…As EFCC Arraigns CMD, 5 Others
BY UBON EKANEM, CALABAR –
Medical services at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) are now in shambles with workers’ morale at its lowest ebb following allegations of maladministration and corrupt practices against the authority.
As things continue to go awry daily, patients whose ailments require surgical procedures are the worst hit. They are forced to report at the theatre with either their personal generators or be ready to fuel the hospital’s giant diesel generators, even after paying the requisite clinic fees.
Competent sources in the hospital told Forefront that recently, the patients’ woes were further aggravated, being forced to deposit N5,000 non-refundable central feeding fee for their daily upkeep. “Most patients, who can afford their personal feeding arrangements, complained that the food provided can hardly pass the simple ‘tongue-taste’, but they have no option than to comply as not to attract the anger of the hospital management and that of the already frustrated staff”, one of the sources volunteered.
But some patients interviewed complained that despite the payment, their views are not sought on what should be served them as breakfast, lunch or dinner and no worker is ready to address their complaints for fear of incurring the management’s wrath.
Interestingly, the identity of the contractors as well as those behind this contentious feeding arrangement remains a closely guarded secret, but Forefront scooped that depending on the ailment, patients are forced to pay either N20,000 or N30,000 initial deposit with N5000 as feeding fee. “After a week, we are again forced to deposit another N5,000 for feeding, a situation that most of us find extremely difficult to bear, especially with the biting hardship and economic recession”, a patient, Johnson Ndifreke, who has been in the hospital for about three weeks, complained to Forefront.
Insiders said though tales of the patients’ woes evoke sympathy, the hospital staff do not fare any better given their mounting grievances over poor working conditions. Among the complaints are the nonpayment of full entitlements to staff promoted since 2015. According to an aggrieved staff, “For two years going, we are yet to receive our entitlements in full. Having received 55 percent initial payment, the management has selfishly ignored our pleas to offset the remaining 45 per cent to enable us take care of pressing family needs, especially debts that keep growing by the day.”
In the circumstance, some doctors, who ordinarily should put in their best, are also complaining that their greatest handicap is the unusual administrative style by the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Professor Thomas Agan and his management team. The aggrieved doctors, mostly in the young and middle age brackets, have accused the management of ignoring issues of staff welfare and the deteriorating state of affairs in the hospital.
However, a senior official, who said he does not have approval to speak on the issue, told Forefront that the management is already addressing some of the concerns. He also said the issue of initial deposit and non-refundable central feeding fee was informed by the rash attitude of some patients that usually abscond without settling their outstanding bills after the hospital has commenced their treatment on compassionate grounds.
Only recently, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) dragged the CMD, Prof. Agan and five management members before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Calabar on charges of alleged financial mismanagement that infringe on 2007 Public Procurement Act.
Though the defence Lawyer, Mba Okweni, SAN was able to secure bail for his clients after they had spent about one week at the Afokang Prison, Calabar; part of the bail conditions is that they are not expected to travel out of the Court’s jurisdiction without permission.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has secured the court’s consent for an accelerated hearing of the case.