By Andem Offiong
As a child, if you had the option of either being born in Cross River or any other state in the country, where would you rather prefer?
No doubt, many a child would gladly jump at the prospect of being born in Cross River for obvious reason.
Any child born in Nigeria today has the most chances of survival in Cross River state, according to a survey carried out by UNICEF and the federal government.
The result of the survey is not a happenstance. Rather, it is the culmination of the policies and investments made in the sector by the state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade the past three years.
As such if the governor boasts that Cross River is the safest state for children and infants in Nigeria today, he is not being bombastic.
He stands on a solid pedestal of verifiable facts because in today’s Cross River, infant and child mortality is almost zero.
The feat is in line with Ayade’s vow that parents will no longer suffer bereavement on the account of avoidable death of children and infants. He said he does not want to see parents’ tears anymore. And indeed, tears and anguish arising from loss of children are fast becoming alien to Cross River because Governor Ayade is walking the talk in the health sector.
In the state, pregnant women and children not older than five years get free medical care, new hospitals are springing up across the state, including hard to reach areas, existing hospitals are being renovated and equipped, state of the art medical equipment are being procured, health officers are being trained and retrained, accreditations have been secured for hitherto unaccredited training institutions.
Shortly after assuming office as governor, he lifted embargo on employment in the state health sector, beefed up boarders security in collaboration with WHO to curb disease migration and influx and launched Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, first in any Southern State and 4th in the country with donation of vehicles to ease work of the centre, especially in the area of tackling disease outbreaks
Interestingly, it is not only the UNICEF report that is giving credence to the good works going on in the state. This is because the state has lately received accolades locally and internationally for the amazing exploits in the health sector.
Some of these awards include the World Bank award in partnership with the Federal Government as the Best Performing state in health in the South-South region and one of the best six states in the country.
The World Bank award, which is in recognition of the effort of the state government in combating diseases and health challenges in the state across board, did not come as a surprise.
Cross River State is today unarguably the best state in the South-South region with a track record of breaking new grounds and reaching new heights with the shrewdness and innovativeness of a highly competent workforce manning the health sector.
The state has also won awards from Thisday Newspaper, Independent Newspaper, Cross River watch, among others as the best performing state on Key Maternal newborn and child health indicators.
Professor Ayade’s unprecedented exploits in the health sector have led to a deliberate re-configuration of Cross River’s healthcare sector, bringing about a conducive and robust system that has ensured tremendous improvement in healthcare.
For example, he created the Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Climate Change Department in the Cross River State Ministry of Health and established the State Public Hospital Management Board. And for the first time in many decades, Cross River now has a revised Strategic Health Development Plan.
Establishment of new health facilities and revival of hitherto moribund ones loudly feature in the governor’s exploits in the health sector. This explains reason the administration renovated 196 PHC facilities and provided sophisticated medical equipment, solar power refrigerators and motorized boreholes. These feats can be noticed in Enegheje PHC, Ikom CHC, Calabar South, among other urban centres in the state.
Governor Ayade just also ordered the immediate overhaul of Ambulances and other serviceable vehicles that have been in a state of disrepair for years.
Presently, construction of three referral hospitals, one in each of the three senatorial districts is ongoing. He has also secured accreditation for the General Hospital Calabar for housemanship training.
Additionally, Professor Ayade has made available more hostels for all medical officers. Specifically, a dilapidated 16-Room hostel block at 7 Esighi Street Calabar has been renovated to provide accommodation for doctors on housemanship at General Hospital Calabar.
For quality healthcare delivery, three clinical laboratories in the General Hospital, Calabar, Dr Lawrence Memorial Hospital Calabar and St Joseph Hospital, Ikot Ene have been upgraded with automated equipment in line with NBTE standard.
In addition, General Hospital Calabar now enjoys functional haemodialysis unit. Endoscopy unit has equally been activated at the hospital.
