Ortom’s Efforts to Reposition Health Institutions in Benue State

There is a popular saying that health is wealth and that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. The import of this saying lies in that the people of a nation to engage in productive activities and generate wealth, they must first have good physical and mental health.
This perhaps explains while conscientious and well-intentioned leaders and governments treat the health of citizens with utmost seriousness and as a priority. In Benue State for instance, there are various landmarks to show that since its creation in 1976, the various administrations left their signatures, to varying degrees, on the health sector. The Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, the College of Health Technology, Agasha, as well as the College of Health Sciences, Benue State University, stand out because of their roles in the training of personnel for the Health Sector. The Schools of Nursing and Midwifery particularly used to be known for producing quality nurses and midwives who filled the staffing needs of health facilities not only in Benue State but Nigeria and beyond. However, by the time the Samuel Ortom administration was inaugurated in May last year, the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery as well as College of Health Technology, Agasha had lost their accreditation for upwards of three years and were no longer admitting students. The loss of the accreditation status of the three schools was due to lack of adequate staff and infrastructure, dilapidated state of the few existing ones and absence of modern teaching facilities and other requirements as laid down by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria and other supervising authorities. For the College of Health Sciences, by the time the Ortom administration came on board, it had not received full accreditation, with the result that several sets of the students had stagnated for upwards of more than a decade without graduating. This was a worrisome situation when one appreciates the contributions the medical doctors from the College could have been making to the health delivery system of the state if they were graduating regularly. Not satisfied with the state in which he met the health training institutions, Governor Samuel Ortom immediately got down to work to change their fortunes for the better. The Governor wasted no time in providing the necessary funding for the College to meet the accreditation requirements set by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria to enable it commence the graduation of its students. Barely five months after taking the oath of office, Governor Ortom, on September 14, 2015 happily announced at an Executive Council Retreat held at the New Banquet Hall of the Benue People’s House, that the College had received its accreditation for five years. Indeed, he displayed the letter which the Registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Dr Abdulmumini Ibrahim wrote to the Vice Chancellor of Benue State University conveying the approval. On 28 October, last year, the first set of students of the College completed their graduation examinations after twelve years. Some of the first set of graduating students including Moses Asue from Vandeikya, John Odejo from Otukpo, Abigail Ngaji from Ukum and Usha Anenga from Katsina-Ala, who spoke after their final examination were full of praises for the Governor. They commended him for matching his words with action and breaking the jinx that had held them back for so long. On November 20, last year, through the instrumentality of the Ortom administration, 27 of the 40 pioneer students of the College of Health Sciences, Benue State University, took their Hippocratic Oath as medical doctors. Speaking at the ceremony, the Registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Dr Ibrahim expressed satisfaction with the high academic performance of the students noting that for 27 out of the fourty in the first set of the medical trainees to have passed their professional examinations was testimony of the quality training they had received. Since then, the College has graduated three other sets of medical students, bringing the total to about 100. After successfully setting the College of Health Sciences, Benue State University on proper footing to effectively execute its mandate, the Ortom administration turned its attention to the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery as well as College of Health Technology, Agasha in its determination to ensure that the schools had their accreditation restored. Towards this end, the administration renovated old structures and constructed new ones such as laboratories, classrooms, auditoriums, offices, libraries, hostels and sports facilities in addition to supplying them with state of the art equipment. The Governor also directed the conversion of the casual appointment of 86 temporary staff of the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery to a permanent one, a directive which was immediately complied with. After the Government had provided the required facilities and prepared the stage for the re-accreditation of the two schools, members of the accreditation team from the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria came to the State in the first week of this last month to evaluate the situation. After the visit, the Council was satisfied with what is on ground and has granted the re-accreditation of two of the schools, a status they had lost since 2013. Work is also at an advanced state to secure reaccreditation for the College of Health Technology, Agasha. The Governor also intervened in the accreditation aspiration of the NKST School of Nursing and Midwifery, Mkar by making a donation of the sum of N10 million for the upgrading of the School to enable it meet the requirements. Following that intervention, the School has also been granted accreditation. The full accreditation granted to the College of Health Sciences, Benue State University, the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, Makurdi and that in Mkar, is practical testimony of the Ortom administration’s commitment to the promotion of high standard in the quality of health care services rendered in the State. It is our hope and prayer that the direct beneficiaries of these efforts, the teachers and students, will put in their best to contribute to the building of a healthier and richer Benue.   Mr Ogbole is Director, News and Current Affairs of Radio Benue, Makurdi.