By Patrick Obia
The University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) on Wednesday, became the first tertiary medical institution in South South Nigeria to perform an open heart surgery.
The Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Ikpeme Ikpeme, disclosed this in an appreciation letter to staff which said the patient was safely wheeled out of Intensive Care Unit of the hospital after she had received a Mitral valve replacement following more than six hours of well executed surgery.
Ikpeme commended the surgeons and other staff who contributed to the success of the surgery adding, “as far as I know, we are the first Tertiary Health Institution in South-South Nigeria to accomplish this, and join a group of very few elite centres nationwide,” that history has been made.”
Read the full letter…
“Today, Wednesday 15th September, 2021, at 6.43pm, history was made in our UCTH, when the first ever open heart surgery was performed in our hospital and the patient safely wheeled out to our Intensive Care Unit. She received a Mitral valve replacement following about six and a half hours of Surgery.
“This has been the culmination of two years of hardwork, determination, sacrifice, vision and focus at different levels of our hospital and we must offer sincere gratitude to God and all who worked to make this happen. It is the guiding principle of this management to work quietly to achieve the vision and mission of our hospital and reposition her appropriately in the comity of tertiary health institutions in Nigeria.
“We have driven this agenda by focusing steadily on the 3R mantra and refusing to be distracted. In the words of Obol Ofem Enang to me always; ‘you were a footballer, ignore the footwork (distractions) and focus on the ball.’ But this time, quietness is not the way to go. We must appreciate all staff who made this happen openly.
“The MOU for open heart surgery missions was signed with the VOOM Foundation sometime in 2015/2016. Things went quiet until the MOU was reviewed with the foundation in July/August 2019 and UCTH made a commitment to actualize the programme and domesticate open heart surgery in our hospital. After two years of sacrificial hardwork, doggedness, critical planning and determination against many odds, here we are today.
“We have had to construct a new theatre suite using in-house engineering and technical teams, we had to create a multi-disciplinary heart surgery team; we had to clear 2 Nos 40 ft containers from Onne Port, Port Harcourt and invest in equipment worth millions of Naira (Heart-Lung machine, Heater-Cooler interexchanger system, Cell savers, High end Anaesthetic Machine, high end monitors, Defibrillator with Internal pads, Ventilators, digital mobile xray system, etc).
“Hours of work went into this project. Professional fathers like Professor O.O. Bassey and Professor C.O.Odigwe came out at short notice and odd hours. When as management, we showed signs of upset or despair, they held our arms and firmly but gently insisted we must never look back. Today, we are there, and for them and to their eternal recognition, the prophesy has been fulfilled.
“As far as I know, we are the first tertiary health institution in South-South Nigeria to accomplish this, and join a group of very few elite centres nationwide. At this early stage, we are offering these surgeries at 30 percent of their actual cost. This programme therefore does not belong to any individual or administration, it belongs to UCTH and can only be sustained when we choose to be a team. Our commitment is that as we resuscitate basic services, we will strive to introduce higher end services that will define our existence as a tertiary centre and contribute to the well-being of our people and community.
“As resources permit, we will continue to work with departments and units that demonstrate a hunger for growth. We may not have always gotten it right, sometimes we have faltered, but we are determined to stay the course, under God, and work to develop this UCTH, our UCTH.
“2021 has been a difficult year for us. Like most other institutions, communities and even nations, UCTH has struggled and remains afloat only by the grace and mercy of God and the dogged determination of her patriotic staff. Today’s feat must therefore be seen as just reward for your labours of love and patriotism to our hospital and nation. We salute you.
“On behalf of the Management, I wish to express sincere gratitude to everyone who made this happen. We owe a debt of gratitude to the honourable minister of health and the federal ministry of health who granted approval with insistence on skills transfer.
“Our surgeons led this effort actively and some team members came from across the country. We thank the Board Chairman (we couldn’t ask for any better Chairman) and the Governing Board for giving us the ‘wings to fly.’ To the Cardio-thoracic unit and the heart surgery team led by Professor Etiuma, this is your finest hour, and you have every right to bask in the glory of the moment.
“To the department of surgery and all the senior Professors and surgeons therein, the mother Lion is finally seeing her cubs begin to form their pride. We appreciate you. To the departments of anaesthesia, internal medicine and paediatrics (cardiology units), you can only take us higher. Thank you for understanding and maturity, for the scriptures say “Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it” (Proverbs 16:22).
“To the hospital community, the field is ripe and we are willing to lead this charge to glory. The days when the community ridiculed you are coming to an end. But you must create the attitude that permits and embraces us take the moment. This is our time.
“To the VOOM Foundation, our worthy partners in this walk through a previously uncharted course for UCTH, thank you for keeping faith despite our many weaknesses. To every member of the management team, impossibility does not exist and there are still territories to conquer and uncharted waters to navigate and lay compass points. Above all, to God almighty, our rock of ages past and hope in the years to come, in gratitude and humility O Father, we pray that your glory will never depart from your UCTH. May the road always rise to meet us and your wind be beneath our sail.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to fully domesticate the procedure. We look forward to the day it will be a routine procedure by an all UCTH team. That is the work that lies ahead. But we have ‘set sail at dawn’ and there will be no looking back. Together we move and set sail to higher plains.”
Thank you and Godspeed.
Ikpeme A Ikpeme
Professor of Orthopaedics
(Joint Replacement Services)
8th CMD & CEO
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