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Health Minister’s thoughts on transformation at FMC Umuahia

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FEDERAL Medical Centre, Umuahia  (formerly known as Queen Elizabeth Specialist Hospital), Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria is a 327-bed tertiary hospital and one of the leading health care providers in South Eastern Nigeria.

The facility is centrally located and readily accessible from Enugu, Imo, Rivers, Ebonyi, Akwa-Ibom and Anambra states. The hospital clients and patients are drawn from all over the country but predominantly from the South East and South-South parts of the country.  The hospital environment is clean and ambient.

Although established in 1945 as a mission hospital and then named Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it was in 1991 taken over by the Federal Government and renamed Federal Medical Centre, with the mandate to serve the health needs of Nigerians, especially in South East geopolitical zone, particularly residents of   Abia   State where it is situated.  In the last two years the management  under the Chief Medical Director, CMD, Dr. Abali Chuku, an ophthalmologist, set up a reform agenda in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda to make the medical centre one of the best in the country in terms effective service delivery.

With the inauguration of eight-member board this year, the hospital has re-positioned to cope with increasing number of  patients and diversity of clients’ needs.  The facility currently boasts of 71 consultants in 26 discipline areas, vibrant residency training programme, dedicated and highly motivated workforce and strong team spirit. The centre’s mission is to provide specialised and comprehensive healthcare, using modern equipment, research and training through highly motivated workforce operating in a conducive environment to capture our antecedent as a mission hospital. FMC Umuahia has the fastest growing Residency Training Programme in Nigeria with recorded passes in surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, radiology, community medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, anesthesiology and internal medicine.

The Minister for Health Professor Onyebuchi  Chukwu who was in the State recently to commission the State Diagnostic and Specialist Hospital, Umuahia paid unscheduled  visit to the foremost medical centre after the commissioning ceremony in Umuahia. The Minister spoke with officials of the state government and management of the  hospital  on his  impression of the transformation of  FMC, Umuahia  under the visionary leadership of  Dr.  Chuku,.

The Health Minister in an impromptu speech said:   “I am   on the invitation of   the Governor , Chief TA  Orji to come and open the Abia State Diagnostic and Specialist Hospital , Umuahia. I  have little time to visit the  Federal Ministry of Health and other parastatals that are here in the state.  I see them on daily basis , but when it happens like this, I make  effort to see how those the Federal Government entrusted  with health matters are doing not only in terms of staff welfare, but to know how these institutions are coping, especially in the  relationship with their host communities.

Basically, that is why l am here. I  want to thank the Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre , Umuahia  for welcoming us and being able to assemble  his senior management team , consultants and other staff within a short time so that we can speak to ourselves.

I am happy that my visit here today is on a happy note. I recall   that the last time I visited the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, it was on a sad note. The Medical Director was in Intensive Care Unit, ICU, and l came to see him there.  My  visit  then was   essentially  for that purpose. I am so impressed with  the progress you have made despite that unfortunate incident. I thank God for sparing your life. I am very  happy  that unfortunate incident has not deterred you.  God has a reason for keeping you alive to complete the assignment he has given you.

A lot has been done by the medical
director. I will like to commend your vision. You are one of the Medical Directors in the country that have vision. I am impressed with your vision . Without vision, one cannot make the desired impact.

“I want to commend you for completing this edifice we are meeting.  I know it was started by the former Medical Director. I am happy you have completed it and opened it for use. I am indeed happy, it shows progress. I am very impressed so is the Governor. It was actually the Governor who  said I should  go and see the building you have put  in this place. He is also happy about it. I am also happy with your new project- that is the 88-bed ward.

“I think the vision you are bringing in is good. You are one of the Medical Directors of  Federal Medical Centres in the country who keep on writing  me on what you are doing. I am also happy for  your pioneering work in terms of brain surgery and  that is commendable.

You Should consolidate on that by supporting the unit that perform that medical feat to do much better.I am also happy you are paying salaries regularly. People who worked should be paid. I must commend you also on that. People should be promoted promptly’’ .

Earlier in his welcome speech, the Medical Director,  Dr Abali Chuku said  the policy thrust of the management is line with President  Jonathan’s transformation agenda in the health sector and  enumerated the progress recorded since he assumed office as the Chief Medical Director. He stressed  the credit should  go to  the Minister for  his cooperation and  numerous support to the nation’s foremost medical centre.

According to Dr Chuku:  “We have used available recourses to advance this hospital.  FMC Umuahia in the past few years has witnessed a huge  transformation.  For years back, we had  a hospital that had a poor public image.

We came in here  to see how we can  change this  public perception of the hospital. We are happy to say that  we have now a hospital that people can be very proud of. This is a credit to your administration as the Hournable Minister of  Health.

Under your administration, we have  made giant strides and great impact . We have  seen huge funding to this establishment. Under your administration, we have been able to build an 88-bed ward.  It will come out as a three star ward with the state of the art facility’’ .

The 88 bed ward,Dr Chuku informed that the 88-bed ward “ has 16 private rooms, and in each private room, will have basically what you will obtain in any decent hospital in Europe. It will have bed heads, piped oxygen, piped vacuum and suction. It will have everything, kitted properly”.

We want to create a three-star facility in-patient facility so that when patients are on admission, they will feel as if they have been admitted into a hotel’.

Dr Chuku further stated “There is  a saying  that if you  really want to be the best copy the best and add one percent, then you take over from the best.

This is really what has been driving us in the Federal Medical Centre umuahia. We have identified departments and we have  charged them  to be the best in those areas. We have here in the Federal Medical Centre what we call SAFE Project. SAFE Project is Seek For an Area for Excellence. Under SAFE project,  We ask consultants and  other healthcare providers to identify areas where they can excel.

Having identified such areas, we provide training and exposure to enable  them provide such level  skill in the areas they  have identified. We try to use this approach  not only to improve on our services but  also to provide such services as  provided abroad’’.  There is no doubt that Dr  Chuku is charting a new course for FMC Umuahia. He  could best be described as a man  with a midas touch, anything he touches turn to gold.

He is media shy despite his great achievements in the health sector where he  has proved his worth. His case is like a gold fish that has no hiding place as her voluminous achievements since he assumed the leadership of the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia has  brought  him to  public limelight.

Nwadinma, a medical doctor , wrote from Aba, Abia State.

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