Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The four quarters of Ogbaru One state constituency comprising Nkpipa, Anumudu, East-Niger and Central Okpoko seem to have been shut out from government health policies and programmes as the constituency lacks functional health facilities. This culminates to lack of access to basic healthcare services. Also, peasants currently grapple with the prevalence of malaria, cataracts, hepatitis and a host of other ailments.
Faced with this sad reality, rural dwellers resort to private health facilities to get solutions to their numerous medical problems. In spite of their meagre resources, the poor inhabitants of this area paid through their nose to offset exorbitant medical bills at private hospitals. To this end, the constituents of Ogbaru one are in dire need of government health intervention schemes to address medical needs in the area. Other pressing challenges of the urban-slum as enunciated by some residents of the constituency include bad roads, poor housing, insecurity, flood, to mention just a few.
Succour however came when the people became beneficiaries of a two-day free medical outreach at St. Luke Hospital Okpoko owned by Ogbaru Diocese of the Anglican Communion. The free medical mission was put together by the lawmaker representing Ogbaru one state constituency in the 7th Legislature of Anambra state, Hon. Chukwunonso Noble Igwe. The hospital could not contain the multitudes of persons who thronged the venue to obtain free diagnosis and treatments for various health issues. The patients who were mostly the elderly said the outreach was indeed a rare gesture and a veritable opportunity to ascertain their health status because they lack the resources to patronise private health centres in the area.
Mr. Maxwell Diokoro, aged 60, who resides along Cooperative Road New Heaven Okpoko said he had poor vision but received free eye treatment and glasses. He therefore described the experience as unprecedented because the medical team did not ask him to pay for the treatment. Diokoro however called on government to extend its health programmes to Okpoko community and its environs to enable them to benefit from such schemes. Also, Mr. Christian Asika aged 57, who resides at Ogbudike Street Okpoko said it was a thing of joy that the lawmaker was helping to solve their health problems. Asika who said he received treatment for malaria and typhoid respectively, noted that the entire Okpoko community lacked roads, water, electricity and other amenities; urging government to rescue Okpoko from infrastructural decay.
Another beneficiary of the free medical exercise, Mrs. Apolonia Esiobu, aged 65, who lives along Ojoto lane Okpoko, said she was diagnosed of arthritis and was given drugs free of charge to cater for herself. She also used the platform of the free medical outreach to send a Save Our Soul Signal to the state government to intervene on roads in Okpoko community, stressing that all the roads in the area have gone totally bad and require urgent remedial works. Other issues she mentioned were perennial power outage and absence of potable water.
Furthermore, Mrs. Helen Ukaegbu who resides at Chukwuonovo Street Okpoko said her case was high blood pressure and optical issues but was given treatment and free glasses to aid her vision. Although she expressed profound gratitude to the benefactor for placing priority attention on the health indices of his constituents, she frowned on the deplorable conditions of roads in the area as well as the absence of electricity supply.
Meanwhile, the head of the medical team, Dr. Emma Nwosu, said the essence was to give the downtrodden free medical services. Nwosu said there were prevalence of eye problems and hepatitis B in Okpoko community. According to him, those with eye problems were diagnosed of cataracts and underwent free surgeries while those suffering from hepatitis B were given maintenance drugs too, noting that the treatments were completely free of cost even though he said cataract surgery cost about N50,000 in a conventional hospital. He said due to the riverine nature of the area, malaria, arthritis, hepatitis and other infections are prevalent in the area. He said the patients were also given antibiotics, eye problem drugs, analgesic for arthritis and a host of others. He said government has quite a lot to do in the area, judging from their observations. Nwosu pointed out that the people do not have access to basic healthcare and that healthcare in the area is almost dilapidated. He said the multitudes coming to access the free medical exercise, portrayed the fact that the people lacked health facilities and there is every need for government to provide basic healthcare services in the area.
The Chief Medical Director of St. Luke Diocesan Hospital Okpoko, where the free medical outreach took place, Dr. Ejikeme Okonkwo, said the hospital is the biggest hospital in Ogbaru local government and that it has been responding to the health needs of the people. He said the hospital provided treatment for all major illnesses. He said the area lacked basic healthcare because government is not proactive in responding to the health needs of the people. He mentioned refuse disposal, access roads and total emphasis on the environment as factors that would greatly improve the living standards of the people. According to him, the free medical exercise has provided opportunity for the medical experts to discover ailments like hypertension , diabetes, arthritis and malaria.
The lawmaker representing Ogbaru one state constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Chukwunonso Noble Igwe, who is the chief sponsor of the free medical outreach to the poor and less privileged of his constituency, said that there are no functional health centres in the entire Ogbaru one constituency; that what they have are dilapidated health posts with no staff and no drugs, stressing that they only make do with private missionary clinics like St. Luke Diocesan Hospital where he hosted the free medical outreach. Igwe noted that the state government should build a functional hospital in Ogbaru one constituency so that the people will have access to medical care. He said his constituents are poor and needy and could not afford the exorbitant bills of private clinics. As a result, they suffer and die because they don’t go to hospital.
According to him, “My people are poor people. This is a sub-urban area where the poor masses go and hide to do their small businesses. So we need government incentives so that at least my people will feel the impact of democracy.” The lawmaker said malaria, arthritis and eye problems are prevalent in the area because of the water-logged nature of the constituency as well as menial jobs people do to survive in the area. He however emphasized that the two-day free medical mission is the first phase and focuses on the treatment of malaria, arthritis as well as checking their HIV status. He said more of such advocacy would be organized for his constituents to attend to their health needs while they await government comprehensive healthcare package for his constituents.