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In the face of ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, Ogun State Government in March 2020 established Multi-billion naira Isolation centres as part of efforts to treat patients and curtail the virus. But one year later, the facilities are now lying fallow. This is despite the lack of access to good health care facilities by some residents in Ogun state especially those in the rural areas of the state. Sodiq Ojuroungbe investigates the multi-billion naira isolation centres now abandoned with equipment left to rot.
100 – bedded Covid-19 isolation centre, which is one of the four centres established by the Ogun State Government, is sited in the sleepy Iberekodo community, a suburb of Abeokuta, the state capital.
Plagued by a poor road network, lack of water and other amenities, the isolation centre was located along a bush part in the outskirts of the Iberekodo community. The isolation centre was cited in one of the hospital structures meant for the Iberekodo general hospital. Although, from observation, the General hospital looks more like a primary health care centre as only a few rooms were used in attending to sick people.
From a closer look, the structure which was reportedly built about 50 years ago, but renovated by the Gbenga Daniel led-administration was in the form of apartments with not less than 50 rooms strategically built in different parts of the compound.
This reporter observed that apart from about six rooms set aside for the general hospital and not less than 15 rooms meant for the isolation centre, the larger percentage of the structure has become abandoned and surrounded by bushes.
Getting into the isolation centre, it was discovered that the equipment bought were never touched. This reporter discovered that the new beds and other equipment such as stainless steel ward screen, oxygen concentrator, water heater, bedside drawer and stretcher were abandoned.
A walk around the centre showed that the Iberekodo facility was never used as everything was brand new and beds were seen scattered in every room, passage and corner of the centre.
It was gathered that no patient has been brought to the isolation centre since it was set up.
A source who pleaded anonymity said the centre was more of a charade as no real activity has taken place since the setting up of the centre about a year ago.
The source said, “The only person they (government) brought here was taken back to FMC.
“They just came to drop beds here, they are not using it. It is just another abandoned project.”
The Iberekodo Isolation centre is just one out of the three of the centres that have become abandoned, it replicates how the facilities were no longer in use and were never ready to be converted to other usages. Ikenne and Federal Medical Centre, Idi-Aba also suffered the same fate as little or no activities were carried out at the facilities. It was discovered that property and equipment worth billions of naira were left to rot as people continue to suffer access to good health care facilities in the state.
... Community suffer proper health care during COVID-19, a health centre in shambles
While beds and other hospital equipment were left to rot at the isolation centres in the state, some rural communities in the state have continued to suffer neglect as not even a single bed was available at their primary health care which has been taken over by bats.
Asaa community located in Yewa North Local Government Area of the state is one of the communities that have not enjoyed proper health care service delivery.
The health centre which was located at the boundary between Asaa and Agbon-Ojodu is a creepy abandoned hospital with dirty tiles, broken cabinets and an open roof.
A close observation showed that there was no single bed inside the health care facility as only a rusted bed frame was seen at one corner. It was further observed that bats have taken over the structure and some parts of the building are obviously near collapse.
From the plaque at the entrance of the hospital, it was discovered that the health care was commissioned by the Gbenga Daniel-led administration in 2006.
Speaking with the residents of the community, they lamented that they have resorted to self-help and use of herbs in taking care of themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The residents lamented that there is no available facility for them to ascertain that they are COVID-19 free.
Speaking on behalf of the community, the village head, Matthew Akande lamented that the state of the health centre has made them suffer from health care service as they have to go several miles from the village to get health care.
Akande said even though some of the communities develop symptoms likely to be COVID-19, they have resulted to the use of alcohol and other local ingredients in taking care of them.
He said, “the only health care facility we have in this community is in a dilapidated state. We don’t have access to good health care even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have resorted to self-help in ensuring that the people of our community did not suffer the virus.”
…availability of PHCs in Ogun not in line with WHO prescription
The World Health Organisation in a document published on its website suggested a certain number of Primary Health Care centres expected to be in each ward based on population.
The Organisaion in the manual published on Primary Health Care suggested that there should be a minimum of one PHC per village which has a population of 500 people.
WHO argued that a community irrespective of its location deserves the right to quality health care service, hence the need for the availability of primary health care in every community above 500.
