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Dominic Ukpong: If my father wasn’t firm with me, I would be a rascal today

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 Brilliant, Daring, Brazen Activist, He exudes an unusual opium of cheerfulness, focus, resilience, hubris and infantile gratitude. Dominic Ukpong, an ex-student of St Patrick’s college, Calabar, graduated with MB,BS., from the University of Benin, Benin City Nigeria, in 1976. He is a Chief Consultant Occupational Physician with a Diploma in Industrial Health, (DIH), from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He also holds certificates in Diving Medicine from the University of Aberdeen,(1990); Advanced Trauma and Life Support, (ATLS) from the Witwatersrand University, Region Houghton, Gauteng, Republic of South Africa;He is currently a certified trainer in ATLS. He also trained in Advanced Burns Management, from St Andrews Hospital, North East Thames Burns unit, Billericay, Essex, UK; and Surgical Intensive Cardiac care in Jackson Memorial University, Miami Florida, USA. Growing up as a restless, energetic yet fearful child under the ironclad hands of his Late father, he played soccer on the street, shot catapults to kill birds, territorially defended and fought on behalf of the oppressed. Welcome to the world of a man of many firsts, Dr Dominic Ukpon. The  current National Chairman of SOEHPON, the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria  comes across as interesting as his name. For decades, the Calabar born medical expert has been at the forefront of the direct-pay health care movement. He has worked at the clinical and policy levels to, as he says, “move direct practice away from the fringes and into the mainstream.” He is a digital health pioneer and a visionary, holistic in outlook and committed to innovation. As a pioneer, he challenged ExxonMobil Nigeria, his former medical establishment to adopt technologies that will improve efficiency, lower costs and make treatments more accessible and effective. In an interview with Iriagbonse Ose and Opemipo Akinsoyinu,and Damilola Ogunnaike, The former Nigerian Medical Association,(NMA), Chairman of Cross River State,  and First NMA Chairman, National Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association Committee for the Regulation of Private Medical Practice in Nigeria, speaks about 30 years stint as Former Group Medical Director ExxonMobil, his evolving vision for digital health, and why primary care will experience a rebirth under his watch as Commissioner for Health,  Life in Government,being a Pastor, and how he readily shows warmth and affection to his loving wife….

 

  • I got married purely out of physical attraction.
  • After the first three years, I’ve afterwards enjoyed great peace like never imagined in my life, having had a bad experience in the past.
  • Our parents are late so she can only be my mother, and I her father.
  • The joy of a Granddad is the greatest joy if all.
  • I have come to know the importance of marriage when I begin to feel concerned about the safety and health of my partner. I don’t want my partner to be sick, as I cannot imagine her dying to leave me, or leaving without her. Then I realize, two are better than one. All our children are gone. When we climb the staircase, we sing just the two of us. She doesn’t joke with me, neither do I joke with her. We both care for each other.

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Did you venture into going into Medicine from childhood, and at what point did you know you were sold out to Medicine?

I didn’t venture into Medicine. It was a direct choice. I was a very brilliant student and was always topping the class as First. I won a lot of prices both in sports and academics. Because of these performances, I was always made the class prefect.  My father was happy about my performance, but he always told me that he believed my classmates were very unintelligent and that was why I come first all the time. In the house, I was very rascally and there were some questions he asked me in simple mathematics I couldn’t answer. The reason I couldn’t answer the questions weren’t because I didn’t know them, it was because there was always a cane beside him. And if I missed any mathematical question, I would receive several strokes of the cane. There was a book called Simple Mathematics by Peter Larcombe commonly referred to as Larcombe's, and in it were 10 questions to solve always after every exercise. My dad did not allow me to sit down to work them instead, he would hold the book and read the question for me to answer off-heart.  And I could have with just a little thinking because I was very brilliant. But because if I failed any, he would flog me, so each time he asked me about the question I was not thinking about the question but the cane. And the cane surely came in torrents. He felt because I couldn’t answer those questions, for me to be first in class, simply proved my classmates were the most stupid, unintelligent and definitely duller pupils than me, so he changed me from that school to another reputedly better one The sacred Heart school, Calabar, where prominent students have passed through. I went there and from the first term, I took the first position until standard 6. In standard 6, only two of us had grade one school leaving certificates. And then, I passed common entrance into King's College Lagos. I was second nationally. But I refused to go there because, I didn’t know much about the school apart from the fact that it is a government college which provided amenities. I preferred St Patrick’s College which was nearer me. They had very good soccer teams and a school band. So those things put together endeared me to the school. Throughout my stay, I was always the class prefect. At the end, I became the school prefect. I was the Chairman Discipline Committee, Head of the Band, the best student throughout-before and after the war. After 30 months of war, some students from other schools joined in Calabar and one of them, Captain Augustine Okon, the Founder of the defunct ADC, Dr Edet Esara and I were classmates.  In the war time, there were only three of us in that region that came out with grade one results.

