By Ozioruva Aliu
Like every other sector, Edo State inherited a moribund health system from the military in 1999.
Aside from the dilapidated structure and abandoned primary health care system the Federal Government tried to champion in the 90s, not much progress was made thereafter.
In the early days of the Governor Lucky Igbinedion administration, a general policy he introduced, which pegged retirement from the civil service at 60 years or once you have served for 35 years became counter-productive in the health sector and till date, it never fully recovered because the sector lost some of its best hands.
Investigation by Vanguard showed that the worst hit was the senior cadre in the health sector, which are mostly consultants.
A senior staff in the Ministry of Health, in a chat with Vanguard summed the situation thus: “During his (Igbinedion) regime there was a general policy in which they retired everybody who had reached 60 years of age, irrespective of the number of years in service.
“It affected a lot of people across the workforce in the state, including the delicate health sector where the consultant cadre, very senior specialists were affected.
“That is why people like bone specialists got retired and it was not easy to replace them and till date, we have really not fully recovered because to train a consultant takes a long period.
“Many of them have just been trained and they were yet to settle down when they were told to go.”
However, what the sector lost in human capacity during the period, it got in infrastructure with the building of the Stella Obasanjo Women and Children Hospital.
Not much was done in the short-lived administration of Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, which lasted for only 18 months.
The Comrade Adams Oshiomhole administration inherited the challenges and made efforts to resolve them, especially staff welfare.
For example, it was during his time that the medical salary scheme CONMESS (Consolidated Medical Salary Structure) and CONHESS (Consolidated Health Salary Structure) were implemented to bolster the morale of workers.
Oshiomhole added some structures to the existing ones in the state like a new General Hospital in Ewohimi, completion of another one in Otuo, with support from the World Bank and the Trauma Centre of the Central Hospital popularly called Five, which has become a subject of controversy.
The administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki shifted its focus to primary healthcare, which he said is to reduce the pressure on secondary and tertiary health institutions with the commencement of some pilot structures and directives that local government areas should take the initiative to build the structures.
The administration established the Edo State Primary Health Care Development Agency (EDSPHCDA), which is responsible for strengthening the foundation of Edo State Primary Health Care system by increasing access to effective, efficient and sustainable health care services to Edo State residents.
However, there are complaints that this has not been extended to the area of employment of more health workers, during this period to serve the increasing population in the state and some of the hospitals in the hinterland and rural areas have been left unattended by health professionals.
For example, there is only one doctor in the General Hospital in Igarra in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area, while the hospital in Otuo, even though fully equipped, is still under lock and key.
A senior staff in the ministry said: “With the coming on board of Obaseki, people actually thought he would be building on the intervention of Comrade, but the hospital that was commissioned which was envisioned to be a state of the art is embroiled in a lot of controversies that its take-off cannot be said to be salutary.
“So to that extent, Edo people have not benefited from the structure and Edo people and civil society have been asking questions on how Edo people can benefit from the tax payer’s money used to put up that structure.”