provide that for them. It is not possible. So, the impact is enormous. It is not something they can imagine. You can imagine that antenatal mothers cannot access that place. They end up going to other places to deliver. On their way, some have issues. Some even go where they won’t get help on time compared to if they could access Odi General Hospital.

“Imagine indigenes of the community trying to access the place but they can’t be safe in the facility. They end up patronizing traditional birth attendants, patronizing local health attendants for things that medical officials were posted there to do. The picture is very horrible. It is not something anybody knows when it is going to end. How can a patient stay in a ward and be afraid that a cat or a snake can emerge from somewhere to attack you? There have been occasions when snakes were killed in our wards”.

The battle to revive Odi General Hospital

However, the anonymous staff also spoke with TNG on the way forward for the hospital. He urged the State Government to do the needful.

“The government knows what to do. They should do the needful. Since 2012, apart from then, until now, the place has been this way. The community and the people have lost hope and confidence in the place. Had it been the number of civil servants both active and retired, had it been they all register to use that general hospital, the only hospital in the local government, because of the capitation of BHIS, whether they come or they do not come, the hospital would have been entitled to that capitation.

“We could have been using such resources to be doing little stuff on our own. But, the civil servants preferred Okolobiri and Sagbama because of the state of the hospital, making the recovery level of the hospital even more difficult, because every hospital now is living on BHIS, whether patients come or not. No general hospital is receiving less than N600,000.00 from BHIS. Some are even N900,000.00 and over a million naira. But, Odi is less than N200,000.00. By the time you buy BHIS drugs of N150,000.00, what can you do?

“When I spoke with the king at a time, I told him it is going to be very difficult for the hospital to bounce back. First of all, they have to build new structures and restructure the place. After then, they would have to put town crying and involve all indigenes of Odi, both serving and retired under BHIS, to go back to BHIS and tell them to reschedule them back to their general hospital from wherever they have been partaking in the BHIS.

“That is the only way that place can become lively again. If not, no matter what you do there, people would say the structure is not good so they will have a good reason not to come to the hospital. Second, when you are through with the structure, you will now have to battle with the mind to convince them that the place is better off now and that there are good doctors on the ground.

“Then, we now go to BHIS to seek to transfer Odi people back to their own general hospital. That is what will give that place a boost. Had it been it has been the normal practice that any place that you are working as a medical doctor, you have skills, you will attract patients and people to attend your hospital because they love what you are doing, it is no longer like that. There is no money in town. Everybody is like if you go through BHIS, BHIS will pay your bills so long you are registered under the BHIS. So, everybody is thinking towards that direction. Any hospital that does not have BHIS file, it is very difficult. More so that we are in a dilapidated structure,” he said.

A dilapidated building that is supposed to be the doctors quaters of the Odi General Hospital

A dilapidated building that is supposed to be the doctors quarters of the Odi General Hospital.

Also, the officer who asked not to be named pointed out to TNG the big challenge of the hospital and urged the government to give the hospital a facelift.

“But one very big challenge we have here is accommodation for the staff. Like, over there, if you look there, you will see two building without roofs. That place is supposed to be the doctors’ quarter and the nurses’ quarter. For now, it means the doctors and the nurses do not have a place in the hospital. For now, the nurses are trying to manage with the other health workers, like the health assistants by managing this other quarter.

Another dilapidated building that is meant to be the nurses quarters of the Odi General Hospital

Another dilapidated building that is meant to be the nurses quarters of the Odi General Hospital

“On our own part here, we have tried our best, and still trying, to make sure that this place functions. Like in the early part of this month, we did an outreach. The essence of the outreach was like let us have a kind of rapport with the people, where we can discuss with them, and tell them, we have doctors here, we have nurses, we have everything, why are you people not coming. After the outreach, there was a little turn-up, but it is not like how a hospital should be. The local government and even this community are big. There is no way you will say people are not sick, just that they don’t have confidence here, rather their confidence is in somewhere else. Either they prefer the medicine dispensing shops or they move to Yenagoa.

“What the government can do for us is just to give the place a facelift. Once this place gets a facelift, it will begin functioning fully. Previously, before the place got to this extent, the place was actually booming. The hospital was functioning to its full capacity, and then, the place started coming down, until this stage now. Like today now, today is our antenatal. But, how many patients have I seen? Not up to ten in a community as big as this. It means something is wrong.

“The only thing government should do is give the hospital a facelift, and the rest can be sorted out. Once the people see that the place is looking beautiful, appealing to the eyes, they will come, because most persons, for example now, if you are being treated of malaria, and the whole ceiling is open, and even the person that is taking care of the patient is even afraid that the ceiling may fall on them, when you admit the patient, the patient will be like, please do and discharge me, I am not comfortable here.

“The government should just do little renovation and provide accommodation. Once the accommodation is there, people will stay. Everybody will be on the ground. That is the challenge of this place,” the medical officer narrated.

Meanwhile, Pastor Odoni said prayers are that God will visit those in the government so that they can come to change the fortune of the hospital.

“We are praying for God to visit those in the government. God should touch their hearts for them to remember to put the hospital in order because it is the only hospital available here, and could be the best if only the government can put it in order. The workers at the hospital are very active. The problem there is the structures and the equipment the personnel need to work with,” he said.

On his part, the Amanyanabo of Odi, HRH King Shine Apre, while addressing the situation of the hospital with TNG, appealed to the State Government to come to the rescue of the hospital.

“I am making my appeal to the government to come to rescue the hospital. The government needs to come and see the present state of the Odi General Hospital. The government should come. The hospital needs general renovation. The hospital is bad. No good thing in that hospital is acceptable to human living,” he said.

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