May 27, 2023

Inside Enugu General Hospital with no wards, no electricity, no water

Inside Enugu General Hospital with no wards, no electricity, no water

By Dennis Agbo

The state of Ikem General Hospital, in Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State has caused residents of the community untold pain and frustration. 

Established in 1975 to take care of the healthcare needs of residents of communities in Isi-uzo and Udenu local government areas, the hospital has been left to rot with no facilities to take care of basic health needs of the people. It has for long remained the only neglected general hospital without any face-lift, out of the seven general hospitals in the state  

A visit to the hospital confronts one with the sight of overgrown weeds which almost eclipsed the signpost of the hospital. A rusty bus with an inscription Ikem General Hospital could be seen packed beside a non-functional borehole with an empty overhead tank just by the left of the hospital entrance.

Just beside the bus, partially burnt syringes, needles and other disposable medical instruments could be seen indicating that the hospital does not have a functional incinerator. 

The entrance to the main hospital hall is locked. Behind the hall is a newly built Out Patient Department (OPD) which residents say was newly constructed by the state government. The OPD however is surrounded by thick bushes with no staff in sight.

By the far left of the OPD is what used to serve as the hospital ward. The structure was demolished by the state government after a resident made a video of it and posted on Facebook in 2020. 

The government felt embarrassed by the gory sight and pulled the building down promising to build a befitting ward for the hospital. The relics of the building are still there, three years after. By implication, no patient can be taken on admission in the hospital since there is no ward.

The maternity section of the hospital is said to be fully functional though most residents have lost faith in the facility.  The women make alternative use of services provided by private maternity homes and traditional birth attendants. The residents say that the only functional facilities of the hospital are the laboratory and the hospital mortuary.

Few meters away is the doctors’ quarter, uninhabited as the two doctors posted to the hospital live outside the community. 

While one lives far away in Nsukka town (over 45 kilometers from the hospital), the other comes to work from Eha-Amufu (30 km away) where he is said to be running a private clinic.

A staff member of the hospital who spoke under anonymity said that though the government said it would renovate the hospital, no action has been seen from the government.

“The state government wanted to renovate that hospital but after demolishing the ward, they left it like that. This happened in 2020. People have even started encroaching on the hospital land. Nothing is working in the hospital except the mortuary and the lab which works partially. 

“We have two doctors now, one resides either in Nsukka or Enugu; none of them are living in the hospital. One is living in Eha-Amufu. Most of the nurses are visitors. There are more than 10 nurses but none lives in the hospital but this hospital was build with all the staff quarters which are now dilapidated. 

“The hospital doesn’t give admission, they don’t do operations. If you have a wound now and you go to the hospital, they cannot even treat your wound. There is no electricity and there is no generator. It is the only lab that has a generator which was donated by Late Chief Greg Ugwueze,” he said.

Another health worker who hails from the community, Moses Nnamchi, said the hospital only exists on paper. He said that, “if you have a headache you cannot treat it there. It exists on paper. Nobody’s there, you don’t see doctors; you don’t see nurses. All of them are running their private business because the government is not serious about it and nobody is asking questions.”

Nnamchi swore that, “As long as I’m alive; none of my relatives will go there for any reason. Even if I am unconscious, nobody should take me to that place. What’s the essence of taking me there when there is nobody to take care of me?

“Our women go to all these local midwives. That’s the only alternative. If you go to the hospital now you don’t see anybody. All the doors are locked. So are you taking a woman in labour there to see the physical building or to be attended to? As I am speaking to you, it’s a dead zone. It’s a place where these rascals go to smoke and play there gambling because nothing is happening there.”

Mr. Friday Agbo, a banker who hails from the area narrated how two of his cousins died as a result of the poor state of the hospital: “I have had two cousins who died because of the condition of the so-called general hospital in my community. One was a man who was 25 year old before he died. He had an accident at Neke and because the Ikem general hospital is not functional he was taken to a private hospital in Eha-Amufu. Unfortunately, before they could get to Eha-Amufu, he died.

“Another one is a girl who was married at Umualor. She was pregnant and they said she had a fibroid. She was operated on in a private hospital in Eha Amufu; the lady died there. That’s how my cousins died. When we were primary school, the hospital flourished, we would take permission during Labour hours to go to the hospital and the doctors used to give us drugs, even when we faked we were sick because the hospital was attractive then. Basically there are no functional hospitals around here and Enugu is far for people around here.”

Gabriel Nnaji, one of the community leaders in the area accused the government of utter neglect after several promises. “Our people are suffering because of this kind of service. We don’t have a hospital anywhere. The building is there but there is no hospital. If the government can come and do some renovations, bring doctors that can be here and get the necessary equipment things will be different. But if you cry and no one is listening, you will continue to cry so that maybe someday it will please the government of the day to do something.

“The state Ministry of Health should tell us why this general hospital is different from the other six general hospitals in the state. For me I don’t know. When our people get sick and they don’t have money to go to Enugu, then you are at the mercy of God. If Enugu State is in the hands of God, then we are in the stomach of God. If there is any emergency that needs doctors’ attention, there is no hospital. It is a terrible situation. If it pleases them, they know what to do.”

Another resident Ejiofor Agbo recalled that the hospital was fully functional in the 80s but is a shadow of its former self now. He pleaded with the government to urgently intervene to save the lives of its citizens which the hospital is meant to serve.

When contacted to speak on the state of the hospital, the administrator, Enugu State Hospital Management Board, Dr Okechukwu Ossai declined to speak saying he was in a workshop and cannot speak from there. He promised to call back but never did.

On several occasions, the hospital administration was contacted to speak on state of the hospital; he gave one excuse or the other to evade comment.