In the college days, because I was an all-rounder, it was a bit confusing. My  Physics Lecturer tended to influence me, he said I was going to be a good Physicist, the Mathematics teacher said I was going to be a great Mathematician, same with the biologist because I could draw well the parts of the human body and always got good grades. But I began to think about Engineering, as I was interested because of those abbreviations of their specialties. It seemed to have the best and the longest titles. But as I went further, I realised that my interest was more in human beings.

I was the youngest and I must say a great football star in the school team. I played for Calabar town, South East Academicals and we came to Lagos to play Ibadan, the defending champions. I played for Customs, Central bank, Mobil and became a coach and team manager for Mobil Pegasus club, University of Calabar staff club, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ife when I went to study Pharmacy and later withdrew to study Medicine. I was in the team that used to contest seriously against Ghana. We used to play competitions in Onikan Stadium. It was in the cause of that, I dislocated my knee in one of the matches we were defeated. There I played number 2, left full back.

In the cause of playing these games in school, I lost my knee and the Doctor who treated me, Dr Paul Niya, the first Black Chief Medical Director of Shell Medical Services. He was a Senior Alumnus of St Patrick’s college and when they had a major anniversary, we played the music for them while they were having the luncheon, and I was commanding the band. I never knew he noticed me. So when in the football pitch, I dislocated my knee and was taken to him, he recognised me and asked if I was the one who directed the band and I said yes. He said I was very good and I played soccer, for that reason he was going to be my friend, and he was going to mentor me. And he mentored me. Since then, he became a great father to me. He is one of the finest Doctors I have ever met. It was he who made me realign my thoughts in the area of my choice of medicine, and so I went on to do medicine at the University of Benin. I would leave Benin for Warri where he was working and he would make me assist in surgeries, he taught me a lot and I became very proficient and well ahead of my counterparts in class. Warri is about an hour from Benin, and every weekend, I spent with him. Being a Doctor for me is borne of an inner feeling of serving people, helping people who are sick. It comes very naturally to me. That may have been what I have been called to be, and the earlier childhood distractions came because I am equally good at all the other subjects.

 

One thing that strikes me is the relationship between you and your father before your self-discovery.  There was a breathing fear and trepidation at the mention of his name. Is he still alive?

My father is late. He died 4 years ago. Without any fear of contradiction, if my dad wasn’t firm on me I wouldn’t be a Doctor today. I probably wouldn’t be anything but a radical. I was a very restless child who spent most his time playing soccer on the street, shooting catapults to kill birds, fighting on behalf of the oppressed to defend the defenceless. I was very physically strong as a child. I didn’t go to find peoples' trouble, but I hated people intimidating others. If as a child, I wasn’t controlled, I may have likely deviated thus been a criminal easily. My father saw that and didn’t tolerate it. The only way he could keep me in line to focus, and get my energy aligned, was to prevent me from going astray, was with the cane. He discovered I was afraid of it, and also enticed me with gifts. I was very interested in soccer, and he used the promise of buying me a pair of boots to make me continually lead in class. And then when he looks at the report card and I scored 92, he says it’s not good until I hit the 100 mark. So, I kept on trying to get a ninety close to hundred, in order to get the pair of boots. By the time I grew out of the boots, he promised a bicycle which was a good attraction. I never got the bicycle until I got to the University, where it was bought for me in Zaria. He noticed the things I wanted, and he kept them at a distance for me to stretch and reach. Unlike now that many parents don’t flog, that’s why many children are wayward and out of reach. If you cane a child now, it pays.  There are many ways to correct a child. But for some children like me, who are stubborn, the cane prevented me from doing naughty things, because I know if and when my father comes back, he would not spare me of. I had to thank him physically, tried to reward him in every way by caring for him as he aged because he made me behave. Today, I know God and I am a Christian.

