Dominic Ukpong, medical doctor and Commissioner for Health, Akwa Ibom State, in this interview with IDONGESIT ASHAMERI, explains issues surrounding the recent closure of Ibom Multi-Specialty Hospital in Uyo. Excerpts:
Why was the Ibom Multi-specialty Hospital in Uyo?
The State government was not running the hospital, but it was being run by Cardiocare Medical Services Limited. Cardiocare Medical Services Limited had an agreement with the State government to run the hospital. However, Cardiocare Medical Services decided to terminate its services.
Was the state government indebted to the company?
To the best of my knowledge, government did the best it could even beyond what was expected of government, to support them in accordance with the agreement.
About July this year, at the instance of the Senate minority leader and the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, we had a meeting with their top management, on behalf of the State government, the State Attorney General and the top officer in the Foreign Direct Investment office.
In that meeting, we reviewed what they have been doing. It was agreed that we were not satisfied with the way the hospital was run, but they complained that they did not have money and I challenged them, insisting that the State government has been giving them money.
Could you give details of the State government’s meeting and discussion with the company?
Before we left the last meeting, we agreed to jointly draft a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on how to run the place because the implementation of the former MoU failed because of economic recession in the country.
So we agreed to come up with a new MoU that is workable so that the hospital could function properly. They did not object to a new MoU. We also had the money to pay them in addition to a proposal for a new MoU.
However they requested, ‘We’ll like to scale down our activities in the hospital in view of the economic crunch’. So I said to them, ‘I want to have a clear definition of what you mean by scaling down activities.
‘I want to have it in writing, what services you will be providing, so that if we want to give information to people, we can tell them these services are available. Let me know by writing the level of scaling down that you are going to make.
So we rose from that meeting only for me to receive their letter carefully excluding the aspect of the MoU that was proposed. They did come up with a proposal as was agreed, they did not send me their price list, and they did not send me their description of how they were scaling down activities since that time. When I visited the place months afterwards, I found out that the compound was still unkempt and the grasses were still grown.
A few days later I saw a letter dated September 21, where they stated that they would terminate their services by October 21.
The State government asked that a team be constituted to take over the place. I quickly constituted a committee. The committee went there and saw that the place had been locked up and there was nobody working there. How do you take over from a locked up building – no staff? They gave us a notice and they locked up immediately.