BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Journalists in Cross River State at the weekend had a guided tour of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, (UCTH) Isolation Center, designated for treatment of any patient that may suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It would be recalled that Cross River State is yet to record any case of the pandemic but remains vulnerable having two of her neighbouring states, Benue and Akwa Ibom with cases.
Also there are recorded cases in the Republic of Cameroon, that also has a border with the State.
Conducting them round the Isolation Centre, the Chief Medical Director of UCTH, Prof. Ikpeme A. Ikpeme, accompanied by other senior management staff led them to the five rooms’ facility which has four standard ICU beds and two functional ventilators.
Ikpeme used the opportunity to solicit for assistance from government, organizations and public-spirited individuals in order to expand the Isolation center to at least a 20 bed facility with the equal number of ventilators.
He noted that the UCTH Isolation center, at present was basically the only center equipped to handle any case of COVID-19 that may arise in Cross River State.
The CMD explained the level of preparedness of the UCTH to any possible COVID-19 incident saying, “Special thanks go to our Governor and people of Cross River State, for their interest in ensuring the activation of our Isolation Centre.”
“At the beginning of the COVID-19 scare, our Isolation Centre was far from being completed, and still is. We had to mobilize items from within the hospital with donations from the NCDC and the Cross River State Government to get four rooms functional including a staff area. Currently, we have four functional rooms ready to take in any confirmed case based on the agreed NCDC protocol. Two out of those 4 rooms are equipped with functional ventilators.”
“It is instructive to note that a team was sent from NCDC about two months ago to assess our Isolation Centre and there were many modifications they recommended. We are still awaiting their action as promised.”
“A protocol for the Management of any suspected case has been drawn up in accordance with NCDC protocol and this has been activated by our COVID-19 Task Force. This team is a multi-disciplinary team and they are the frontline health workers working with Management to confront this pandemic. The Head of the team is Dr. Ubong Udoh, a Clinical Microbiologist”
“The entire staff of UCTH has been briefed on the UCTH COVID-19 protocols through their Heads of Departments/Units as well as their Unions. We have scaled down activities giving room for mainly emergencies and discouraging cold cases being seen at this time”.
“We have been able to fix two of our ventilators and they are now permanently in the Isolation Centre in full working condition. This is however inadequate and more is required. Special mention must here be made of our Biomedical Engineers who rose to the occasion and became heroes at this time of great need.”
“Since activation of the Isolation Centre, we have admitted one suspected case but discharged her after about 5 days admission when her result came out negative for COVID-19. It was indeed a test case because there was so much anxiety and news had gone out in the social media that a positive case was in UCTH. I must commend the gallantry of our COVID-19 Task Force and our Emergency staff for daring to rise to the occasion creditably on this case. In fact, this suspected case had her birthday celebrated with her by the Infection Control team and members of Management.”
Asked if the Cross River State government has donated any Ventilator to the Center being the one often referred to by the state government, the CMD answered “No” but added, “Perhaps they are in the process but the ventilators in the hospital are that of the UCTH.”
“We acknowledge donations from some groups and organizations which have gone a long way to assisting us in this fight. Notable amongst them are from NCDC, MDCAN, NANNAM (UCTH Branch) Ben Akak Foundation, etc. Despite our modest efforts, a few challenges persist: Lack of PPEs and other consumables; Ventilators; Perimeter fencing for the isolation Centre; Generating set power supply and diesel; Expansion of the Centre by 20 beds. We have engaged Government and private organizations to seek to address these challenges”
The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists Comrade Victor Udu who lead the team of newsmen to the tour of the UCTH Isolation Center, commended the Hospital management for the effort to put the place to function and added his voice in appealing to both the federal and the state government as well as public-spirited organizations and individuals to assist the UCTH at this time of global health emergency.
The Chief Medical Director of the UCTH, Ikpeme A. Ikpeme, a Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, also used the occasion of the tour of the Isolation Center to speak of his one year in office which coincided.
His words, “In the last one year, we have focused on charting a pathway for growth for our hospital. We inherited a dysfunctional system with lack of consumables, non-dependable power, and water supply, dirty environmental sanitation, lack of drugs and reagents, a huge debt burden and poor attitude to work amongst others.”
“We set out to Rebuild, Restore and Reboot with a focus on Environmental Sanitation and aesthetics, changing attitudes, infrastructural upgrade, provision of dependable power and water supply, dependable supply of drugs and reagents and the motivation of our staff to focus on the patient-first policy, etc.”
“So far, we have significantly upgraded infrastructure and equipment in our Dental Clinic, Ante-natal and Gynaecology Clinic Complex, the Labour Ward Complex and Obstetric Theatres and the Main Theatre Complex. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology now has a new Triage Room.”
“We have successfully transited to an Electronic Health Information Management system using the Health in-a-Box initiative created a clean serene and aesthetically pleasing hospital environment and significantly stabilized the supply of drugs in the Pharmacy. Reagents in the Laboratories, Diesel, power and water supply.”
“We have also significantly upgraded our Laboratory and Radiology facilities, restored discipline to our system; commenced large scale production of surgical spirit, Hypochlorite Solution (Bleach), Hand Sanitizers and Disinfectants in our Pharmacy Department for internal and external consumption.”
“The Security situation in UCTH has significantly improved; new treatment/investigatory modalities including minimal access surgery and immunohistochemistry have been introduced, our Dialysis Centre has been refurbished and equipped and can now handle infective and non-infective cases; a Central Phlebotomy Unit has been created to reduce stress on patients seeking Laboratory Services and a new properly designed and located shopping complex has been constructed to replace the aesthetically repugnant open market stalls that hitherto welcomed visitors to or hospital.”
“We have undertaken channelization works with major drains and culverts construction to address the perennial erosion problem that threatened our facilities and a secure visitors’ car park is at an advanced stage construction. Our Medical Library has been significantly upgraded and we have established mutually beneficial partnerships with external bodies.”
“Today, we motivate and reward deserving staff and Departments and are working hard to restore public confidence in our system which had been severely eroded. While I recognize that problems still exist and will continue to work with my team to address them, we recognize and applaud God Almighty, the Federal Government, the Federal Ministry of Health, Board of Management and all staff whose support and guidance have helped us record these modest improvements service mandate.