When the immediate past British prime minister described Nigerians as being ‘fantastically corrupt,’ something must have informed that description. Nigeria is a country where a civil servant lIves above his income and is still not in debt. This is a country where the educated live at the mercy of the uneducated or ‘half-educatèd ‘ who manage to occupy certain posts. The Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri has been in the news for about two years now for no other reason than some cabals in the hospital felt threatened by the presence of the embattled medical director . Why is everybody against the medical director of the hospital? Significant number of workers in the hospital does not want the reinstatement of Dr (Mrs) Angela Uwakwem for no other reason than what they called administrative highhandedness. I am aware that friends and colleagues will definitely be surprised why I always publish articles to defend this woman of valour. Since this matter started, I have made more enemies than friends; in fact, some of my friends have taken it personal to call me in my private line for me to stay clear of this matter but at the end I will still find myself defending Dr Angela Uwakwem based on my personal experience in one of the mission hospitals I once superintended.
There was this mission hospital established by foreign missionaries that contracted my services as an administrator when the foreign missionaries relocated to their country due to the spate of kidnapping in the area. My work was to be going there during the weekend to supervise all the activities going on there and to hire and fire more health workers in order to ensure quality services in the hospital. The hospital was moribund when I came on board. It has to be noted that these missionaries did not only establish the hospital in the area but they also established a very big school, motherless babies home, a church with many branches, a commercial farm, ICT centre, et cetera. These establishments were not profit oriented rather the missionaries decided to use the medium to empower the villagers . There is the office of the manager who has an oversight function over all the businesses. I was to report to the manager who finally reports to the missionaries abroad. The major reason why I was contracted was that since 2012 when the hospital stopped receiving subvention from abroad, the manager had been finding it extremely difficult to pay workers salaries in the hospital. In fact, this mission hospital was being financed from the proceeds from other business ventures established by the missionaries.
Meanwhile, this hospital is as big as FMC Owerri except that it does not have a storey building and it is not situated in the capital of the state like FMC Owerri but all the hospital equipment was imported. When I assumed duty as the hospital administrator, I had a series of meetings with the members of the staff and heads of units where I told them my mission in the hospital. This is a hospital that can boast of an average of fifty to hundred patients per day but cwould not pay workers salaries even when patients were paying for all hospital services. Money was coming into the hospital on a daily basis but workers were owed three months salaries before I arrived. I pity my colleagues that I employed to work there because they had no rest as patients we comking into the hospital every now and then but at the end no money to pay workers. Was it not incredible for a hospital that could receive a minimum of One hundred thousand naira per day not be able to pay workers’ salaries at the end of the month? The one that baffled me most was seeing workers at salary leveils of N20,000 to N50,000 doing what a worker of N300,000 disposable income could not do. My first port of call was in the generator unit where I discovered a lot of shady deals. The bursar was releasing N23, 000 every four days for 100 litres of diesel at N230 per litre when the price at the nearest filling station was N170. I immediately stopped that nonsense and those in the generating house having seen that I had succeeded in closing their wicked sources of their daily bread, started frustrating me by ensuring that the four generating sets would break down at the same time so that there would be no power supply in the hospital. For the first time in my life I saw how somebody of my level could be frustrated by sheer illiterates.
They devised another means of telling me how one thing or the other damaged in the generating sets on a daily basis. I responded by telling them that once anything was damaged, they should bring it out for me to go and buy and that I would be there when it would be changed. That also did not go down well with them hence that one was nipped in the bud. In the Pharmacy section, I discovered that the nurses working in the hospital had their own private patients they managed at home; hence they normally stole the hospital drugs to treat their own patients at home and elsewhere. That I stopped by introducing what the accountant called internal control system. In the laboratory, the lab scientist procures his reagents and I discovered that the guy was really into real business as the hospital inputs more than it receives from the laboratory monthly. The same experience was in every other units, I started by correcting this anomaly unit by unit and in so doing I stepped on powerful toes which I will never have any regret for. The last meeting I had with the wicked staff of the hospital, I told them about the aims of facultative and obligate parasites in that the former will parasitize the host to death while the latter would have mercy in the course of parasitism. I pleaded with them to become obligate parasite to the hospital than being facultative because the level of ‘apriko’ in the hospital was too alarming and desperately wicked . I brought a lot of reformations in the hospital but the members of the staff had a secret meeting and sent a delegate to the manager where all the units were fully represented. The delegate met with the manager and demanded my resignation or all of them would resign for me.