When you juxtapose side by side your training as a child under the tutelage of your father, and how you have equally brought up your own children, what particular traits do your see been passed on, and do you see a lot of you in your children?

My son is a carbon copy of me because he loved dancing, was rascally and stubborn, but independent minded. One has to really convince him about something, else he won’t do it. When he was younger he used to carry out my instructions because I said it, but I could see it in his eyes that he was just obeying and that when he grows up, he’ll make up his mind whether he wants to do what I say or not. And today, I see that clearly because he takes his decisions, some of which I don’t like. I talk to him as an adult and he shrugs his shoulders meaning he doesn’t accept it. I don’t feed him, so he does what he wants to do. Sometimes, in very many cases, he’s confessed that my opinion turned out better, and now seeks my opinions on many things. When he was young, I also had the cane, I didn’t do too differently. I was a Christian. The use of the cane was less frequent, as I balanced same with talking. Learning from my experience, I didn’t want him to lose focus because he saw the cane beside me. In very many ways, he was a team leader. Academically he was a very brilliant child, but didn’t focus very well and didn’t score a first class as he wanted.

My daughters are gentle, with a strong mind. They resemble me. The first two are in Canada, while the third child is a Medical Doctor here in Nigeria. She is married and works with Lagoon Hospitals. She is the most obedient and gentle of them. She’ll ask me questions, but she tends to take everything I say hook-line-sinker-fisherman-boat -and sea. She is a totally submissive and a very gentle woman. The husband is enjoying her and adores me because of her.

On the home front, I reckon you’ve been married for years. How has it been in marriage-the experience?

I had a first marriage, which crumbled. I got married when I didn’t know and understand God’s purpose. I got married purely out of physical attraction. As a youth, I was blessed. I got out of University and got a good job, and was well paid. So I had a lot of problems, some which almost caused me my life. I got out of that marriage and got married to my wife whom God has blessed me with. I’ve had peace. Initially, because of the age difference, we had some teething problems. The disparity in ages and generational differences can cause problems in a marriage. After the first three years, we’ve afterwards enjoyed great peace like I never imagined in my life, having had a bad experience in the past. I have peace and joy. We are friends, conversant, partners, brother and sister. Our parents are late so she can only be my mother, and I, her father. We understand ourselves a lot. I have come to know the importance of marriage when I begin to feel concerned about the safety and health of my partner. I don’t want my partner to be sick, as I cannot imagine her dying to leave me, or living without her. Then I realise, two are better than one. All our children are gone. When we climb the staircase, we sing just the two of us. She doesn’t joke with me, neither do I joke with her. We both care for each other.

How does it feel being a Grandfather?