Clinical governance and e-health are key in modern health care delivery hence in Ayade’s Cross River; all the secondary health facilities in the state enjoy the services in addition to focal persons protecting patients’ rights.
In line with the administration’s resolve to ensure that public health institutions in the state are equipped with much need facilities to aide Healthcare delivery, there is now functional X-ray equipment in four state General Hospitals, (Ukem) Odukpani, Calabar, Ugep and Ogoja.This is a major departure from what obtained before Ayade came on board when most public hospitals were mere empty buildings, bereft of needed medical equipment.
In pursuit of his policy against infant and mother mortality in the state, there is a medical welfare programme wherein pregnant women and children not older than five years enjoy free medical care.
This policy is helped by the renovation and handover of the postnatal ward of three general hospitals – Calabar, Ugep and Ogoja.
In order to complement this policy, the governor launched the universal healthcare insurance dubbed Ayadecare, which gives access to Medicare to all persons in the state, including those without income.
There is also the Ayadecare home service where Medicare is taken to the door step of the poor and those living in difficult to reach areas.
As it stands, Cross River is the only state in the South South to win the bid for the MTNF support project.
All round revolution in the health sector in Cross River by Professor Ayade’s administration has given birth to the first ever functional eye care hospital in the state situated at college of Health Technology and General hospital Calabar where a number of surgeries performed increased from 5, 223 in 2014 to 29,192 in 2017 representing 458.42% increment. Another first in that sector is the multi drugs resistance Tuberculosis treatment unit second to one in South Africa at Dr Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital, Calabar.
A number of committees and groups have been inaugurated to give fillip to the administration’s health care drive. These include: TB/HIV Technical Working Group, NTD Technical Advisory committee, zero morbidity from Guinea worm infection team, response Team for the lasser fever among others. Government has equally put mechanisms on ground to tackle pre-natal health issues via the establishment of pre-natal Diseases Surveillance Response.
The nursing profession is also at the heart of Professor Ayade’s health blitz hence, among others, he ensured accreditation for the six schools of midwifery and schools of Nursing in the state was obtained. Similarly, the governor awarded scholarship to Nurse Tutors in Training Institutions to regain the Accreditations.
In the same vein, he has approved the implementation of Task Shifting /Sharing policy by training 50 Nurses and midwives in the 10 pilot local government areas of the State on treatment of pre- eclampsia and eclampsia as well as training 50 Nurses and midwives and 50 CHEWS /CHO on new born care.
Setting up of Human Resource for Health unit in PRS State Ministry of Health has helped to bridge the gap between partners, donors and NGOs in health. This is directly connected to the development of ward/community health committees across the State.
In addition to this, the need to ensure every community in Cross River has easy access to quality health care accounted for government’s decision to donate lands for building of health facilities in all the local government areas of the state under World Bank Assisted Community and social development programme. Government is equally into partnership with the Mediatrix Development Foundation (MDF), Her Excellency, Dr Linda Ayade’s pet project, Nigerian army, Nigerian Army wives Association, Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN), Cross River Chapter, professional bodies and organizations, Lions Club, Rotary club and other partners and NGOs to carry medical outreaches, treatment and humanitarian services.
Ayade is leading the fight against NTDs towards the 2020 elimination. In furtherance of this, the governor recently made a presentation at the NTDs forum in Geneva, Switzerland with the nomination of Dr Inyang Asibong, Commissioner for Health as a member of the WHO International Working Group on Investment for Impact.
Under Ayade’s guidance, two local governments in the state have gained international recognition for achieving a health feat. Essentially, Obanliku Local Government is the first council in West Africa to be certified open defection free while Calabar Municipal is the first city in the world close to achieving 90:90:90 HIV /AID target.
Indeed, as a Professor of Microbiology, Ayade is Champion in health care delivery and the people of Cross River across ethnic and political affiliations say health delivery has never been this rosy and efficient in the state. They agree that Governor Ayade’s health sector exploits have raised the bar of health sector performance and saved many lives. And for this, they root for his return as governor in 2019.