Surprisingly, the manger hid that from me believing that I might leave if he told me of the workers’ demand. When I got wind of what was going on, I scheduled a meeting with the manager where I voluntarily resigned on the ground that the workers could poison me if their demands were not met. When I volunteered to resign, the manager broke down in tears but I was determined because I knew how bad that village was at least I had read in the news before taking up that job how a whole family was poisoned in the same village. Even the day I visited the director of Medical Services in the state,once I mentioned the name of the town ,he first enquired if I hailed from the village and when I answered no ,he warned me to be very careful with the villagers. I specially thank God that at least God removed their ideas of first poisoning my food but directed them to take that action of sending a delegate and for me to realise on time that if they failed in that first move,my life would be next on the line. This is because, whenever I travelled to the missionary hospitals to do my jobs, it was the members of the staff that I normally sent to buy food for me. I took that timely decision because I have many business ventures desperately requiring my attention in Port Harcourt, why should I be travelling outside Rivers state to superintend over people whose intentions were not how to make the hospital grow but how to keep on embezzling the hospital funds? Relating this to the plight of Dr (Mrs) Angela Uwakwem, it has to be noted that it is in the course of her job that they made an attempt on her life but missed it, though her daughter was not so lucky as her daughter died in the process. I hope Nigerians have not forgotten how attempt was made on the life of late Prof Dora Akunyili when she beamed her searchlights on the dastardly activities of the cabals in our drug distributing chain.
Go everywhere, ‘Angela is highhanded’ rents the air. Ask them to eexplain what they mean by being highhanded; you will be surprised that what they will describe is that Angela does not allow them to embezzle the hospital funds or to behave the way they want in the hospital. I want to use this opportunity to call on EFCC and other anti-graft agencies to beam their searchlights on all account departments of our tertiary hospitals. These guys are terribly ‘terrible’. Doctors work their asses out while these guys feed fat on our sweats. Some of them have their own printed receipts that are the same with the original hospital receipts . There are many of them that have storey buildings and other choice properties everywhere courtesy of their activities in our account departments. See their skin; you will see the evidence of the squandering. If any Chief Medical Director or Medical Director ever pries into their nefarious activities, there will be protests on top of protests aimed at removing the leader. Bring innovations that will prevent them from using their own personal printed ‘hospital’ receipts,they would protest against the leader. Ask other hospital leaders who tried using online payment platforms or credit cards for the payment of hospital services,how these cabals frustrated the exercise by making sure the platforms were down all the time to pave the way for the use of their own receipts. Dr Uwakwem brought in Public Private Partnership (PPP) and the cabals in the laboratory section saw it as a threat to their ‘collective’ interest of siphoning public funds. They accused her of awarding the contract to her firm and cronies, it was investigated and she was later exonerated. Why are Nigerian government workers afraid of PPP? The answer is simple: the arrangement will stop further embezzlement of public funds. Many of the non-doctors in our laboratories have their own private laboratories outside the hospital environment; they bring samples from their private centres and use reagents in the government hospitals to run their tests, what an injustice and betrayal of public trust? We all want international best practices but refuse the PPP that is the fulcrum of that international best practices . I thought they said Dr Angela was the problem of FMC Owerri why was the hospital stagnant while she was on an administrative leave? Dr Angela has never acted beyond her powers, even in the introduction of the PPP at the laboratory section at FMC Owerri, due process was followed and there is a department to that effect at the Federal Ministry of Health.
I think this is the time for the government to wield the big stick against any erring worker.No law empowers any group of workers to lock up an organisation where Essential services are provided. We cannot continue like this. The Federal Ministry of Health has made it clear that any worker at FMC Owerri that does not like the reinstatement of Dr (Mrs) Angela Uwakwem should do the needful by honourably resigning his or her appointment and any a worker or a group of workers who attempts to disrupt hospital activities because of the recent reinstatement will not be tolerated. At least the funds embezzled while madam was away will be enough to sustain such fellow(s) until another job shows up for more embezzlement opportunities. If any group feels that the investigation that exonerated Dr (Mrs) Angela Uwakwem was not properly done or was biased in her favour, the group can write another petition against her but the group should be aware that as a citizen of this great country, she has an inalienable right to sue them for defamation should they level unsubstantiated lies against her? My only advice to madam is for her to continue her good work in blocking all the avenues through which workers siphon hospitals funds. She is not alone in this experience as I have had my own bitter experience in a mission hospital and will always defend any victim of such injustice. Discipline must return to our civil service at all costs and federal government stopped the salary of any striking worker immediately according to the civil service rules .My advice to my colleagues at FMC Owerri is for them to find a way to resolve any issue (if at all) with the embattled medical director as the aim of JOHESU in the health sector is proverbial .Their anti-medical doctors and their quest to lord it over to us in the health sector is a well-known fact. They said they are not paramedical professionals but are medically qualified ,thanks to the recent National Industrial court judgement on that. When national NMA called for PPP they came out and opposed it.They equally opposed our clarion call on the need to for the federal government to stop medical tourism of government officials .Their protests caused the transfer of one of our own ,Dr(Mrs) Shamaki out of the federal ministry of Health ,they have taken us to many law courts .I need not recite all their anti-medical doctors stance ,all I ask is for us not to indirectly empower an enemy of one of our own because divided we fall but united we stand against all the anti-medical doctors stance of our supposed friends in the health sector .Their national body has fixed another disruption of hospital activities on October 25,2016 ,this is the time to inform all security agencies that there is another planned disruption of public peace and the mens rea is to create anarchy at FMC Owerri .
Dr Paul John