Ondo Mother and Child Hospital, eight years later (Photos)
Remember that Mother and Child Hospital commissioned on February 20, 2010, in Akure, the Ondo State capital, which was a welcome sight to many, who expected to benefit from the quality healthcare services the centre offered? Eight years and hundreds of thousands of births later, HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, after a visit to the facility, reports that the hospital is a shadow of its former self.
The welcome notice on the hospital’s website (www.mchakure.org.ng) reads: “You are welcome to Mother and Child Akure Official Website. This website is created for the world to see our service and our progress in fulfilling our vision which is to reduce maternal death by 50% and child deaths by 30%.”
Until recently, the 100-bed maternity centre known as the Mother and Child Hospital in Akure, the Ondo State capital, which was dedicated to the care of pregnant women and children, by the immediate past administration in the state, remained the most patronised in the state, especially for the free, yet quality services it offered.
The hospital which boasted state-of-the-art facilities, has electronic force monitoring birthing and airway management simulators for life-like practical demonstrations, and applications on emergency care has delivered about 200,000 babies since it came to existence in 2010.
This facility was not limited to only pregnant women in the state at inception, as more than 20 per cent of the patients treated at the hospital were said to be non-residents of the state, who were attracted by the free services offered at the hospital, including Caesarean Section (CS) operation. With the mother and child hospital in Akure and later in Ondo town, pregnancy ceased to be a death sentence to expectant mothers in the state, especially for those who needed affordable, quality health care.
The state became a reference point in sub Saharan Africa, after being recognised and rated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as successful in reduced child mortality and improved maternal health in the state, as the facilities at the hospital saw to reducing maternal mortality to the barest minimum. The state also won many laurels and recognition for the initiative.
However, the hospital in recent times has became the shadow of its old self and free services seem a thing of the past. Pregnant women no longer get “something for nothing,” and have to pay to enjoy the once-upon-a-time free services.
Interestingly, as if the elements wanted to join in the concerns that have been expressed in recent times on the state of the hospital, a recent rainstorm in Akure destroyed some sections of the hospital buildings. The heavy rainstorm blew off the roofs of the hospital and other parts of some buildings, which had been left unattended to for weeks, in spite of the directive from the state governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, that the roof should be fixed with immediate effect.
Some four weeks after the governor’s directive, Nigerian Tribune noticed that work had stopped at the site of the destruction occasioned by the rainstorm, while the traffic of pregnant women at the hospital has drastically reduced. While the hospital carries a look close to desertion, the premises had been overgrown with weeds.
Some of the workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told our reporter that the major challenge of the hospital was funding.
A female hospital worker told Nigerian Tribune that according to the information available, the state government had stopped releasing allocations to the hospital, since the present administration came on board in 2017. The health official explained that the management of the hospital has been using money realised from the treatment of the pregnant women to fund the hospital. She, however, said the hospital could not afford to pay some of the artisans engaged to do the renovation, since there were no enough funds, and so they (artisans) had to abandon the site.
She said the introduction of fees at the hospital had reduced the traffic of pregnant women. She attributed the reduction in the allocation to the state as one of the factors responsible for the introduction of fee at the hospital.
One of the expectant mothers, Mrs Lydia Akinnigbagbe, who was at the hospital for her normal weekly appointment, said: “The service here used to be free, but things have changed. We now pay for everything here, including tests, while normal delivery fee is N5000 and N50,000 above for CS. All these used to be free before this government came on board.”
Akinnigbagbe noted that most pregnant women no longer patronised the hospital due to charges by the management of the hospital. She disclosed that most pregnant women had returned to the homes of traditional birth attendants and said: “I choose to be here because of my peculiar case.”
Also speaking, Mrs Hafsat Abiola, who had just been delivered of her third baby at the hospital, said: “My husband paid through his nose because we never envisaged the predicament we found ourselves. Services here used to be free and this is my second CS here. We paid nothing for the first. The second birth, which was through CS was also free. However, things have changed and it is no longer free.” She explained that most of the health workers were not too happy with the development, but said “there’s nothing they can do.”
‘Traditional birth attendants are in business again’
Mrs Abiola said she opted for traditional birth attendant (TBA) earlier, when she was presented with an outrageous bill, but had to reconsider, when she was advised at the traditional birth attendant’s home to return to the hospital when it was discovered that there might be complications.
