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How State Govt built Nigeria’s first e-hospital

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Following the emergence of the first clinical students of Imo State University College of Medicine, the then government of Imo State under Achike Udenwa established the Imo State University Teaching Hospital as an e- tertiary hospital to provide advanced medical health care delivery for the people.

This report assesses the achievements of this young institution and by implication the long term benefits for the people of the state.

THE eight years tenure of the last civilian administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo ended penultimate week at the colourful Eagle Square, Abuja, where power transferred to the new Peoples Democratic Party-led government of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar adua.

With the winding up of the last administration, the civil populace , whose fate had been pioneered by the outgone leadership of the various political players at both state and federal levels, now relishing from the beauty attendant with the nation’s first transitional government from one civilian government to another, though with mixed feelings are also faced with the daunting task of assessing critically whatever government programs that were initiated by the outgone governments with a view to determining the impact of such programs on the lives of the huge suffering masses of this country.

One of such programs that immediately come under the assessment of this reporter is Imo State Teaching Hospital established by former Governor Achike Udenwa and domiciled in the serene town of Orlu.

Established in 2003 following the emergence of the first set of clinical students of Imo State University College of Medicine, the teaching hospital popularly known as IMSUTH, was among other things founded to provide excellent tertiary healthcare facility for the training of high level medical manpower and for the provision of advanced medical care services to the people of Imo State and its catchment neigbours.

The teaching hospital was also mandated to organize and arrange residency training in all specialty fields of medicine for Fellowship examinations of such professional medical bodies like the National Postgraduate Medical College and West African Postgraduate Medical College. Interestingly too, IMSUTH was expected to provide high level training for nurses and midwives to qualify them for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and Public Health Council as well as for the training of other allied staff and interns of laboratory services, radiography, pharmacy, dentistry, anaesthetics, nursing and physiotherapy. To realize this high expectation from such a very young university with a relatively young medical college, the state government invited on board Dr Anaelechi Chukuezi, an associate professor of otolarynogology, who was until then the director of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri to come and serve as the first chief medical director, CMD, of the new teaching hospital.

It was no easy task for the new director given that the new hospital, though sited at the premises of former Orlu General Hospital, must as a matter of necessity be built from the scratch. But interestingly as it were, Chukuezi, a seasoned medical practitioner and administrator, got the challenge and went to the drawing board to conceptualize what he wanted and invited architects to finally design a modern hospital with the state of art facilities to actualize the high level health care operations expected of it.

The efforts of the accomplished doctor and the first published novelist of Igbo play, Udo Ka Nma, coupled with the free hand granted him by Udenwa along with the understanding and good working relationship with members of board of the teaching hospital resulted in the birth of what today stands out as the first computerized hospital in Nigeria.

Borrowing from his rich experience as a hospital administrator and also following from development around the world and the great use that advanced societies are putting modern IT technology into health care delivery, the Chukuezi-led Board of IMSUTH felt that the new university teaching hospital needed to apply the knowledge of modern computer technology in both administrative, diagnostic and treatment of patients.

To this effect, IMSUTH is a fully computerized hospital with computers in each clinic, ward and department for the enhancement of clinical services and data collection. The hospital also has a PBAX and intercom system in the hospital with a modern voicing paging system fully installed for easy tracking of hospital staff.
According to Chukuezi, plans are also underway to establish and install a VSAT for C Band Internet Services in the hospital. The beauty of this technology, according to the director is that it helps to fasten administrative process and medical diagnosis.” It is now easier for a patient’s data to be collected and assessed from different departments of the hospital as may be desired. There is now a database file established for each patient as he comes and that makes it possible for his doctor to assess his folder in the system , look at his record , make his comment and as well refer to other departments if need be or even call up medical laboratory tests or radiography reports without moving an each”, he said.

The chief medical director went on:
“It is also now possible to attend to patients through e-mail , though we guard against this style because of the fear of betraying the medical secrecy of our patients into the internet.” But it is not only in the information technology area that IMSUTH is making a mark. The place is as one doctor said” a first class hospital with first class state of art facilities.” A walk round the different departments of the hospital revealed that the hospital houses and uses most of the rare and most important medical equipment hardly found anywhere in the country. The microbiology laboratory for instance stocks bionocular microscope, centrifuges, autoclaves, stabilizers, incubators and refrigerators while chemical pathology department has the following equipment: colorimeter, waterbaths, hot air oven, chemistry analyizer, water purification system and water distiller, centrifuge, flame photometer and spectrophotometer.

With the equipment at the hospital of IMSUTH coupled with high level man power endowment that it has attracted, the hospital has ventured into the most critical health care needs of the people, often times take the very rich ones out of the country at a very high cost.

IMSUTH now engages in endoscopic surgery as well as laparascopy. It has at least ten state of art dialysis machines. The hospital is serviced by two 500KVA standby generators that supply the power need of the environment twenty four hours daily. But for how long will the hospital provide all her power needs given the e- status it has earmarked for itself?

Added to this burden is also the complaint that hospital is not yet generating enough money to pay staff salaries. And the greatest fear now is the question of sustainability of this grand idea.

Though,according to Chukuezi,”Ikedi Ohakim once visited this hospital with Governor Achike Udenwa.From what I saw of him, he looked like somebody who would not allow this achievement to come to a waste.” That is a hopeful report from the CMD,but the people of Imo State will only hope and pray that the new governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, would genuinely support and ensure the sustainance of the health care needs of the people , initiated by the previous administration.

Source:MCPHILIPS NWACHUKWU Vanguard Nigeria

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