the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, World Bank and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that Nigeria has approximately 58,000 maternal deaths, accounting for 19 per cent globally.
This means that at least 800 women die in every 100,000 live births and to address the high maternal mortality rates, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, in July 2017 inaugurated a 34-member Taskforce to accelerate reduction of maternal mortality in Nigeria.
The high maternal mortality rate in Nigeria as revealed by the reports of the world renowned agencies became a source of worry for Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere, the founder and General Overseer of Omega Power Ministries (OPM).
“I sat down and asked myself what can be done to reduce maternal mortality and to help these women who don’t have money to carter for their healthcare, that is why we decided to build this free specialist hospital,” he said.
As it stands, hope of a better healthcare seems to have come the way of the poor and less privileged in Nigeria, especially those in Port Harcourt, Rivers State with the construction and inauguration of a Free Specialist Hospital by the OPM.
The hospital which renders specialist services also offers antenatal and postnatal cares. This is a welcome development as hundreds of people die daily, especially pregnant women because of their inability to pay and access quality healthcare.
The OPM Free Specialist Hospital inaugurated on April 17 has automatically joined the league of private hospitals in the country to help to address the high rate of maternal mortality, but with direct focus on the less privileged and down trodden in Port Harcourt at present.
Another fact worthy of mention is that the hospital is not open to only members of the church but to all members of the society irrespective of religion, tribe, colour or ethnicity.
According to the 2005 Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH)’s census, Nigeria has about 23,640 health facilities out of which, 85.8 per cent are primary healthcare facilities, 14 per cent are secondary and 0.2 per cent tertiary. Out of these number, about 9,000 of these facilities belong to the private sector.
The Chairman, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Ogun State chapter, Dr Rabiu Kusimo, captured it all when he said that the reason Nigerians are not getting good treatment from hospitals in the country is because government treats private practitioners as competitors.
Kusimo, who is also the Medical Director of Lafiya Medical Centre, Abeokuta, urged government at all levels to begin to see private hospitals practitioners as partners in progress in the health sector, lamenting that taxes and levies the private hospitals pay are becoming unbearable.
“To be very modest, we are not getting the best in Nigerian hospitals, but the truth is that where people get the best, government champions it.
“Government does not come out the way our government does things here. What government does in other places is that they stay back and support private initiatives.
“There are governmental institutions to take care of health, but government is there to make sure that everybody is covered under insurance, so, insurance covers you which makes you not to bother when you are going to hospital. Because people are sick and they cannot afford health facilities, their health status gets worse.
“Also, government should stop seeing private institution as a competitor and they should support private initiatives; the taxes and levies private hospitals pay are becoming unbearable.
“If government sees us as a people who are trying to complement their efforts in the health sector by delivering good healthcare to the people, then the state of health will get better.”
For Kusimo, the free hospital which is privately owned will go a long way to change lives in the area where it is located but that it is like a drop of water in an ocean in the achievement of WHO and the Federal Government Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target on health.
Kusimo’s concern is a wake-up call to the Federal and State Governments to support the private sector like the OPM free hospital, if it must achieve the SDGs target which among other things seek to achieve universal health coverage, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.
Apostle Chinyere has also called for support from government, individuals and international organisations to ensure the church replicates the free hospital in every nook and cranny of the country to guarantee easy and free access to health for the less privileged people.
He has called for proper deployment of the tithes and offerings members pay in different churches, to the service of humanity.
The OPM founder has wondered why “men of God” focus more on possession of highly expensive goods of ostentatious value, while living fat on the tithes and offerings of their members most of whom live in abject poverty and squalor.
No wonder he called on his fellow “men of God” wherever they are to emulate such good works of offering free services to the poor in order to show that they are real believers in the teachings of Christ Jesus.
“’It is important to note that everything in the hospital is free from antenatal care, post-natal care, delivery bags etc,” he said.
Just like the church did in the education sector where it established 12 free schools at different locations in the country, Apostle Chinyere has continued to crack kernel for the poor irrespective of race, creed, tongue or religion, as far as quality healthcare and safe child delivery is concerned.
He said that it is with the tithes and offerings from members that the hospital was built and that it is with same that the church operates the 12 free schools, rehabilitated repentant criminals and sex workers, and also built free estates for the homeless.
“It is from the tithes and offerings that we were also able to build free skill acquisition centers, free restaurants and other philanthropic ventures.”
Establishing the free hospital didn’t come as a surprise. Activities of the hospital dated back to 2010 when the founder of the church introduced a free antenatal care for the less privileged pregnant women in some Abia communities and Aluu town in Rivers State.
The gesture eventually resulted in the construction of the free hospital in Port Harcourt to ensure the less privileged continued to have access to good healthcare.
The hospital which boasts of state-of-the-art equipment has ambulance services that can respond quickly to any distress call and uninterrupted electric supply.
According to Apostle Chinyere, prominent figures in the field of medicine among whom is Prof. Henry Ugboma, the Chief Medical Director (CMD), University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), are in charge of recruitment of Doctors and Nurses for the hospital in order to get the best personnel.
“We are in partnership with the UPTH, in case of any complicated issue that we can’t handle and then we move them there.
“All these things are done free; the people are not paying one Kobo for the services and we are working to establish more free hospital across the country.