The joy of a granddad is the greatest joy of all. I did not understand it until I had one. I recall that when I heard my wife delivered my first child, a son, in Uyo. I was in Lagos at the office. I had initially stayed over the weekend for three days, thinking she’ll deliver as she had labour pains. On waiting without the baby coming, I came back to Lagos hoping that they’ll call me and I’ll fly back because our company had a private plane. But they didn’t call me until the morning she delivered. I picked my phone and called my dad who was the territorial controller of P&T based in Marina, Lagos. I worked at the C.M.S.  Bookshop junction, where Mobil was then, back in the day. I called him to give him the news and my father was so overjoyed, he screamed ‘I am a Grandfather, I am a grandfather’ on and on and started to talk to some other persons underground in Yoruba language till he dropped. In that joy, he forgot me on the phone. It was about an hour after, he called to apologise and asked about the name of the child. I told him we had already given the name because they wanted the name at the hospital. When he asked me for the name and I replied- Dominic Ukpong Jnr. He said asked me how many of us does he have, and my reply was seven. He asked which one of us, had he named after himself. I said none. And he asked me to change the name, saying that boy is named after me, and his name is Ukpong. The love he had for the boy vis-a-vis, was so much that when the boy had a misunderstanding with me, he said I love my grandfather, I don’t love you. Till he died, they were best of friends. When my granddaughter was born, I couldn’t take my mind of the feeling until my daughter said, daddy, I am still your daughter. I said, yes I know.  The feeling is inexplicable. I don’t want any harm to come to my grandchild because of her innocence. Grandchildren know that their grandpa’s love them a lot.

One of the things which played up in your childhood is your love for music. Do you still play music and what kind of music do you like and listen to?

As a young man not knowing the Lord, I was a great dancer, disc jockey and used to organise a lot of parties. I had dozens of cassettes. For my parties, I would sit through days, and arrange them to flow into each other, so that when they start dancing there is no break.  I learnt and sang a lot of those songs. When I became a born again Christian, because of the content of some of the songs were not clean, as some tended towards sexuality, some vulgar, It took me not to long to detach from them. I now had to retrain my mind to learn Christian songs, some of which were boring to me before. Not too long, I began to realise those worship songs were great and I love them. I sing them in the church today as a Pastor. I still love songs.

At what time did you tend towards that spiritual inclination? Was there a defining moment?

From my childhood, I was religious without really working in the way of God. I would have been wearing the cassock as a reverend Father. I went that far. My father was a lay reader in the Anglican Church and I was a Catholic in school. I was a Mass server. I used to serve the 6am mass which lasted one hour in the 50’s. I trekked about 7miles from home to the church, served the mass and went straight to school across the road to the cathedral. I stayed after school to serve the benediction. There I learnt cathchicism, studied to be baptized and my name was changed to Dominic. I was then confirmed as Patrick. I was religious in all those areas. In standard 6, a young priest came from England, and I wanted to be like the Reverend father. So, 3 of us went and talked to him. We decided to arrange the forms to attend the Seminary. The problem I had on the day we completed the forms, very mysteriously my father was with a good friend of his who commended me as a religious young boy who loved God a lot. And then surprising to me, amidst his friends, he turned to me and said whatever you do, don’t become a Reverend Father. You must have a child and marry. The day I hear you mention priesthood, I will break your head. I had just done that in school, and so I left scared. The next day I went back to the reverend father and told him about my ordeal. He said don’t