By Samuel Oyadongha
COMPARED to what was on ground when it was carved out of the old Rivers State in 1996 with a decaying and moribund health sector, Bayelsa State has witnessed remarkable improvement in the sector in the last 21 years of the Fourth Republic.
At the beginning, the entire Yenagoa local government area which is the seat of power in the predominantly riverine state could boost of only one nondescript reptile- infested colonial style complex that serves as a general hospital. It was located on the bank of the Epie creek some distance away from the Government Jetty today.
Now, Bayelsa, the famed “Glory of All Land” has an array of modern health care facilities comparable to some of the best in the country. The once ailing medical facility has ben transformed into a sprawling modern health complex known as the Federal Medical Centre and having some of the best equipment available in the land. Thanks to some of the state lawmakers at the National Assembly who pooled their constituency project resources to change the face of the facility to the envy of many.
Also, the state-owned School of Nursing, Tombia; College of Health Technology, Otuogidi and Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri all which came into being during the period under review have churned out a greater part of the manpower need of the state in the health sector.
There is also the state-owned 500-bed Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital which has since been converted to the Bayelsa Medical University as well as Bayelsa Specialist Hospital in Yenagoa to meet the health needs of the populace.
To check the syndrome of fake drugs in hospitals across the state, the Bayelsa Drug Mart where drugs and other medical consumables are centrally procured was established under the former Seriake Dickson administration in partnership with the Prof. Dora Akunyili Foundation. Also, the state can today boost of a standard diagnostic centre in the heart of Yenagoa, the state capital described as one of the best in the federation.
There are also referral hospitals in all the eight local government areas and health centres in all the wards across the state. The state has also put in place Health Insurance Scheme for its public servants. The scheme was launched by the Dickson administration which had earlier earmarked N500 million to kick-start the insurance policy. Today, those in the private sector can access the scheme by paying a monthly subscription like their counterparts in the employ of the state government.
The policy, to large extent, has made life and living easier and lighter for the subscribers as they now spend less when they have medical issues. Thousands of enrollees now do operations without spending a dime. Vanguard learned that two billion naira has been invested in the scheme.
To guarantee the sustainability of the programme, an executive bill was forwarded to the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to provide legal backing for the scheme. The government has acquired a major stake in a publicly quoted insurance firm to run the scheme in collaboration with the state government. The National Emergency Immunisation Coordinating Centre, NEICC in its quarterly assessment report two years ago lauded the improvement in the state health status. Dr. Bassey Okpese, leader of the team from the NEICC, who was in Bayelsa as part of a quarterly assessment of the state’s performance in healthcare delivery said the state as at 2016 was number 16 among the worst 18 states in the country.
However, after its recent assessment, she said health indicators in state have improved and it is now second in the country after Jiagawa State.