By Our Correspondent
Bakor Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital Consortium, the two concessionaires who took over the management of some general hospital in Cross River State have said that the facilities in the privatized General Hospitals in Bekwarra and Obudu local government areas were abandoned for over ten years before the eventual facelift that was done recently.
They have also denied reported rifts between their host communities and them just as they say privatizing the medical facilities was and still is, the most viable option to ensure efficiency in running them.
In separate interviews with CrossRiverWatch, the administrative directors of the medical outfits denied suggestions of ongoing rifts with host communities though Evelyn Ikpi of St. Luke’s says it was “tough at first”.
Evelyn who says the agreement between the investors and the government is to “manage the publicly owned hospitals on behalf of government for a specified period of time” argued that the relationship between the hospital operators and the host communities is cordial as “they have been very supportive” though she did admits there was apprehension at first.
According to her, “In every country or in every society, when you leave your domain and go to someone else’s domain, there is need for someone to know who you are. I think that was the challenge we faced at first but subsequently they have been very very very supportive and some of the jobs and renovation works is been done by them”.
The Medical administrator of General Hospital Bekwarra, Fidelis Ashikem on his part said “Till date nobody has come in to say we don’t want the hospital or not. People that complain, maybe they complain out there but the ones who were present during the commissioning and those that visited thereafter are happy seeing the facility”.
On the state of facilities before the private investors took over, both medical administrators said no medical service was been rendered due to infrastructural issues as they were abandoned for over a decade.
According to Ashikem “For over 10 years that the place was there, there were no medical services running there but when Bakor took over the management, services are now been rendered”.
For Evelyn who disclosed renovation work began in February 2015 with the staff quarters, the structures according to her were dilapidated with a section of the roof of one of the quarters burnt and caved in, the site turned into farmlands by the host communities, broken fences and several others which she said “As you can see the infrastructural decay is been taken care of”.
Further findings reveal both hospitals lack public supply of Water and electricity. On the operation of the hospital and fears of exorbitant rates by the private operators, Ashikem said Bakor Medical Centre will follow the laid down charges from the State’s Finance Ministry and blamed the perception on the information available to them.
He said that “People that talk about exorbitant rates have not even visited, if you ask they may not even know the location of the hospital. They only hear the place is exorbitant because when they see or hear the kind of equipment that is there they just conclude that the place is costly”.
Meanwhile the administrator of General Hospital Obudu declined comment as they are yet to begin rendering medical services which she says should begin by the end of the first quarter of 2016.
The concessioning agreement according to both administrators allows the investors to renovate, fund and staff the hospitals with a turnover to the state government over the duration of the concession which as reported by CrossRiverWatch and confirmed by the administrators is 20 years.
Further findings reveal also that the General Hospital Boki was also to be concessioned but no investor bided for it with “some services” in Ogoja, Yala and Sankwala also up for privatization which the management of General Hospital Sankwala deny saying it is 100 percent owned and operated by the government.
Sources in Yala and Ogoja also say the hospitals are been operated by the government with insider sources confirming there was a move to privatize ‘some services’ which was “astutely blocked and rejected by well meaning Cross Riverians” as according to the source, it was a step towards total privatization.
Controversy has continuously courted the privatization of the general hospitals with many Cross Riverians of northern extraction asking why the northern senatorial district was ‘targeted.’
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