worry we will convince him. But I knew he couldn’t convince my father because he was the only son of his father, and so he saw me as the second son of the family. He was very emphatic and I knew he meant what he said, so I dare not go there. So, I went into college thinking I will go to the senior seminary, but it didn’t work. We used to have very solemn periods in the catholic church, and before we finished, the war struck, then I came to Lagos. After the war, one day I had just come out of the library and got into the bus, and somebody pushed a tract into my hand. I opened it, and it talked about the church. I said this people would not leave us alone, because I thought they were always writing against the Catholics.  But as I read it, I came to realize I knew nothing about the references, because in the catholic, we were not using the Bible. I studied the Knox version of the catholic Bible in school. But the one we used in the church was a missle, and it was an arrangement of different kinds of verses, mainly in Latin, later in English; but we said the mass in English. The only thing that came from the Bible was the epistle, and those were usually parables, and there were no sermons. At that time, Catholics never used to sing choruses in the church. Instead, we had very solemn songs, all in Latin. It was later in the sixties that music gradually started coming to the church. But when the tract came to me, I read, and saw a lot of Bible references. I didn’t know what they were talking about. It got to me and I asked my aunty for a Bible, because she was a protestant. She gave me her Bible, and I went to the index, looked for it, and read it. One of the things that came clear in the tract is that if you say you are a Christian, then you must obey the word of God, which is in the Bible. I began to love the Bible, and read it. The more I read the Bible, the more I found out that there were certain things I could not understand. For instance, the statute; the Bible says: ‘thou shall not bow unto  any graven image on earth or in heaven or underneath the earth, because he is a jealous God, who visits the sins of the fathers upon the children till the fourth generation, and show mercy to a thousand of them that love Him.’ I read that verse a thousand times, and it was very clear to me. In my opinion, if you look at the Catholic Church for instance, as a mass reader, I carried the cross, and people used to come and kiss the foot of the cross. Kissing is adoration and love, but the cross signifies Jesus. Beyond that, we have the fourteen Stations of the Cross. We stand before each station, mentally looking at the cross to identify ourselves with the suffering of Jesus. We didn’t just do that, we kneeled before it, stand up and prayed looking at it. During Christmas periods, we normally have kiosks, with the statute of  the blessed virgin Mary, with baby Jesus in the manger. We didn’t just look at it as a statute of Jesus, we knelt before it prayed. In some of the dioceses, the statute is outside, and people go to it and pray to it. If I kneel down before a statute, it is not everybody that will see me that I will have the chance to go and explain to that I am no worshiping it. The person will believe I’m worshipping the statute. There are so many things that came to my mind that I began to search, and on my own, I left the Catholic Church. I went to many churches looking for where I would get good preaching. Many of them were impressive, but when I look at the pastors, I would leave the church. So, I’ve gone around. I’ve been to seventh day Adventist, God’s kingdom society which is like Jehovah’s witnesses. They didn’t use to pray; they only prayer they prayed was the Lord’s prayer. I’ve gone around, and eventually came into Pentecostal. I came into it with conviction, as the preaching of the man of God through his life which was with humility and without pretence-endeared me to him. Adeboye is one of my spiritual mentors, but I attend Bishop Mike Okonkwo’s church. I’ve seen from the Bible, and I am educated enough to study, but that doesn’t means that all educated people are Christians. They have their own interpretation of what they are thinking, but the truth of the matter is that we all will face God.