The organization stressed that PHC addresses the majority of a person’s health needs throughout their lifetime. The need which includes physical, mental and social well-being and it is people-centered rather than disease-centred. PHC is a whole-of-society approach that includes health promotion, disease prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.
Corroborating this, the Ogun state Commissioner for Health, Dr, Tomi Coker told this reporter that the state is currently embarking on renovating a minimum of one PHC in each of the 236 wards across the state.
Coker explained that the government is doing this in line with the National Primary Healthcare Agency policy on primary health care.
She said, “the Government is absolutely committed to renovating “Flagship” PHCs in all 236 wards in line with the National Primary Healthcare Agency.”
However, findings by this reporter revealed that many communities in Ogun state still lack access to quality primary health care centres despite WHO recommendation.
….budget missing as billions expended in fighting Covid-19 in Ogun
Efforts in getting the exact amount used in setting up the isolation centres in different parts of the state were not fruitful as no document was available to show the procurement process or how some of the equipment was procured.
When this reporter contacted the Ministry of Health, he was directed to the procurement department, but all efforts to get the amount used were not futile as the government continued to play a “hide and seek” game in releasing the document to this reporter.
Even though the governor, Dapo Abiodun signed the procurement law and promised to make all procurement processes available on its website. A visit to the site showed that there was no useful information on money spent in setting up the isolation centres. A click at the download on a link showing the contract awarded from March 2020 to March 2021 revealed that the excel document uploaded on the site was empty.
Also further search to get the unaudited document of 2020 Covid-19 revised budget showed that there were no breakdowns in how money was expended in procuring some of the equipment available at the isolation centre. The government was discrete with it even after the governor had promised to account for every kobo spent in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Months after the promise, the governor has failed to make public the exact amount spent in fighting the pandemic in the state.
However, the governor during a visit by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the state claimed billions have been expended by the state in combating coronavirus.
Governor Abiodun stated that the billions of naira were used to set up isolation centers, procuring equipment, sensitization, manpower development, surveillance and other logistics.
Abiodun explained that the molecular laboratories and other equipment used to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the state were achieved through self-help.
… Isolation centres abandoned, disused
When the cases in the state were getting higher and there is a need for more isolation centre, the Dapo Abiodun led-government converted one of the multi-billion naira model colleges constructed by his predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, into an isolation centre for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
The abandoned structure, located in Ikenne, in Ikenne Local Government Area, was named after HID Awolowo, wife of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
A visit by this reporter to the Ikenne Isolation centre a year after showed that it has become abandoned like its counterpart in Iberekodo. Bushes have taken over some part of the centre and from the look; it looks like a project that was never utilized.
Although the Dapo Abiodun-led administration took only a part of the structure situated in the centre of Ikenne, findings revealed that the cases treated at the centre in the last one year were not more than six.
A source at the centre when this reporter got there said a patient reportedly ran away when he was the only one admitted in the edifice that has the largest number of beds.
The Ikenne Isolation centre which is the biggest of all the centres in the state has 128 beds and every piece of equipment bought in was
brand new. From observation, the equipment includes a 20KWp solar hybrid mini-grid.
It was observed that the centre was not used as it has remained one of the abandoned projects that have littered every part of the state.
…inactive isolation centers shut due to low cases but only 1.39% of residents have been tested
When this reporter contacted the head of case management, Dr. Osisanwo, said the isolation centres were shut down because of low cases recorded in the state.
Osisanwo said two of the isolation centres had been shut down for now, since there have been low cases in the past one week.
She further disclosed that no patient is coming to the centre for admission and no positive cases.
She said, “the Ikenne isolation centre and Iberekodo isolation centre are not ‘active’ and therefore shut down”.
Meanwhile, data obtained by this reporter from the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control showed that Ogun state has not tested 1.5 per cent of its total population.
The data which was last updated on April 23, 2021showed that 72,273 residents of Ogun had been tested out of the 5,217,716 projected by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics as the population of the state as at 2016. This reporter observed that this is just 1.36 per cent of the total population in the state.
It was observed that 4,678 were confirmed positive out of the 72,273 tested across the state, while 4,591 recovered with 49 deaths.
This shows that the reported billions reportedly spent in the fight against the virus in the state is more of a charade as there was no effort by the government to test the larger percentage of the people in the state so as to ensure the people are free of the virus.