She said the TBA homes, which were abolished by the previous administration in the state, had commenced operations again and were, indeed, thriving, as many expectant mothers could not afford the newly introduced bills at the Mother and Child Hospital.
Our reporter visited one of the TBA homes around Oke Aro, Akure, but the operator of the home declined to speak with Nigerian Tribune. The middle aged woman said: “I don’t know about what you want to ask me, but most of the pregnant women visit here on their own volition and I don’t know why you need to ask questions.
“This is not the only TBA centre. You can visit mission houses, where they attend to expectant mothers like we do here”. Some of the pregnant women who offered to speak with Nigerian Tribune said they were driven back to the TBA because of the exorbitant amount being introduced by the state government.
Mrs Folashade Olaniyi explained her predicament, stating that she decided to leave the Mother and Child Hospital for the state hospital, following the medical bills introduced by the new administration. She, however, lamented that she was, again, confronted with same hardship at state specialist hospital and fell back on prayers and the TBA centre.
“It was like running from frying pan into fire. Bed space, which used to be free at the Mother and Child Hospital, now attracts N3,500; blood sampling is N500; urine sample costs N300; screening of blood by donor is N3,800; deliveries cost N25,000, while complicated deliveries attract between N35,000 and N50,000.
“Can you see why TBA homes flourish? Most pregnant women have resorted to traditional midwives and private hospitals, because of the outrageous bills,” she lamented.
The state of facilities at the hospital now is disappointing –MOSUP, human rights group
Meanwhile, a human rights group, the Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged (MOSUP), has come hard on the state government over the neglect of the hospital, and other health facilities in the state.
Speaking on behalf of the group, the General Secretary, Fesojaye Adewale, specifically frowned over the neglect of the hospital by the state government, noting that the hospital had been abandoned, since there was a terrible rainstorm, which blew off several roofs and buildings in the metropolis some six weeks ago.
He said: “We discovered that the major and minor theatres were not spared by the windstorm; the multi-million Naira equipment in the section was destroyed, while others were packed and littered outside the building in an open space.
“Workers in the hospital claimed that the state government has not deemed it necessary to release allocation to the hospital since February 2017, when Mr Akeredolu assumed office as governor of the state.”
Demanding improvement in the state of facilities at the hospital, the group further lamented that “since the patronage has drastically reduced due to the new policy by the state government, there is acute shortage of funds to manage the hospital and renovate the structures affected by the rainstorm. The present administration is eroding the successes made in the health sector, especially the Mother and Child Hospital and other initiatives, which won several national and international awards in the past.
“UNICEF and several international organisations adopted the health initiatives in the state as models for sub Saharan Africa. However, it is a pity that the wonderful initiatives are fast becoming historical waste. The action of the present government in the state seems to be returning the state to the dark days of making pregnancy a death sentence in the state.”
A public affairs commentator in the state, Mr Ayo Fadaka, frowned at the state of the hospital, stating that “It clearly shows that the current administration does not care about the health of the citizenry.”
Work is going on at the site –Ondo govt
However, the state government, in its reaction through the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr Segun Ajiboye, said the hospital had not been abandoned as insinuated.
Ajiboye, in his statement, said: “As we speak, work is going on at the site. It may interest you to know that the governor has also approved the purchase of all the equipment that was damaged at the hospital.”
All efforts to speak with the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Mother and Child hospital in Akure and the state Commissioner for health, Dr Wahab Adegbenro, were not successful but Adegbenro had in a previous forum, said the state government would give priority to the health sector.
He said the newly introduced health insurance scheme in the state would take care of the pregnant women and vulnerable in the state, saying the scheme would provide free health care for pregnant women when it takes off in September this year.
He said: “The state government has embarked on the process of introducing the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme and it is designed in a way that everyone will have to put in a little amount of money, while the government will put the large percentage of the fund.
“We believe this would go a long way to help those who would key into the scheme, because they won’t have to pay dime but only walk into any hospital and get free medical treatment. The bill for the scheme has been signed into law, but we are still putting logistics in place.”
Adegbenro also highlighted some efforts of the state government in providing qualitative and affordable healthcare, saying the government would continue to give priority to the health of its people.