 

You transcended from the private sector to the civil service. You want to share the experience?

In my little experience, this past one year has been very eye opening, although  initially mind boggling.  How one system can be so efficient and the other system is less efficient, and doesn’t seem to care, amuses me. The cooperate bodies make sure that if they want to make the best profit, the best hands are recruited. I worked in Exxon Mobil, the largest profit making establishment for ten to twelve years. It was beaten eventually by apple. To remain the lead in such means that they have worked out many ways of being very efficient. Their recruitment process is impeccable. There have been flaws, but they make sure to keep it excellent. Their assessment process is reviewed on a constant basis. There are some constitutions that they have hired, who are specialized in evolving ways of assessing people’s performance to reward them. Their reward and commission policy is untainted. They do upward and downward assessment. Your subordinate must assess you and send the result. When you are assessing, you do so on what he does, not on appearance or colour. Social harassment is a taboo. You cannot refuse to promote, appraise or assign on the basis of gender. Drinking alcohol while coming to work is allowed, but it has a limit. You will be tested, and if you default, you could loose your job. Everybody employed undergoes alcohol and drug test. If drugs are found in you, you won’t get that job no matter how good you are. There are so many things there and once you enter the company, you just have to be responsible to do them. when you leave and get into the civil service, there are so many things that are like: ‘how could it be?’ people could come to work anytime they want, you are supposed to report to office at 8 o’clock, you come at 9 and sign 8 o’clock. You can stand there at 9 o’clock and someone is signing 7 o’clock. It doesn’t really matter. Work closes by four, by three people are already out. Somebody leaves office at one and goes out and nothing happens to the person. You go to some offices, people are talking and discussing. They don’t seem to have any work to do. People can eat three times in the office. The laxity is impossible in a cooperate environment. And, you cannot discipline easily. The procedures for discipline are meant to be just. First, you must query the person, and he answer the query. If he doesn’t accept,then you cannot sack the person. You must give the person query about three occasions. By the time he has three queries, they know it’s serious. Even if he has to recommend, it has to go to the civil service commission of which the investigation might not finish in one year. They promotion of the people working there: the system does not encourage inefficiency. Every year you are assessed. In fact in the course of the year, there is continuous assessment. It is not so in the civil service. And I noticed also that civil servants are not well remunerated. The salaries they pay them is not such that it will encourage anybody to do serious work. They are are so small, many people do not know. The big ones among them who do not have integrity survive by stealing. The salary encourages them to steal. For instance, a Minister’s salary is two hundred and fifty thousand naira. Imagine the salary of a commissioner. So how do you live with that? You find that people begin to look for other ways to survive. Sometimes I sit down and see somebody sick and he hasn’t got any money to treat himself, because the hospitals are not really free. Drugs are costly, while some of the hospitals are not well equipped, and they can’t go to private hospitals because they can’t afford to pay. Some have complications and then die. Having worked in the pivate sector and seeing these, it nauseates me. There are health centres for the government, but it is not free for the civil servant. The system of reward and recognition is poor, remunerations very bad, discipline and moral low, further complicated and damaged by politics. That spoils the system because mediocres are employed and protected. The system is so laxed; there is no time-consciousness. Coming to change the system, you can imagine the kind of challenges I’ve met, oppositions and some cunning politicking, Blackmail and treachery. Unless you really believe that God sent you, you might run away in frustration. You must tread carefully, because they can dig a pit for you to fall into. The system is different. It takes a lot of patience and careful study. In the first few months, I was at a loss; seeing the things going on, I tried my best and met a lot of resistance, but I am settling in  now and setting the tone. I had huge challenges. In the cooperate world, paperwork was less especially with the advent of computer. I went in there, I didn’t have internet, and even when I bought my own modem in order to access internet, majority of the workers didn’t have internet. I asked myself how do I pass messages and send jobs to them? it was all paper work, whereas in the cooperate world, you send me the job online, and I return online. You have it in the same minute. Some rooms are filled with files to the roof, and if fire sets in, all the records are damaged. The political intrigue is worse because as soon as you want to set it right, some big politicians call you and asks you for slots to employ his kinsman. I ask myself: why should they give them slots? Are they competent? Those kind of things in politics spoil the job, and it becomes very imperative. For many of our politicians, the interest of the populace is not in their mind. They spend a lot of many to get to the position which is wrong, and they want to recoup it. The political arrangement is not healthy.

Are there any particular projects that your company is working with in the state?

The health sector has a primary, secondary and tertiary health system. We have a quaternary hospital, and teaching hospital which forms some of the best hospitals we have in the whole of Africa in terms of equipment and expertise. The Ibom specialist hospital is yet to come into full operation, and normally handled by local government, but it doesn’t do that well as many of the people are not paid. That is not government because people say government does not pay. The allocations for this purpose is different and given to them. Some of them stay for long without pay. Insecurity is a problem, whilst the facilities are not developed. Staff leaving on the premises are not secure, so night services become difficult. Dilapidated structures are not replaced and there is a general decay. And when people come, they meet staff who has not been paid full salaries, yet still demand their rights, and the staff don’t feel happy. When they react wrongly, the patients are not likely to come back there and you find gradually that there is abandonment of the primary health care centres which I am trying to restore now by creating primary health care agency.