… Medical experts want govt. to convert centres to training centres to combat future infectious diseases
Medical experts have however suggested that the abandoned isolation centres should be converted to training centres that can be used in fighting infectious diseases in the nearest future.
The duo of Dr Abayomi Olajide and Isaiah Odukola who spoke with this reporter noted that there is a need for the government to maintain the isolation centres in preparation for any other infectious diseases that may come up.
Dr. Olajide who is a consultant Psychiatrist stressed that the centres should not be close down in a hurry because they can still be used to contain any disease outbreak in the state.
Olajide, a former chairman of Nigeria Medical Association in the state further suggested that the centre can be used as a disease surveillance district centre where developing partners can invest in the areas of logistic support, quick diagnosis and training of the local community.
He added, “I think the isolation centres should still be preserved for future use because it is not only Covid 19 that requires public health response in our country.
“We have sporadic outbreaks of other emerging /re-emerging diseases of public health importance such as Lassa fever, Ebola fever, other respiratory viral infections.(SARS),H1N1(Avian influenza) to mention but a few.
“Due to the precarious states in which we are currently living in addition to poor socioeconomic conditions, Nigeria may experience any of such surges of disease outbreaks.
“The State needs to maintain the isolation centres and get it ever ready to contain any disease outbreak in the state thus its geopolitical spread across senatorial districts should be well preserved.
“The facilities should not be closed down in a hurry and may still serve the state better. While not in active use, I will suggest that it should be used for training of health workers and community volunteers in the area of disease detection, infection prevention control measures and interventions so as to build human capacity in attending to outbreaks in their local community.
“It can be used as disease surveillance district centres where developing partners can invest in the areas of logistic support, quick diagnosis and training of the local community.
“In addition to the above, the centres can be used for a massive interventional immunization program particularly for the necessary targets at that time.
All the aforementioned will help the state in quick response to outbreaks.”
Speaking on the poor state of health care in rural communities, Dr. Olajide said, “I think we must go back to the rural health scheme designed by Olikoye Ransom Kuti which emphasized the need to bring health care to the grassroots.
“The Primary Health Care centres must be made to work and serve the local communities in my own honest opinion.
Ogun State has about 477 PHCs spread across all local government areas of the state.
“These facilities are currently being upgraded in phases to serve the needs of the community by this current administration which had been neglected for over a decade.
“Health care resources at the isolation centres that are not in use can be deployed to nearby General Hospitals for optimal use of the citizenry.
“The huge investment in the isolation centres was expedient for the community’s survival as at the time of the epidemic. However, the resources can be deployed to where needed currently for the benefit of the communities.”
Similarly, Isaiah Odukola who is the state chairman of the Association of m
Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria also emphasized the need for the abandoned centres to be used as infectious diseases centres.
He further advised the government to spread the distribution of such facilities to other parts of the state so as to be able to combat future infectious diseases.
He added, “On the issue of Covid, those facilities cannot be redundant.
“Government need to structure things properly so that people that require those services of that equipment can be referred to those places.
“And if we have it spread across the state, they can also have a commonplace just like we have infection disease centres equip such place to handle any Covid cases that can’t be managed in a normal hospital.”
…we did not abandon any Isolation centre, Ogun govt. insists
The Ogun state commissioner for health however insisted that there are no abandoned isolation centres in the state.
Dr. Coker claimed the state government is utilizing all the facilities and making sure the equipment is used in strengthening the health system of the state.
The Health commissioner also insisted that some of the equipment have been distributed to Primary Health centres and four general hospitals across the state.
She said, “the government has not abandoned the centres. Iberekodo continues to be a General Hospital utilised by the community around Iberekodo.
“Ikenne is being used as isolation for Youth Corps members that test positive during camp. Some of the equipment have already been distributed to Primary Health Centres and 4 General Hospitals.
“None of our equipment is abandoned. We are using every equipment to strengthen our health system across all tiers.”
Speaking on testing, the commissioner disclosed that a three-man Rapid Response Team was set up in each of the 20 Local Government Areas of the state to reach out to people that might be suspected of the virus.
She added, “every LGA has a three-man Rapid Response Team who had outreach across each of the 20 LGA.”