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Repositioning UniAbuja Teaching Hospital for quality healthcare delivery

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By Monday Ijeh

The University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH) is one of the first projects that were approved for Abuja when the city was designated as Nigeria’s new capital in 1976 by the Federal Military Government headed by Gen. Murtala Mohammed.
The government approved the hospital project, among other projects, following its acceptance of the recommendation of an eight-member committee, chaired by Justice Akinola Aguda, that the country’s capital be relocated from Lagos to Abuja.
Although the UATH project was approved in 1976, actual construction works on the 350-bed hospital only started in 1981.
The project, which was eventually inaugurated in 1992 by former military President Ibrahim Babangida, initially functioned as a General Hospital, under the aegis of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).
For many years, the hospital’s accident and emergency unit could only take in 14 patients at a time, while its mortuary could just accommodate 24 corpses.
At first, the hospital’s water supply was 100-per-cent dependent on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Water Board, while electricity supply was almost nonexistent, as prospective in-patients, who were able to acquire small generators, were exclusively given admission.
Besides, patients, who were required to carry out laboratory tests, had to patronise private laboratories outside the hospital.
UATH later metamorphosed into a Federal Medical Centre in 1993, following its takeover by the Federal Ministry of Health, while it finally became a teaching hospital in 2006.
However, observers note that the hospital’s upgrade was not accompanied by a corresponding upgrade in the hospital’s manpower and facilities.
They add that the hospital’s facilities sooner became overstretched due to the influx of patients because of its strategic location along Lokoja-Abuja-Kaduna highway, making it a first-choice hospital for accident victims.
Apart from the accident victims who were often brought to the hospital, there have also been appreciable pressures on the hospital for primary, secondary and tertiary health care services for patients from the FCT and neighbouring states.
Observers note that such pressures often overstretched the capacity of the accident and emergency unit, as well as the radiology section of the hospital.
It is, therefore, little wonder that the primary concern of successive Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) of UATH has been on how to reposition the hospital for effective healthcare service delivery, while tackling its infrastructural challenges.
The incumbent CMD of UATH, Dr Peter Alabi, has always been expressing a similar concern.
Immediately after his appointment in February 2008, Alabi succinctly stressed the need to enhance the quality of the hospital’s service delivery.
He, nonetheless, emphasised that such efforts would remain counter-productive unless tangible efforts were simultaneously directed at promoting the staff welfare.
The CMD’s argument then was that no matter the quality of the materials, the hospital’s workforce remained the intervening variable in efforts to attain optimum productivity in the hospital.
He pledged to decisively address all the issues relating to staff promotions and workers’ entitlements.
Alabi promptly cleared the backlog of workers’ allowances and he reiterated his determination to mobilise the staff for effective service delivery.
Besides, he moved to tackle the problems of residency training at UATH, as resident doctors hitherto had to be engaged by other hospitals as supernumerary residents with its attendant high costs.
From all indications, the CMD’s efforts have been yielding positive fruits, as the hospital now has four major clinical departments which have been fully accredited.
This is in addition to the full accreditation of departments of Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics for postgraduate training.
The accreditation has made it possible for the UATH to retain its resident doctors and attract supernumerary residents from other health institutions.
Currently, the success rate of resident doctors from UATH at various post-graduate medical colleges has been commended by medical experts as “encouraging and comparable to other established training centres’’.
As part of efforts to upgrade the workers’ skills in various disciplines and patient care, a continuing medical education unit was set up with a mandate to organise seminars on various aspects of health care delivery.
Besides, medical experts have been commending the efforts of the hospital management to create a dental section and ensure its accreditation by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).
The experts particularly commend the management’s efforts to promote the hospital’s cleanliness. UATH’s current sanitary condition is considered very laudable, as it was once assessed as the dirtiest hospital in the country by a former Minister of Health, Prof. Adenike Grange, after her visit to the hospital.
That negative public perception of UATH has subsisted for a long time, probably due to paucity of funds. However, UATH has since received a facelift and the dramatic overhaul of the hospital has elicited commendations from many Nigerians, including President Goodluck Jonathan.
Expectedly, the improvement in the UATH’s facilities and service delivery has engendered increased patronage for its services, while underscoring the necessity for expansion.
Not long ago, the hospital constructed and inaugurated a 22-room consultant block and a paediatrics out-patient department. It also expanded its special treatment clinic.
To solve the hospital’s power problems, the Alabi-led management acquired a 500 KVA generator for general use and four 150 KVA generators for dedicated use at the hospital’s theatre, radiology section and laboratories.
As part of efforts to reduce the cost of running the generating sets that were particularly used on daily basis to pump water for the hospital’s use, the management went into partnership with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The partnership, which resulted in the connection of the hospital’s electricity mains to the line serving the Abuja International Airport, drastically reduced the hospital’s expenditure on buying diesel to run the generating sets
To further boost water supply to the hospital, the management has built more overhead and underground water tanks, while drilling eight industrial bore holes.
The hospital authorities had also executed a water-pipe reconstruction project for the entire hospital, making it possible for water to flow directly to the wards and other sections.
To address the increasing pressure on the hospital’s accident and emergency unit, the management has embarked on the construction of a trauma centre.
Speaking on the project recently, Alabi stressed that the trauma centre became imperative so as to address emerging challenges facing the hospital’s accident and emergency unit.
“We have to devise a means to ensure that more accident and emergency patients are admitted, notwithstanding the fact that our facilities can take only 12 patients.
“In fact, there are instances where we have 30 emergency cases at the same time; what we are doing is to ensure that these patients are not sent back because most of the cases are usually very critical,’’ he said.
Indeed, observers have been testifying to the capacity of the UATH to tackle critical situations, citing the number of casualties of the Christmas Day bomb blast at Madalla, which the hospital handled, as an illustration.
Analysts, who witnessed the number of victims who were ferried to UATH after the Madalla bombing, have indeed testified to the hospital’s ability to tackle very critical situations.
For instance, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who visited UATH to ascertain how the hospital was coping with the unusually high influx of patients, rated its performance as “very high and simply incredible’’.
The minister particularly assessed the quality of the hospital’s manpower and equipment as “very high’’.
“With the facilities I have seen in the hospital, I am fully convinced that we have all that is required to take care of the victims without sending them abroad,’’ Chukwu declared after the visit.
Many observers, including the health minister, have been commending the management of the UATH for repositioning the hospital for effective health care delivery.
But the main question now is: Can these laudable achievements be sustained?
Time will tell, some of the observers say.
Source: NAN

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