We have plans to revive the primary health care agencies. We are trying to see how we can motivate the people who work there. On the aspect of reward for doctors, if you are reputed to be the best character with good academic grades, we give you scholarship to finish, and if you graduate with the best result and good character we will also reward you, thus stimulating other to emulate you. Also for youth corpers who do very well, we give certificate and cash rewards and other gift items. One of the things that has been causing problems is that of corruption, which exist everywhere, situations where items supplied to the hospital are not well accounted for gives room for pilfering. The records are not good if they are there. Sometimes, they are not there at all, and the government is blamed. There is no record of death and birth. When a patient dies, there must be death review in which all who took care of the dead body give account of their role in the patient’s treatment. Some deaths are avoidable, some are preventable. That’s how we learn the lesson through query. But, when that is not done, someone dies and is just carried away, it doesn’t help. Many of the people who were negligent just go scot- free. That is not how it is meant to be. We have to set those thing right on th people; reward the people positively if they do well, punish them if they do badly. These are motivations. It is not money, but money could be there. You can give them holidays paid for, promote them, announce them and so forth. There are many thing  to make someone feel they have appreciated what I have done. To whom much is given, much is expected. When you have done that, then you have every right to punish someone who is careless. The country is very broke and hospital and health is very costly, and people are poor. You may have to have a health insurance scheme so that people can go and have a very costly health service at small amount of money. And then there has to be continuous monitoring, constantly checking things. There must be effective implementation of the law. Many medical practitioners take laws into their hands and they just abuse it. You go to a chemist shop, somebody is there prescribing and he is not a doctor. There are many drugs that they are not supposed to sell off the counter. Abroad, it works, but in our country, we don’t implement that. Some people collapse from injections in the pharmacy store and die. Optometrists now are prescribing like doctors. They are supposed to study the kind of glasses people wear. They behave like doctor because when they have PhD, people think that they are medical doctors, and that is how they are working like. Nobody stops them. they come with the argument that head of hospital is administrative, so anybody can do it. The doctor is the head of the medical team anywhere in the world. No patient goes to the hospital and says I want to go and see the pharmacist. They go to see the doctor for treatment. Everybody should be proud of the profession he has entered into. Pharmacy should be respected, and anywhere in the world. They do their jobs, they don’t struggle to be the doctot. The same thing with the lab scientist. But here, you go to a lab scientist, and make a complain, and he says he will test your blood. You pay him, he tests your blood, and tells you he thinks its malaria. How does he know? He can confirm malaria parasite, but your training says you have to have a request from the doctor to carry out that test and send the result back to the doctor, because that person may not be having only malaria that you found. There may be other diseases in the person that are not tested for in the blood. You will confuse innocent people, and they go because nobody is allowed to punish them. practice have been severely abused everywhere. We just have to find a way to service the system, because as it is, there will come a time that they will make a carpenter the minister of health because it is administrative

Which leads me to the final question. The minister of health

he didn’t come. He is going to come on the sixth.

The Minister for Health recently visited your state, to what  occasion do you owe this visit?

When you are appointed to a post, you must know your territory. To become a president of the country, it is necessary for you to know the boundaries of the country. As the president, you must visit. Sometimes you say thank you to those people who voted for you, and those people who didn’t vote for you, you encourage them to join hands with you. There are some areas you have to know, so that when they talk about it, you have an idea. For the minister, It means the same thing. You must visit one state or the other where they are having problems or they are having good report. I know the minister very well. We’ve been friend for a long time, so when I met him, I actually wanted him to come. I needed him to be able to give us words to test for viruses because of the emergence of virus, and all these epidemic around the world. In my state, we don’t have the facilities to test, so whenever we have a case, we suspect. We have to send it to Irua which is about 10 hours drive. It is a long distance for us. Onitsha use to be a very long distance for us to pass. So, we stay there for about three days to get the result and come back, but if we have the lab in the state, that expense we spend would not be there, and we will just get the result and be able to make a decision quickly. We don’t have that laboratory. We have been longing for it since the time ofE. Now he is interested to see the building that we have with no facility. It is possible that he has a good mind to help us set up a lab there. That’s one. Two, I have just constructed an emergency operation center, where if you have this kind of problem, the doctor can stay there and treat without endangering other people. I’ve just done that. I know that when he sees it, he will be encouraged that we have done well. Our teaching hospital has a lot of needs. So many thing are lacking. First of all, It is over used. It is supposed to a teaching facility. There are many buildings in the teaching hospital that are not finished that would have taken room for patients even today, but because they are finished. And so, visitation by the minister will allow him to adjust his priority in the distribution of funds. He can say: instead of doing this, let me put this one here to help better. it will be encouraging to me that the minister comes. There are a lot of things about health that I will like to talk to him about personally. In Abuja, I can’t really talk to him, but if he comes to my state, he will be under my care. He will not be able to escape my discussion.

 

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